From an SEO perspective, a site’s link profile is one of its most important attributes. Backlinks, in particular, can have a significant impact on performance, so it should be top of your agenda to maintain a healthy backlink profile at all costs.
Backlink analysis is a valuable part of any successful SEO strategy, yet it doesn’t need to stop with your own site. Building a clearer picture of your key competitors’ backlinks not only gives you a better understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of your competition, but also has the potential to highlight future backlink opportunities for your brand or business.
As with a lot of things in life, success relies on the experience of knowing exactly what to look for – as well as where to find it. Read on to discover more about the value of competitor backlink analysis and our recommendations on the best tools for the job.
What is competitor backlink analysis?
Both SERP rankings and domain authority rely heavily on backlink profiles to determine which sites are popular and trustworthy. If your own profile pales in comparison to your main competitors, there’s every chance your search performance could suffer as a result.
Analysing your competitors’ backlinks requires time and, depending on the tools you choose, quite often money too. However, it’s hugely valuable for a number of reasons:
- Identifying link building opportunities and building a strong foundation of backlinks for your own site
- Gaining a stronger understanding of the key players within your industry and a sense of which brands and businesses are providing links
- Providing an overview of why competitors are ranking where they are, the content titles and types that work well for them, and the content that doesn’t tend to acquire links naturally
We recommend identifying between 5 and 10 competitors to start with. Ahrefs offer guidance on identifying competitors and looting backlinks, yet more often than not a simple Google search is a great place to start.
The right tools for the job
Once you’ve chosen your target competitors, the next step is to set about checking their backlinks. There are a wealth of tools out there – some free and some paid – that promise to do a very similar job. For the best results, it’s important to choose a tool that sources a large number of backlinks and offers a quick and efficient means of analysis. A few of our favourites include:
Cost: unlimited use from $79/mo, or FREE to analyse up to three URLs per day (top 50 backlinks only)
OSE is a great all-round tool that provides the domain authority, page authority and backlinks of any domain in one easy-to-navigate portal. Once the list of backlinks has been generated, sort by DA to pinpoint those which are passing on the most link equity. As OSE is just one small part of the broader Moz suite, results can be less comprehensive than some of the other tools on the list. For a quick and easy overview of your competitor’s most valuable backlinks however, it’s difficult to beat.
Cost: from £39.99/mo
Majestic gives you the option to find and analyse your own backlink profile free of charge – but charges extra for competitor analysis. It’s a worthwhile spend however, as the tool frequently discovers backlinks that some of the less specialised tools miss. In fact, it’s the self-proclaimed largest link index database on the planet. The ability to compare up to 5 domains side-by-side comes in handy too, offering a clear view of how your own backlink profile stacks up against the competition.
Cost: from $99/mo
Another tool that focuses primarily on link analysis and rank tracking, Ahrefs is sophisticated in its ability to update with new backlinks every 15 minutes, giving you the chance to spot key opportunities in near real-time. Additional features, including a broken backlink checker, backlink growth graphs and the ability to create disavow files, make it a valuable tool for in-depth link analysis.
Cost: from $99.95/mo
SEMrush is a comprehensive tool favoured by SEO professionals across the globe. Technical SEO audits, position tracking and recommendations for gaining more organic traffic are just a few of the services included, alongside a sophisticated backlink audit tool. As with Moz, the sheer breadth of tools offered by SEMrush means that the index of links on offer is more limited than with Ahrefs or Majestic, yet it benefits from offering far more besides.
Competitor backlink analysis is a must for any brand hoping to leapfrog their competition with minimal effort. Mining the backlink profiles of your key competitors can offer up a catalogue of valuable link opportunities for your own website, allowing you to make gains when ranking for key search terms within your field.