How to Find Your Competitor’s Backlinks

By Matt Zajechowski

Backlinks are important to SEO. So much so that they remain one the top ranking factors in Google’s algorithm in 2020.    

26 Google ranking factors

Think of backlinks as votes of confidence to your website from other websites. 

One of the easiest ways to build backlinks to your website is by finding websites that are already linking to your competitors. The idea goes that if a website is linking out to your competition, there is a good chance that they will link back to your website as well. 

In this post I’ll walk you through a 5 step process to find backlink opportunities by monitoring the sites linking to your competitors.

5 Steps to Find Your Competitor’s Backlinks:

  1. Identify your competitors
  2. Find websites already linking to your competitors 
  3. Monitor new competitor backlinks in real-time
  4. Monitor competitor brand mentions in real-time
  5. Turn brand mentions into backlinks

#1. Identify your competitors

When doing a backlink competitive analysis, the first step in the process is to identify your competitors. From my experience there can be up to two main types of competitors you can analyze. 

  1. Search competitors – These are websites ranking for the same keywords you are targeting in Google. 
  2. Traditional competitors – Businesses that offer the same goods and services as you who are often located in the same general location as your business. These are your direct business rivals. 

Your search competitors will often look different from your traditional competitors, however there can be some overlap. 

Start by making a list of both your search competitors and your traditional competitors along with their websites. We will use these lists in the next part of our analysis. 

For search competitors you can choose to analyze their backlink profile via a backlink checker on either the domain-level or the page-level. 

A domain-level link analysis will look at all backlinks pointing to their entire domain. A page-level analysis will only analyze one specific page on their website. 

To decide which analysis makes more sense for you, check to see if your competitor is ranking for their homepage or specific page on their website like a blog post or a service page. 

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#2. Find sites already linking to your competitors

One of the best ways to find websites that are already linking to your competitors is by using a link-intersect tool. A link-intersect tool works by analyzing backlink profiles of multiple competitors to find websites that currently link to your competition, but not to your website. 

The idea here is that if a website is linking to multiple competitors, there is a good chance they will also link to your website. 

There are many tools that you can use to perform a link-intersect. I’ve highlighted some of more popular tools below:

A link-intersect report is super easy to run. All you need is the list of search competitors you made in the last step in addition to your own website.

how to use MOZ link intersect
  • Start by entering your website in the top section where it says “discover link opportunities for this URL.”
  • Scroll down to the next section and enter your competitors websites one at time. 
  • One you have finished adding all the competitor websites you wish to analyze, click the find opportunities button. 
  • A list will be generated with all the websites that currently link to both of your competitors but not to your website.
Moz link intersect tool

You can then choose to export these websites to a prospecting list for when you are ready to reach out and ask for a link back to your website. 

#3. Monitor new backlink opportunities in real-time

One of my favorite ways to search for new backlink opportunities is to monitor competitors backlinks in real-time. 

There are two main benefits to doing this:

  1. You can track current link building and digital PR strategies to see what’s working for your competition. 
  2. You can immediately target those same websites for backlinks to stay competitive in the search results. 

My favorite tool for monitoring backlink opportunities in real-time is Buzzsumo

To get started, sign up for a free Buzzsumo account, login and and head to the monitoring page.

buzzsumo home screen

From there click the alerts dropdown in the top left corner and click on backlinks. You will then be prompted to create a backlink alert.

buzzsumo create backlink alert

Start by creating a name for the alert and add the specific URL or domain you want to track backlinks to.

You also have the option to track backlinks to a specific page or any page on the domain. Which one you choose can depend on whether you are tracking domain-level backlinks or page-level backlinks. 

For this example we will choose links to the exact URL which will display all the page-level backlinks for that page. 

Next click on the filters & notification settings and scroll down to the section on how you would like to be alerted. I recommend choosing the setting for instant email alerts every time a result is found. Finish by clicking create alert. 

buzzsumo backlink alert set emails

You will now be notified by email the second a new backlink shows up for your competitors.

#4. Monitor your competitor’s brand mentions in real time

Tracking competitor brand mentions can be a great way to uncover more potential backlink opportunities for your website.  

A competitor brand mention is defined as any time your competitor’s brand is mentioned online. By tracking these mentions you can find websites that are covering your competitors that you can target for coverage of your brand.

There are two tools that I recommend using for tracking competitor brand mentions:

  1. Buzzsumo
  2. Google Alerts

On top of your competitors’ brand name, it can also be useful to set up alerts for branded services, company founders, CEOs as well as variations of their business name. This will allow you to find even more opportunities where the direct company name is not mentioned. 

Follow the steps below to track competitor brand mentions in Google Alerts:

  1. Enter your competitors’ brand name surrounded by quotes where it says “Create an alert about.” By using quotes you will find brand mentions for the exact spelling of their brand name. 
  2. Select the frequency of how often you would like to receive these alerts. I like as-it-happens but the frequency is up to you. 
  3. Select your language.
  4. Select the region in which you are located. 
  5. Select all results under how many.
  6. Select the email address your alerts should be mailed too.
  7. Click create alert.
Set Google alert for backlinks

You will now be emailed every time your competitors brand name is mentioned online. We will cover how you can leverage these brand mentions for backlink opportunities in the following section. 

#5. Turning brand mentions into backlinks

So now that you have a list of competitor brand mentions, how can you go about turning these into backlinks for your website?

  1. Start by creating a working list of all your competitors brand mentions.
  2. Go through each opportunity to see if your brand is mentioned on their website.
  3. If yes, look and see if they are linking back to your website. If they are, celebrate and move on to the next opportunity.
  4. If no, reach out to either the author of the post or the main contact on the website and ask if they would be willing to include a link back to your website with the mention of your brand.
  5. If your brand is not mentioned on their website, take some time to examine the context of how your competitor is mentioned. 
  6. If it’s a post mentioning or linking to multiple competitors this could be a good opportunity to ask for a link to your website. 
  7. If they are linking to a specific page like a competitor’s blog post, it might be worth pitching a similar resource you have on that subject. 
  8. If you don’t have anything similar it might be worth investing the time to create a better and more up-to-date resource that you could then ask them to cover and link back to.

There is not a one size fits all approach to this strategy. My advice is to look for trends in the types of media coverage your competitors’ brands are receiving. Brainstorm creative ways to try and replicate their strategies by creating new and exciting content on your own website. 

Final Thoughts

The 5 step-process that I’ve outlined above will guide you to find and analyze your competitors’ backlinks. Backlinks are a crucial part of any successful SEO strategy and serve as a top ranking factor in Google’s core algorithm. 

It is important to actively monitor and pursue new backlink opportunities from your competitors so that your website remains competitive in the Google search results for keywords that you want to rank for.

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