This article is the most detailed step-by-step guide on how to find, check and analyse your competitor’s backlinks. A vital task when growing a website. And one we do for every one of our food digital marketing clients
It’s also probably the BEST quick win for finding opportunities, when starting out on a growth strategy
The problem is…
Websites that rank for the same keyword, often have the same websites linking back to them. So, when doing your manual checks for backlinks, you NEED to avoid looking at the same sites over and over again.
How do you do that?
Simply follow this step-by-step guide on how to analyse your competitor’s backlink profiles using different tools.
First though, I want to start with a warning.
DO NOT immediately copy any of your competitor’s backlink profiles.
Because they may have engaged in spammy backlink practices, which if copied, can get you dropped out of the search engines – for good.
Instead, use your analysis to generate ideas for content and outreach projects. Every piece of content you create should have a promotion piece behind it. By promotion I mean telling people who might be interested in what you’ve produced. That can be with Twitter, Email, or any other form of communication.
So, in this post I’m giving you the step-by-step guide to finding, checking and analysing backlinks. At the end I’ll give you examples of project ideas I have generated.
The post will also show you EXACTLY how to avoid duplicating your website/domain checks when analysing thousands of backlinks across hundreds of domains.
Step by Step guide to find & check competitor backlinks
There’s hundreds of articles telling you how to use Moz or Ahrefs to check backlinks. So, I’m going to skim over that part here. I’ll focus much more on how to create fantastic projects from the backlinks you find.
Part 1 Extracting the right competitor backlinks
Step 1: Choose your keyword
Think of a broad keyword that you want your page to rank for or would love to be on page one for. It needs to be a high-volume keyword so that you are sure the top websites will have lots of backlinks to check out.
For example: Coffee
Step 2: Start your Competitor GAP Analysis
This will help you find the websites that rank higher than you, for a given keyword.
Brian Dean of Backlinko describes a backlink gap analysis as looking at where you rank in Google and taking each competitor that ranks higher, then analysing their backlink profile.
A gap analysis is important because you need to make sure you analyse the profiles of a company that is a similar size to you. It’s no good to be analysing the backlink profiles of multi-billion pound companies because you just won’t be able to copy their profiles right now. Maybe, one day in the future, you will.
Here’s an example gap analysis for OG Guru…
Online Growth Guru was seeking to rank higher for SEO Manchester. We were ranking in or around page 4 of Google. So we chose a competitor on page 2 who may have a similar profile to Online Growth Guru. We then worked our way up the rankings from there.
Funny Fact: I found The backlinks of competitors on the front page for ‘SEO Manchester’ that every single one of them had either a ‘paid for’ or SPAM backlink profile. Pretty ironic, don’t you think? AND SO FRUSTRATING!
Once you’ve decided on the domains you want to check, you’re ready to get going with your checks.
Step 3: Head over to a backlink tool
My favourite backlink tool at the minute is Moz.com/link-explorer. They updated it in June 2018 and it now provides a much more up-to-date list of backlinks.
Make sure you’re on the Inbound Links section, then continue.
Step 4: Download your competitor’s backlinks into Excel & sort by domain
Now, the interesting part is about to begin.
Doing this will massively help you reduce your competitor backlink checks, now and in the future. You will always know which domains you have checked before and which you have discounted.
So you don’t need to do the same check over and over again when looking at different competitors.
Here’s how to do it.
Download the Excel file and save it to your computer. Note, this involves a couple of technical Excel tasks. So if you’re new to Excel, then check out the tutorial links
TOP TIP: Remember to change it to a .xls file instead of a .csv file. That way you can have more than one sheet within the file.
Excel task 1 – Use the urls to take the domains
- Copy the URLs column onto a new sheet
- Do a find (Ctrl +f) for www.
- Click Replace all (to remove all www.)
The above process is important so you can sort by domain name without having the www. versions get in the way.
Excel task 2 – Separate the url strings from the domain
Hi-light Column A
- Click Data
- Click Text-to-columns
- Choose Delimited
- Select other and put a / in the box provided (see below)
Excel Task 3 – Insert the domains back into the downlaoded sheet
- Copy the column
- Go back to the original download
- Right click + click ‘Insert copied cells’
GREAT – Now you have the specific domain for every link that you just downloaded.
Step 5: Start your competitor backlink checks
This is, by far, the quickest way of working through hundreds and thousands of domains that link to your competitors.
The best part?
You get to see exactly what they’ve been up to over the years. And how naughty they’ve been in terms of SEO. That’s why you shouldn’t just copy a backlink profile directly
First, there’s a bit more Excel wizardry
Excel Task 1 – Take the important information from the download
- Copy the following columns
- Anchor Text
- Spam Score
- Link Type (nofollow or follow)
If you don’t know what is meant by follow or nofollow, have a read of this – What is a nofollow backlink
Now it’s time to begin categorising each link type into specific categories.