How to Find and Analyze Competitor Backlinks

Backlinks are important to SEO. So much so that they are considered one the top ranking factors in Google’s algorithm in 2024.   

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

One of the easiest ways to start on a backlink strategy is to track competitor backlinks from relevant websites. 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.

graphic of a laptop with inbound links pointing to it

On this page you’ll find the ultimate step by step guide to find and analyze your competitor’s backlinks, how to obtain similar backlinks, and how to turn brand mentions into something much more powerful for your site.

What are Backlinks?

Backlinks, or an inbound link, are like a vote of confidence from other sites to yours. In simplest terms, a backlink is a link from an external site to yours. It’s similar to citing sources in a book report — people share helpful resources. 

Backlinks are important in SEO because they help establish a variety of facets of Google’s highly-prioritized factors for evaluating helpful content: EEAT, or experience, expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. The more your site is referenced as a trustworthy source of information or expertise, the better it will perform in the eyes of Google’s algorithm in search. 

The more robust your link profile, the more your site will rank in search engines. As you think about how to build a quality backlink profile for your own site, there’s no better place to start looking than your competitors. Given that they offer similar services or cover the same subject area as you, You can analyze not only which pages of theirs get backlinks, but also which sites are linking to them and plot your moves from there. 

5 Simple Steps to Find and Analyze Your Competitor’s Backlinks

  • Identify your competitors
  • Analyze websites already linking to your competitors
  • Monitor new competitor backlinks in real-time
  • Analyze competitor brand mentions in real-time
  • Turn brand mentions into backlinks

#1. Identify your competitors

When doing a backlink competitive analysis, the first step in the process is to identify the competitors you want to target. 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 link building tool 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 backlink profile 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. 

For example, the screenshot below showcases two sites that are direct search competitors to DTC, but also are direct business competitors. They’re clearly trying to rank for “Chicago SEO company.”

SERP for Chicago SEO companies

#2. Analyze your competitor’s backlinks

Knowing what kind of websites link to your competitors can give you valuable insights into their strategies. Even if you can’t be a fly on the wall in their marketing meetings, a backlink profile analysis can help shape your efforts moving forward.

It’s important to measure the quality of a site’s backlink profile. Consider certain factors when analyzing including the authority and relevance of the linking domains, the variety of backlink sources, and the presence of spammy or low-quality links. One of the best ways to find and analyze websites that are already linking to your competitors is to conduct a link gap analysis 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 competitors’ sites, 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 SEO 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 competitor backlink opportunities in real-time

One of my favorite link building tactics is to search for new backlink opportunities and 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, or ensure you’re pitching a different angle to avoid saturation.
  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. Analyze 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.

Additionally, by analyzing these mentions, you can look at the quality of the websites covering your competitors based on authority and relevance, which can help shape your strategy for your website moving forward.

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

  1. Buzzsumo
  2. Google Alerts
  3. Talkwalker

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. 

Buzzsumo and Talkwalker operate similarly to Google alerts- simply create an alert around a competitor brand (as well as your own) and track as each increases their online footprint.

#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. 

Why Finding Competitor Backlinks is Important

As markets become more saturated and particularly as ecommerce continues to rise exponentially in popularity, it’s more important than ever for your site to rank well in search. With Google’s Helpful Content Update of late 2023, content that meets user needs is incredibly important to rank well, and content that follows EEAT guidelines will also, in all likelihood, meet user needs. 

Think about it: if you had a choice between a web page that NPR linked to versus a web page that no one referenced, which would you trust more to be informative? Probably the one that journalists use. 

Earning backlinks organically is difficult and takes time; link building campaigns can save time, but often require pitching thousands of journalists to achieve even just a few links. As such, saving yourself time by compiling a list of sites that link to your competitors will also save you money (and speed up building your backlink profile.

The Benefits of a Good Backlink Profile

There are many benefits to having a good backlink profile; a site connected to many others is more enmeshed in search than a site with no backlinks. 

SEO Benefits:

SEO benefits to a good backlink profile include increased EEAT scoring on the part of Google’s robots. The more the bots are driven to your site through backlinks, the more times they’ll index it and note that your site is authoritative, trustworthy, and contains sufficient experience and expertise to be considered a source by many others. This will then benefit your organic ranking.

Organic Search:

As your page and site begins to earn more backlinks, the likelihood it will rank higher in search also increases. We’ve had countless digital PR campaigns start in active outreach and, due to their initial success, continue to passively earn links because they ranked well in search. This will eventually contribute to overall domain authority (DA) of your site, which will also help you rank better organically.

The Case for Link Building

Especially if you’re trying to capture competitor backlinks, it is definitely worth your time to consider some link building campaigns. With content designed to capture news attention or land in a directory, link building can speed up the process of building a backlink profile, as well as help you outflank competitors, particularly in media markets. 

By combining helpful, newsworthy content with active outreach for link building, you can capture more backlinks and boost domain authority, which will in turn help your overall online visibility. 

One caveat, though: NEVER buy backlinks. Just don’t do it. Google is increasingly attuned to the link-buying schemes of a few years ago and will penalize a site as spam if it notices that backlinks seem to be bought rather than earned. This is why the digital PR team at DTC NEVER pays for media placement- we earn each and every one of the thousands of links we build each year.

Want to Find Your Competitor Backlinks?

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, analyze, 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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