How to Carry out Competitor Backlinks Analysis

There are many ways you can build backlinks and analyze your site, so naturally, there are questions to consider. How do you analyze competitor backlink profiles? How can you improve your site? Which tools can help you rank high?

If we begin by taking an analogy from the world of athletics: say you have been training hard and have become an excellent runner with great endurance. This would still mean nothing until you’re on the track competing against some of the best runners, right? Until you compare how good you think you are to how good others are, you won’t know whether your progress is satisfactory or if you need to put in more effort.

Sports participants, not just athletes, take a time to analyze their top rivals – to know their skills, strengths, and weaknesses to devise methods to beat them in the moment of truth. It isn’t about copying everything they do, but understanding their strategy can guide a player to develop a better plan to compete favorably. Search engine marketing is no different.

Identifying your competition

Identifying is always important. Before delving into what each site is doing, it’s important to identify your actual competition. This won’t always be the first ten results in a Google SERP for keywords that you’re trying to rank for, but sometimes it will. Assume you have a small jewelry shop, and so you’re targeting the keyword ‘jewelry,’ you cannot consider Kay, Macy’s and Tiffany’s to be your real competitors since they play in a whole different league.

Analysis of true competitors is easily available in-house using Google AdWords search volumes API among other data – ranks, backlink profile, the number of keywords ranking, etc. Following the jewelry shop example from above, you’ll need to collect data from different sources to determine the market situation.

Begin by noting down the top 30 URLs for your choice keywords. Carry out multiple searches using the keyword list you target in your campaign. You may notice some results appearing for more than one or two words; note those down. You can also get data on their click-through rates and traffic estimates.

These are not the real SEO forecasts, but they can give you a picture of how well a site competes relatively to others. By using long-tail keywords, you can identify your true competitors faster. For instance, add a location or particular jewelry type.

Keeping an eye out regularly can help you to identify new competitors before all the others, track the progress of your existing competitors as well as identify any drastic changes for further analysis.

Backlink profile analysis

There is always a reason behind any growth, whether extreme or slow and steady. Sites employ many tactics to improve ranking, but backlink building is one of the most common and powerful off-page optimization techniques. Backlink analysis play the crucial role in a campaign of link building. It’s important to keep an eye on the backlink profiles and quality linking of your competitors, especially as a new entrant into some market niche.

Currently, there is no way to tell which links from a competitors profile are harming and which are helping, unless you use a special SEO tool, like Positionly. Positionly’s backlink checker provides useful information about other companies in your field, including link prospects to consider what backlinks are the most valued and what keywords they are ranking for. 

1. Assigning importance to keywords

A competitor’s backlink profile can help you identify how they have prioritized their target keywords. You will need to find which keywords are in anchor text. Use Positionly to conduct analysis and reveal which keywords a competitor is trying to rank for. Just add your competitor’s website as a new website in the Positionly dashboard, fill it up with a list of keywords and there you go!

Positionly works on desktop and mobile, and its design is also suitable for an iPhone app. It can help you track your website ranks in search engines, measure overall SEO results and monitor your daily keyword performance. One of Positionly’s most important features is also to provide on-page suggestions which you can use to improve your on-page optimization score.

2. Potential linking prospects

It’s hardly useful to emulate a competitor’s backlink profile. However, by identifying which link strategies have been most effective, you can borrow a leaf for your campaign.

If your competitors are using guest blogging, for instance, which sites are they targeting? What types of posts have the best reactions – including new coverage, opinion posts, and even infographics? How often do they guest post? This technique can be helpful if you’re unable to find linking opportunities.

To begin, download the domain list showing sites linking to you and your competitor’s websites using Positionly. 

Then, perform a Google custom search for said domains and search for your target keywords to determine which sites are most relevant to them.

3. Competitors’ most valuable pages

The distribution of backlinks at the target can provide useful information into which pages a competitor deems most valuable. Understanding total link counts is necessary for analyzing competitor websites. For instance,  e-commerce sites, the most valuable/link-rich pages would probably be the most profitable products for that merchant. This may help you decide which pages on your site you need to strengthen, or which product categories to target if you want to establish an affiliate site offering a single line of products.

How search engines interpret backlink behavior

The parameters considered average by search engines are different for every niche. This is because different niches attract inbound links at different rates – great niches, for instance, attract more links faster than say “insulin syringes.” It’s important to know which parameters apply within your niche.

For instance, if you were to examine the link factors for the top five sites in two different niches, you will find a stark difference in the relative number of links that use search query term as exact-match anchor texts. Examining a few more sites can help you determine the averages above which you must play to rank well in that field.

Any outliers e.g. sites whose relative percentages are exceedingly high, usually tick off Google and are likely to receive penalties for unnatural link building strategies. Hence, these can be ignored in your analysis. For different niches, Google assigns tolerable, exact-match anchor percentages that could guide you in your backlinking strategy.


As stated, the aim of backlinks analysis is not to copy competitors’ backlinking strategy. You should analyze the link building of your competitor and use the information you have to make your own link-building more efficient which will work effectively, and find ideas to help you compete more favorably.

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Lalit Sharma

Lalit Sharma is an SEO consultant who runs an SEO house called Ranking By SEO . He is specialized in link building and other SEO related activities.

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