How to use competitive backlink analysis to grow your backlinks hero image
How to use competitive backlink analysis to grow your backlinks hero image

If you’re part of the digital PR and SEO world, you already know how important backlinks are. And you know that when it comes to backlinks, quality is way more important than quantity; it’s no longer just about how many links are pointing to your site, it’s about how relevant those links are.

You may already be using link building strategies to build natural and high-quality backlinks to your website, such as content placements or guest posts. But how are you finding targets for content placements? Once you’ve exhausted the list of the first publishers that came to mind, it can be tricky to find new websites on which to post. Enter: the almighty competitive backlink analysis.

Here’s how you can use a competitive backlink analysis to find new targets, grow your backlinks, and make your link building campaign even more effective.

What is a competitive backlink analysis?

A competitive backlink analysis compares the backlinks you already have with the backlinks your main competitors have, with the aim of identifying websites (or “referring domains”) that are linking to your competitors but not yet linking to you. That gap between your competitors’ backlinks and your own backlinks is also known as the “backlink gap”.

Why is it important to match your competitors’ backlinks? Backlinks are believed to be an important ranking factor in SEO, so building backlinks from the same websites as your competitors can help put you on an even playing field and send signals to search engines that your content is as link-worthy as theirs.

Plus, checking the link gap will help you find websites that you maybe weren’t even aware existed. So by emulating your competitors’ backlinks, you’ll be able to improve your link diversity (meaning having backlinks from a variety of websites as opposed to having the majority of your backlinks coming from the same website).

And from a PR perspective, it makes sense to be mentioned where your competitors have been mentioned. Chances are that if a website is mentioning your competitor, you would benefit from being mentioned there too and get in front of their audience. So when putting together the perfect SEO campaign, bridging that backlink gap should be part of your strategy.

How do I find my competitors’ backlinks?

There are plenty of tools that you can use to find your own backlinks, your competitors’ backlinks, and compare the two. You can use tools like SEMRush or Ahrefs to see and download those lists of backlinks, and easily check the “link intersect” (aka the number of competitors that each site links to).

Let’s say you’re comparing your backlinks to those of 5 competitors. Websites with a link intersect of 3+ (meaning that they link to 3 or more of the 5 competitors) are easy targets as it’s likely they’ll also agree to link to you. The higher the link intersect, the more likely you are to be able to replicate those links.

ahrefs link intersect

Top tip: Once you have a couple of competitors in mind, you may want to check their Domain Authority (a score on a 100 point scale that is used to measure how authoritative a link is), and link velocity (how quickly they are acquiring new backlinks) before deciding if you want to include them into your competitive backlink analysis or not. That will ensure that you are checking the backlinks of competitors that are already well established online and have a good amount of valuable backlinks. As a rule of thumb, try to choose competitors that have a DA that is higher (or only slightly lower) than yours, and a link velocity that is comparable or higher than yours.

If you notice a big spike in the link velocity of one of your clients, it may be a sign that it’s worth digging deeper to find what their link building strategy was – whatever they’ve been doing, it seems to be working!

ahrefs link velocity

For example: Your brand is in orange, and your competitors are in blue, red, and green. Looking at the link velocity, you’re more likely to find valuable insights by looking at what competitors Red and Blue (especially Blue!) are doing, rather than Green.

Fine-tune your outreach list

Should you reach out to all of the targets you find through the competitive backlink analysis? No. That wouldn’t be a good use of your time. Now that you have your list of backlinks, trim it down to keep only the most valuable targets that will help advance your digital PR strategy.

Firstly, check the Domain Authority of the targets you find, and focus on your outreach efforts only on the ones with a high DA (what’s considered “high enough” will depend on your industry, region, and your own DA, but as a rule of thumb we’d recommend only keeping targets with a DA of at least 30).

Second, remove all targets that aren’t relevant. In a recent Google Search Central SEO hangout, Google’s John Mueller suggested that it’s more valuable having one backlink from a highly relevant and authoritative source, rather than hundreds of backlinks from random sites with a lower DA.

“We try to understand what is relevant for a website, how much should we weigh these individual links, and the total number of links doesn’t matter at all. Because you could go off and create millions of links across millions of websites if you wanted to, and we could just ignore them all.”

So to maximise the outcomes of your digital PR campaign, curate your list of targets to keep only the most relevant ones. Make sure that there’s the right brand fit and that you’ll get value from being exposed to their audience. To make sure you’re not just blindly reaching out to websites for a backlink, ask yourself “would I be happy to be mentioned on this site even if I didn’t get a backlink?” If the answer is no, then it’s not worth adding to your outreach list.

Turn your lists of backlinks into valuable insights… and a brand new strategy

Your outreach list is now looking great! What’s next? It’s time to organise your list of backlinks into categories depending on the niche of websites. This will give you valuable insights about the types of publications your competitors are being mentioned on – and the types of publications you could be reaching out to. 

Firstly, you’ll gain a better understanding of how your competitors are perceived and how their products are used. Secondly, it will help you get inspired for your own content strategy, and even help you identify content gaps that you could help fill.

For example, you may find that competing makeup brands are being mentioned on several wedding blogs, and realise that building relationships with wedding publications should be part of your digital PR campaign. Or that competing drone brands have several backlinks from travel bloggers, and decide to add a couple of travel bloggers to your PR list.

Time to reach out!

After all of the spreadsheet-y strategy work comes the best part of digital PR: outreach! Now that you have a stellar outreach list that will help you acquire valuable backlinks and bridge the link gap with your competitors, it’s time to put together amazing (and personalised!) outreach emails to start building relationships with your new prospects.

The good news is that if these new targets are already happily linking to one or several competitors, it means they don’t have a strict “no linking” policy and will probably be open to linking to you too. That eliminates a lot of heartache of digital PR and will increase your success rate by a lot.

It’s only one piece of the puzzle

While a competitive backlink analysis is an amazing tool to develop your link building strategy, emulating your competitors’ backlinks will only get you so far. At the end of the day, the best links you can get are the ones you naturally attract because your brand has a great product and your website offers great pieces of content. Link building is just one piece of the SEO puzzle, and it’s important to make sure your website is link-worthy and offers highly valuable content

Get in touch with Yoghurt Digital to discuss the best approach for your business today!

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