How we find, analyze & get tons of competitor backlinks for clients

Table of Contents

Helpful summary

Overview: We discuss the significance of competitor backlink analysis for businesses, a process involving the identification and acquisition of backlinks from competitors' websites to enhance a business's SEO performance.

Why you can trust us: At Embarque.io, we've successfully implemented this strategy for clients like MentorCruise, leading to a 1600% increase in year-on-year revenue, and for Flick, achieving 9.6M in yearly traffic. This validates our expertise in leveraging competitor backlinks for substantial business growth.

Why this is important: Analyzing and acquiring competitor backlinks is vital for businesses to improve their search engine rankings, increase website traffic, and ultimately boost revenue. This approach helps businesses stay competitive in the digital space.

Action points: We recommend businesses start competitor backlink analysis using tools like Ahrefs, identify high-quality backlinks of competitors, and replicate them to improve their SEO performance.

Further research: Businesses should explore additional SEO and digital marketing strategies to complement competitor backlink analysis for a well-rounded online presence.

Need help in competitor backlink analysis?

There are many strategies that can be used to improve SEO. One of the most tried-and-true methods is building a catalog of high-quality backlinks, also known as external links, to your website. However, once SEOs build this catalog, they often believe their work is done. It isn’t!

In the fiercely competitive world of SEO, link-building needs to be a continuous process. More than simply building backlinks, your link-building strategy should evolve with your competition so that you're always one step ahead. 

Competitor backlink analysis is the best way to go about this. At Embarque, we’re an SEO agency that are expert in building robust backlinks for online startups, including SaaS, freelancers, agencies, job boards, and marketplaces. We’ll be walking you through a step-by-step guide for finding your competitor's best backlinks and using them to your advantage!

Why should you listen to us?

We've helped online startups, scale their growth through competitor linkbuilding outreach. Here are some of our case studies:

This article will highlight some of the things we do to find and analyze competitor backlinks.

What are competitor backlinks?

Competitor backlinks are external links that lead to your competitor's website. These links are essentially referrals from other websites and can significantly impact a website's search engine rankings. Through analyzing these backlinks, you can gain insights into your competitor's link-building strategy and use this information to improve your own.

Why are backlinks important?

When you ask this question, you're really asking: how does Google assess backlinks?

The answer to that question is a bit complicated. Google has been cagey about the exact details of how their algorithm takes backlinks into account.... and the reason is fairly obvious. 

If people know exactly how backlinks impact ranking, they can easily figure out how to manipulate the system to their advantage. This is something that Google's webmasters are constantly pushing back against.

With that being said, there are a few things we know for certain:

So, while we can’t say for certain how Google views backlinks within its algorithms, we can assume that they play a significant role in ranking and traffic generation.

Are all backlinks “good” backlinks?

No! Not all backlinks are created equal.

Earlier, we mentioned that Google tries to de-incentivize questionable SEO practices (a.k.a., black hat SEO) aimed at manipulating the ranking system. As part of this de-incentivization process, Google has been cracking down on "bad" backlinks and if your website relies on them it's only a matter of time before you're discovered.

There are a few things you need to watch out for:

What Is Competitor Backlink Analysis?

Every website has a backlink profile that's one-of-a-kind. Sure, one site might have some backlinks in common with another site. It might even have a lot of backlinks in common. However, the odds of them being identical are slim to none.

Competitor backlink analysis is a method for benefiting from the unique backlink profiles of your competitors. The thought process is pretty simple: why let the competition point you in the direction of high-quality backlink opportunities?

Competitor backlink research is the process of finding out which websites are linking to your competitors' websites (but not yours). Ultimately, the purpose of this exercise is to replicate their backlinks and add them to your existing backlink profile. When performed well, this strategy can increase your backlinks by more than 20%... that’s quite a boost!

How we find competitor backlinks

Finally, it’s time for the fun part: finding your competitor’s best backlinks and using them to your advantage.

Choose your tools. We use Ahrefs

Manual backlink audits are time-consuming and error-prone. Your best bet is to find an SEO tool suite that has backlink auditing features built-in.

A quick Google search will reveal a wide variety of tools at a wide variety of price ranges. For now, here are a few of the best options on the market:

While all of these tools come with slightly different features and limits (hence the different prices), any of them will work for conducting a competitor backlink analysis. 

Throughout this article, we'll be providing a tutorial on competitor backlinks analysis using Ahrefs, which is our preferred tool for the task and an industry standard, as well.

Though the UI will look different if you’re using a different suite of tools, they should be fairly similar in practice. You might need to sift through the branded terminology to find the tool we’re referring to, but we can assure you it will be there!

We choose a few competitors to analyze.

The first step in any competitor backlink analysis is identifying a few promising websites to analyze. Most business owners will already have a pretty good sense of who their main competitors are. These will likely be ideal websites to start with.

On the off chance that you aren't familiar with your main competitors, start by entering your primary and secondary keywords into Google. From there, choose 5-10 websites that:

Don't know who your competitors are? There are many ways to find out who your competitors are. Here are some examples:

  1. Google Search: Simply inputting your product or service into Google’s search bar will reveal a great deal about your direct competitors. The businesses that appear on the first page of the search results are the ones you should pay attention to. For instance, say you're a podcast editing tool. In that case, you can Google "best tools for podcasting" and make a list of the top podcasting tools you want to analyze.
  1. Review Sites: Websites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, and TrustPilot can provide insights into your competition. Look for businesses in your niche with high ratings and reviews.
  2. SEO tools. For instance, on Ahrefs, you can check out the top competitors that are ranking for the same queries as you are. In the left navigation bar, go to Organic Search > Organic Competitors.
  1. Social Media: Platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are rich sources of information about your competition. Look for accounts that offer similar products or services as yours and have high follower counts.
  2. Industry Reports: These often list leading firms in your field, giving you a good idea of who's dominating the market.
  3. Trade Shows & Networking Events: These are excellent places to meet your competitors face-to-face. Observe which businesses are attracting the most attention, and make a point to learn what they're doing right.

We begin with an overview.

Once you've purchased and opened your SEO tool suite it's time to begin the analysis. At this stage, you're trying to get a bird's-eye view of how you stack up with your competitors from the standpoint of backlinks.

Here are the things you should be taking note of:

Ahrefs allows you to see competitor backlinks you don't have, and there are many ways to go about this. For instance, in the left navigation bar, link intersect shows the competitor backlinks your competitors have but you don't: Backlinks profile > Link intersect

If you type in

We look for differences.

With that overview out of the way, it's time to find out what your competitors are doing that you aren't. To do that, you need to fire up a detailed comparison tool in whatever SEO suite you've chosen to use.

Once you've navigated to the correct tool, you should be looking at a list of domains. Right off the bat, you'll want to sort these by their authority (note: different tools have different names for the concept of authority).


Again, your goal is to identify what your competitors are doing that you aren't. On Ahrefs, you can look at competitor backlinks in nitty-gritty detail. Under Site Explorer, enter the URL of the competitor.

In the left navbar, go to Backlink profile > Backlinks.


We evaluate competitor backlinks.

If you're using a tool that evaluates the competition's backlinks as part of the comparison process, feel free to skip to the next section. On the off chance you aren't, here's how you go about finding your competitors' best backlinks manually:

Go through your competitor's backlinks one by one and assess them based on the three metrics outlined above. Create a list of 5-10 promising prospects to start out with.

Start replicating.

Finally, we've reached the part of the process that yields SEO results. What you're going to do now is start replicating the backlinks from your list using the same strategy you've determined that your competitor used. If they asked to write a guest post, you ask to write a guest post. If they wrote a forum response, you write a forum response. If they... you get the picture!

The odds of perfectly replicating every backlink are slim. Regardless, any success you do have will positively impact your website's SEO and organic traffic.

Don't know how? We'll provide some ideas in the next section to help you start.

How we strategize to acquire competitor backlinks

We use a competitor backlinks criteria

We use the following filters on Ahrefs to narrow down the backlinks we want to acquire. After all, not all backlinks are equal, and you can make the process of finding high-quality ones a lot easier by setting some criteria. Here's ours:

We analyze the domain and backlink type

Page type

There are different types of domains: blogs, forums, news portals and etc. Knowing the type of a domain can give you an idea on where to focus on acquiring backlinks from that specific domain.

Why do we analyze this? A few things:

What are some page types?

Backlink type

It's time to get a little more acquainted with the list of prospects you created. As you're probably well aware, there are tons of backlink varieties. Here are a few of the more common ones:

Obviously, there are too many kinds to list here. The reason we mention a few examples is to get you thinking about how your competitors got backlinks on the referring domains in the first place, and to find ways to acquire them yourself. To find out, simply check out the referring domain and make an educated guess.

If a referring domain leads to a guest post, it's likely that your competitor reached out and asked to write it. Fairly obvious! 

If a referring domain leads to a forum thread, it's likely your competitor commented. Even more obvious! Run through your list and take note of the strategy you think your competitor used to acquire each backlink.

We answer these key questions

Once you've created a list of your competitor backlinks, it's time to analyze how they've acquired the backlinks. This is where a little bit of common sense goes a long way. For instance, you can ask yourself the following questions:

By answering these questions, you can start to understand the specific tactics your competitor used to acquire their backlinks. This will help you create a plan for replicating those strategies.

We analyze our competitors' pages that get the most links. And we create similar pages.

This helps us to identify what type of content is most attractive and likely to receive backlinks. By creating similar pages, we can increase our chances of acquiring backlinks in the same way as our competitors.

In addition, by analyzing our competitors' high-performing pages, we can also gain insight into their SEO strategy and use that knowledge to improve our own website's ranking and visibility.

Of course, there's more nuance involved in this process. For instance, we most likely won't target competitive topics, but this process can help you figure out which pages 'naturally' garner backlinks. From our experience, some of these pages include:

By identifying these patterns, we can create highly valuable and link-worthy content that attracts backlinks naturally.

We brainstorm similar tactics to acquire the links

Once you have identified the strategies your competitors used to acquire their backlinks, it's time to put them into action. Here are some ways you can acquire the links:

Tools we use for outreach

Of course, reaching out to websites and asking for backlinks can be a time-consuming and daunting task. That's why there are many tools available that can help streamline the process and make it more efficient:

When To Call For Agency Backup

If all that sounds like a lot of work, that's because it is! Reaching out to blogs for guest posts, crafting thoughtful forum responses, creating content that people want to cite - all of this takes time and effort. This can quickly get overwhelming, if you do not know what you’re doing.

In addition, successfully establishing backlinks often requires skills (e.g., SEO, content writing, web design, etc.) and tools that business owners don't possess. That's why many business owners turn to agencies and freelancers for help with their link-building strategies.

If you're looking for a reliable way to improve your website's SEO, competitor backlink research should be one of your go-to tactics. By taking a closer look at your competitors' best backlinks, you can gain valuable insights into their SEO strategies and replicate their successes yourself. 

Of course, manually researching every backlink can be a time-consuming process. An experienced SEO agency  can help you research your competitors' backlinks, replicate them, and track the progress of your campaign. So, if you're feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of conducting your own competitor backlink research, don't hesitate to call for backup!




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