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Everything you should know about evaluating your competitor’s backlink profile


Everything you should know about evaluating your competitors backlink profile

Competitive backlink research is one of the first steps in either building your own link-building strategy or figuring out what it takes to achieve your competitors’ organic rankings.

Links are certainly not the only ranking signal, but they are still one of the most powerful factors (if not de most powerful one).

When selecting your competitors to analyze you will likely choose those that rank particularly well for your target queries, which makes sense because you want to know what has worked for them.

There’s one important thing to keep in mind here: It’s generally best to select your peers (sites directly in your vertical or niche). In other words, stay away from large websites that play within a variety of verticals but happen to rank above you (big box stores, Wikipedia, etc.).

There’s not much you can learn from Amazon’s backlink profile, for example, apart from the fact that being a web giant is working well for them.

Likewise, there’s less to learn from your oldest competitors apart from starting early (and earning all those age and trust signals over time) is certainly a good idea. 

Instead, look for sites that have seen a recent growth in rankings to zero in on tactics working well for them. These are the types of sites you can best learn from, and this is what will make your competitive research actionable, i.e. help you build and implement your own strategy.

Once you have 2-4 competitors to analyze, make sure you rule out all the red flags you want to avoid first. In other words, start with what you don’t want to do. Filter those lower-quality and often risky links out to be able to find the best links common amongst the peers within your industry.

Step 1: Filter out red flags

When it comes to link building, too much of any questionable tactic can be detrimental but let’s get a bit more specific. Look for the following red flags:

Exact match anchor text

Are you seeing a lot of backlinks that repeat the same (or almost the same) anchor text over and over again? This is always a sign of poor and outdated link building that may get (or may have gotten) your competitors into trouble.

Very often when you see a backlink profile that is full of obviously SEO-driven links, you may also notice that the site lost visibility at some point: look for dips in organic visibility that may have happened over the years using Semrush or your favorite SEO toolset.

You cannot access their disavow file, so chances are they have gradually revived their rankings by urging Google to discount those low-quality links. But if those links haven’t caused them to lose rankings yet, chances are it will eventually happen.

It doesn’t have to be a manual penalty though: Google may be already discounting those links, so they have zero impact on their organic visibility at this point.

In either case, these are not the types of links you’d want to be after.

There are still quite a few outdated link-building patterns found in lots of backlink profiles out there.

These include:

  • Directory links
  • Links from blog networks
  • Article directory links
  • Content syndication (Press releases or other)
  • Low-quality guest posting links

Look out for links from websites that invite one to submit an article or “sponsor content” on them. Keep an eye on thin content that was obviously created for the sake of linking to your competitor. More importantly, try and see obvious patterns behind those backlinks: The same link building tactic appearing over and over throughout a backlink profile.

These links are probably also discounted by Google; none of these link types are worth your effort or investment.

Step 2: Learn from their success

Now that you know what to stay away from focus on what you can learn from your competitor’s backlink profile.

If you choose your competitors wisely based on organic visibility, there will likely be more to learn than to avoid. After all, if those sites rank well, Google obviously likes their backlink profile, or at least they are doing something right.

So, what can you learn from your competitors’ backlink profiles?

1. Your competitors’ content marketing tactics

Which content seems to work for your competitors in terms of link generation? What’s their most linked content? Have they managed to get any of their content assets viral or picked up by notable web publications? Can yours do better?

Obviously, you don’t know what happens behind the scenes of them achieving those links, but it is usually obvious when a particular content asset did extraordinarily well for generating solid backlinks.

It is usually easy to identify content that went viral and generated hundreds of links or a resource page that got cited by highly trusted websites like universities and government organizations.

Can you recreate those types of assets for your website and bring them up to date or make them better?

It is also a good idea to identify your competitor’s high-ranking content. Content that ranks on top of Google tends to bring in links naturally as bloggers and journalists use Google to find sources. Getting your articles to rank is also a link acquisition tactic bringing organic link equity on a continuous basis without you having to actively build those links through traditional outreach.

  1. Find your competitors’ articles that rank high for searchable keywords.
  2. Check backlinks of those articles to identify if that works for them.
  3. Try and claim those rankings by creating much better content.

Keep an eye on higher-level tactics that bring your competitors rankings and links. What type of content is delivering topical links? Oftentimes these would be:

  • Glossaries and knowledge bases;
  • In-depth how-to content;
  • Statistical studies and survey results (these tend to be the most powerful), etc.

2. Your competitors’ outreach tactics

Who are your competitors reaching out to when trying to build links?

It is usually easy to tell by the type of links they are getting:

  • Links from news outlets come as a result of journalistic outreach
  • Trusted links from educators (college professors, teachers, etc.) require targeted trust-bait content and outreach
  • Links from blogs are built through blogger outreach (and often creation of viral assets, like free tools and infographics)

Which of those links seem to dominate your competitors’ backlink profile? Knowing the answer will inspire your own link acquisition strategy and help you make more informed decisions.

3. Your competitors’ influencer marketing tactics

Who are your competitors’ content amplifiers? In other words, who are those people (authors, niche experts, etc.) behind those links your competitors are getting?

Influencer marketing is a great way to generate backlinks on many levels:

  • Lots of niche influencers have sites and blogs they can use to link from
  • Influencers (if you choose them wisely) can drive organic links by simply sharing your content or mentioning it in their newsletters.
  • You may be able to actively engage with influencers within your niche via interviews, podcasts, Q&As, etc.

Sometimes, influencer-based tactics are hard to track in your competitors’ backlink profiles. It is often hard to correlate a sudden surge of backlinks to your competitor’s site without knowing the root cause of the spike.

This is where well-organized social media research and listening can help your competitive backlink analysis. Search Twitter and Instagram for your competitors’ brand names to see who is talking about them and what kind of an audience is involved in listening to those messages. Tools like Keyhole (a social media analytics platform) and Milled (a newsletter archive) can help you distinguish those sources of influence and match them with your competitor’s backlink profile.


Competitive backlink research is often enlightening if you know what to look for.

It is no use in trying to go after each and every one of their good links, though. Instead, take a higher-level approach: What is it they are doing to generate links and how can I do the same but better?

Trying to be as good as your competitor means there’s no reason for Google to rank your site higher. You need to always strive to do better: Better content, better outreach, better promotion tools. There’s often a lot of “heavy lifting” internally to get this right, and many companies choose to hire a better link-building company in order to do it right. Whichever direction you go, staying on top of your competitor’s backlinks (and your own!) will help you earn and maintain top rankings as time goes on.

Om författaren

1652960206 350 Everything you should know about evaluating your competitors backlink profile1652960206 350 Everything you should know about evaluating your competitors backlink profile
Internet Marketing Ninjas is a leading digital agency specializing in SEO strategy, link building, content marketing, and site speed optimization. Led by industry veteran Jim Boykin since 1999, IMN’s team of 50 is based in Upstate New York and brings nearly 400 years of combined experience helping their clients improve search rankings and increase organic traffic from Google.


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What inflation’s cultural impact means for marketing


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When inflation is high the cost of living rises and wages, although rising too, never quite keep up. This has an impact on our pockets. But in addition to the economic consquences of inflation, there are subtler cultural consequences too. That’s something marketers need to understand.

Kate Muhl, a consumer insights expert and VP, analyst at Gartner, shared this insight. “It’s important to think about the idea that there’s more happening with inflation than just economic impact and consumer spending. Those effects start to fade. We’re not where we were a year ago — but lots of consumer attitudes and behaviors are still ripple effects out of that initial inflationary moment.”

What the research shows. The 2023 Gartner Cost-of-Living and Price Sentiment survey revealed the following:

  • A third of households reported financial hardship due to price increases with the most impact felt by low and low-to-middle income households.
  • 38% of respondents reported cutting their discretionary income (a YoY increase of 15% on 2022).
  • More than a third have increased spending on store brands and increased their use of coupons.
  • Over 40% report switching to generic brands, store brands and less expensive products in at least one product category.
  • 57% reported postponing a milestone event (such as a wedding or vacation) due to cost-of-living pressures.
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Against this background, consumers and marketers are divided on what responses are appropriate. CMO priorities include increasing the availability of a product or service, offering special deals and increasing rewards and benefits. Customers agree on the special deals, but their other priorities are keeping prices steady and, interestingly, not seeing high-level executives get pay raises.

In Muhl’s view, this reflects a growing sense, especially among younger consumers, that the system is “rigged” in favor of the wealthy. “A lot of this is about consumer sentiment, culture,” said Muhl. “How does it feel? What are people’s prevailing opinions about how the world is working? Those things matter to brands.”

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The right responses. This would be a good time, Muhl believes, to prioritize narratives that speak to thrift and savings and to focus on those brand values most relevant to your customers’ experience of inflationary pressures.

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“This is just not the time to get into luxury positionings (with some exceptions) — luxury for its own sake rather than premium or quality,” Muhl said. “Brands need to really think about what their core values are and act from those where appropriate.”

Varför vi bryr oss. The past three years should have taught us that our sentiments, our culture, does not necessary align precisely with real world events. For many of us, deeply felt emotional reactions to a global pandemic did not necessarily coincide with COVID-19’s real-time impact. As the pandemic receded, pandemic-induced behaviors persisted — as did anxiety and uncertainty.

Similarly with inflation. Positive economic indicators and a slow but steady decline in inflation has not relieved foreboding about a recession. Inflation-triggered behaviors and attitudes will not automatically dissipate as inflation recedes to a tolerable level. Marketers need to be aware, sensitive and, as always, transparent in responding to consumer sentiment.

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Discover the secret to winning your customer’s attention and provoking action with the first ingredient in our 5-part sales formula.

Utilize this ingredient to agitate your customer’s pain point or speak to their aspirational state in such a way that they are compelled by the message where they… Stop. Read it. And move on to take action from there.

Ultimately, learn how to show your customers that you know them better than anybody else and become a mind readers who speaks directly to those little nuances that only your customer would know about.

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Hooks are used in marketing messaging to agitate a pain or passion point that will stop your customers in their tracks, because you “read their mind,” and spoke to something they are experiencing that they want to change.

Hooks are all about your customer’s undesirable situation, or aspirational state, and not about the business.

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