Backlinks are a critical component of any SEO strategy. While it may be okay to have links from a variety of sources, it’s much better if a high proportion of them come from sites in your industry. It’s also important that the links come from sites trusted by Google – non-spammy, real websites linking to your site because you have good and/or relevant content that they want to share with their readers.
So how do you find sites that are inclined to link to sites like yours?
How do you get ideas about what type of content they might want to link to?
How do you see what your competitors are doing that gets them links?
If any of these questions resonate with you, read on…
How to Find Competitor Backlink Opportunities
When you find competitor backlinks, you may also find opportunities for your own site. Since your competitors operate in the same industry, target similar audiences, and probably create content about similar topics, you’re likely to find link placements that would be relevant to you too.
Here are eight ways you can use the Alexa backlink tool, the Competitor Backlink Checker, to find backlinks from sites in almost any industry and get ideas for highly linkable content.
We’ll use various sites as examples so you can see how this might apply to your site or industry. To get started, you’ll need a list of similar sites that your audience visits, that are likely to link to your content.
Using your Alexa account (or an Advanced trial), you can quickly get a set of sites for any industry by going to to the Audience Overlap Tool (to learn more about finding similar sites with the Audience Overlap tool by reading this tutorial).
In the Audience Overlap Tool, input your site (or any site in your industry) and it will give you a list of sites that are very similar based on common visitors and the search keywords that they rank for. Click the “Select sites with the most overlap” (or hand select the best sites) and then “Save this list”.
Once you’ve done that, navigate over to the Competitor Backlink Checker and find that list in the drop-down menu. Select the list and launch your Competitor Backlink Checker analysis.
Once that’s done, you’ll be able to find competitor backlinks and discover new backlink opportunities. Here are eight ways to look at it.
Find list/resource posts to be included in
One of the ways you can use the Competitor Backlink Checker is to find backlink opportunities in list posts or resource pages that your company is not included in (but that are a good fit).
After you’ve run a Competitor Backlink Analyses, go to “Filters”. At the bottom, you’ll see “Show keyword gaps for”. Find your site in the drop-down list (we’ll choose Glasses.com in our example). Using this filter, you can find competitor backlinks and see where your site is missing out.
Then scan the results. They’re ordered by how many sites in your list have links from the sites in the left column. I look for recognizable site names as well as a strong Alexa Rank (the lower the rank, the more popular the site) to find potential resource posts or other opportunities.
In this example, I quickly find About.com pretty early in the results as 7 of 10 of the sites have a link from them and their Alexa rank is 444 (which is very strong). Clicking on any of the green checks exposes a list of the top traffic-driving links to each site according to our data. One link that four of the sites are included in is an article about “Where to Buy Cheap Eyeglasses Online”.
Clicking through and scanning the article, it looks like a great fit for our site. Reaching out to the author is one way to see if we can be included in the post. If she writes about this topic regularly, you may be able to secure a guest post by pitching a new blog on a related topic. Just be sure you suggest an angle that you know the About.com Style readers would really be interested in.
Here’s another example of a resource post from the Penny Hoarder, in the Sports Memorabilia space. The Penny Hoarder is very strong (Alexa Global Rank: 1,025) but only one of several sports memorabilia sites is included in this list post of military discounts.
Since the post is long, there’s a good chance that they would include your link provided you have a strong offer. In return, you may offer to share the post across your social media/and or newsletter as an extra incentive for them.
Find sites for guest posting
Finding relevant sites to guest blog on can be a bit of a chore. But with the Competitor Backlink Matrix, you can see which sites link to your competitors and which types of articles are driving traffic to your competitors. In addition, the Alexa Rank allows you to quickly determine which link opportunities should be a higher priority.
I’ll use sites in the marketing space to provide an example. After running a backlink analysis on a group of sites, go to the filters. Again, you’ll want to use the “backlink gaps” filter to show only sites for which one of the sites has no links. We that seven of the other sites (out of nine) have links from SmallBizTrends.com—a blog focused on small business topics. This is probably a good site to investigate further to learn more about the articles that contain links to the other sites.
Once you expand the panel to view the links, you can then click to those articles and confirm whether they’re good guest blogging opportunities.
In the post below, you can see that this one is a guest post and that it has been shared broadly in social media. So, this site is likely a good one to consider.
Also look for “guest posting”, “write for us”, “contribute”, or “contact us” links on the site to learn more about their guest posting policies. And of course, remember that guest posting on a highly ranking site like Small Biz Trends (Alexa Rank: 14,818) will require a valuable and well-written article that follows their guidelines. And it will probably require some kind of review and approval.
Engage in forums
In this next section, let’s look at how you can discover which forums are sending traffic to your site, and competitors’ sites, via backlinks. Using a set of sites related to horses, I can immediately see some forums near the top of the list (horseforum.com and myhorseforum.com). Exploring further, I find several other forums.
Picking 1-2 forums to engage in (with useful and not promotional content) can be a good way to get started building your credibility and can lead to opportunities to reference helpful resources on your site within your postings or in your profile. Be careful to follow their policies about self-promotion and to add value to the community with your postings.
Get listed in local directories
Local businesses need to get the word out in a variety of places. Getting listed in local directories can help people find you – and it can also help your Local SEO as well. So, whether you’re a local business, a national business, or purely an online business, you can use the Backlink Checker to find competitor backlinks that are from directories. Many have both paid and free options.
Using several restaurants in Half Moon Bay, you can see various opportunities to get listed in the screenshot below. This includes potentially getting listed in the online YellowPages.com directory, Fodors.com, bbonline.com and a local reviews site, TheMomReviews.com.
Usually you can find listing options or a contact form by looking at the header, sidebar or footer of any listing or review site.
Identify new content ideas
Using the Competitor Backlink Checker, you can learn more about your competitors’ content strategies. For example, using a set of sites in the job sites/recruitment space, I found that Jobvite had an active survey program that was getting backlinks from popular sites. This information can help inform your content strategy. You can consider running your own survey, pitching related content to the same writers who focus on your industry.
Continue researching to learn what other types of valuable content (surveys, infographics, videos, guides) are getting backlinks to competitors.
Find writers to pitch
Finding articles that link to your competitors on larger sites allows you to find writers who cover certain topics who you can pitch ideas to. When pitching, make sure that you have strong content (e.g. your own survey, infographic or study), or a novel idea for an article that they might want to write about (potentially referencing a quote, data, or unique offering from your company).
For example, in the cruise industry, you can see that Linda (in the screenshot below) is a “Cruises Expert” for About.com. She’d be a great person to connect with if you were working for a cruises or travel-related company.
.EDU sites to get links from
Accredited U.S. universities and colleges are the only entities allowed to get a .edu domain name (like Stanford.edu) and they have often been registered for a long time. Because it’s hard to get an .edu domain name and because they’re often older domains, they are believed to pass more link juice in Google’s algorithms than sites with .com or other domains. Getting backlinks from .edu domains is often considered to be helpful for a site’s ranks in the search engines.
To look for potential .edu domains, start with a set of sites in your industry. After you generate your analysis, go into the filters. In the first one, “Linking Sites URL contains”, enter “.edu” (without the quotes) and press “Apply filter”.
This will provide you with a set of .edu links for the sites in your industry. It will give you specific pages that you can potentially get your site included on. It will also provide insight into how your competitors are getting backlinks. For example, they may be speaking at universities – getting publicity and also garnering a link to their site. Also, guest blogging on your alma mater’s blog, getting featured in a “notable alumnus” type of post (e.g. by getting interviewed), or providing a student discount or special offer some ways to get a backlink from an .edu domain.
Below is an example of the glasses company Coastal.com offering a scholarship at Valparaiso University, earning a nice link from an .edu domain. Of course, that link may just be the fringe benefit of a generous scholarship offer!
Affiliates driving traffic
Affiliates are sites that get a commission if they drive traffic that converts (e.g. buys a product) to a site that has an affiliate program. The affiliate program allows a company to track visits and commissions and to make payouts to registered affiliates. It’s one way that companies drive traffic to their websites.
To find potential affiliates, you can go to filters and limit the resulting sites’ Alexa ranks from 10,000 to 150,000 or so, you can find sites that get good traffic and that are linking to your site and your competitors. Within this set, there may be some sites who are affiliates that are be linking to your competitors, but not to you. You can usually tell because they are deals or coupons sites, or companies that write a lot of reviews of other websites, software or products.
For example, in the analysis below, the site Coupon.EverAfterGuide.com has an Alexa Rank of 20,530 (which is very strong). It focuses on coupon codes and promotions and is likely an affiliate. Sites that are not included on this site could consider approaching them to sign them up as an affiliate or partner.
Use Alexa’s Backlink Tool to Help You Find Competitor Backlinks and New Opportunities
You can see how using the Competitor Backlink Checker helps you learn about your competitors’ content marketing strategies. It also helps you identify:
- sites that are more likely to link to your site
- authors that write about your industry
- specific posts that are backlink opportunities for you, as well as
- content ideas based on competitors’ content
What’s your experience with generating backlinks? Let us know your most valuable tip in the comments!
To try Alexa’s Competitor Backlink Checker, sign up for a free 7-day trial of our Advanced Plan.