Competitor Backlink Analysis for SEO in 2024: Complete Guide

Photo of author

By Tomislav

Key Takeaways

Leverage Semrush for Depth and Breadth: Utilize Semrush’s comprehensive tools, including Backlink Analytics and the Bulk Backlink Analysis Tool, to analyze competitors’ backlink profiles deeply. Alternatives like Ahrefs and Moz Link Explorer serve as notable substitutes.
Effective Analysis Strategy: Focus on filtering relevant backlinks, evaluating link quality, authorship, and the context of placement. This approach guides targeted outreach and content strategies.
Identify Opportunities and Gaps: Use the Backlink Gap Tool to compare your backlink profile with competitors’, identifying gaps and potential link-building opportunities. This insight enables the replication of successful strategies and the discovery of content that attracts organic backlinks.
Strategic Advantages:
Benchmark and adapt competitors’ successful link-building tactics to enhance your SEO efforts.
Uncover local SEO opportunities and content gaps to improve your site’s visibility and ranking.

Affiliate Disclosure: I’m partnered with Semrush, a product I like and use daily. If you need a top-notch SEO tool sign up for a Free 7-Day Trial through my link somewhere on this page and I’ll get a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks!

What is Competitor Backlink Analysis?

Competitor backlink analysis is an SEO technique for finding and analyzing the backlink profiles of your competitors’ websites.

Backlinks are a crucial ranking factor in Google’s algorithm, which means you’ll want to match and, ideally, exceed your competitors in both quality and quantity of referring domains.

The primary goals of competitor backlink analysis include identifying successful link-building strategies of your competitors, pinpointing the type of content that earns backlinks most effectively, and uncovering link-building opportunities to focus on.

For this task, I prefer Semrush Backlink Analytics tools suite because it boasts the largest backlink database with over 43 trillion quality backlinks, making it the largest database of its kind.

Some notable alternatives include Ahrefs and Moz Link Explorer.

Step-by-Step Guide for Analyzing Competitor Backlink Profiles in Semrush

Step 1: Navigate to Backlink Analytics in Semrush and enter the domain you want to analyze.

Step 2: Navigate to the Backlinks tab.

Step 3: Set the following parameters for a manageable and relevant list, then click Export:

  1. Active links only (use “All” for smaller domains)
  2. Follow links only (these links pass on link equity)
  3. 1 link per referring domain (set to 3 for smaller domains)
  4. Link placement to content (focus on links in the main body of content)
  5. Set Language to the most relevant
  6. Use advance filters to Include or Exclude parameters (consider excluding Image type backlinks to focus on textual content links)

Now, you have a manageable list of relevant backlinks from a single competitor.

From here, you can continue working in Semrush or export the findings into an Excel or CSV sheet.

Your depth of analysis depends on your objectives.

For a general overview of the competition, a detailed dive isn’t necessary.

However, if you’re aiming to closely study one or a few competitors to understand how to outperform them, a deeper analysis is warranted.

In such cases, sort the links from highest to lowest Page Authority Score and begin inspecting the pages linking to your competitor.

Things to Look for When Analyzing a Page Containing the Backlink

Authorship and Site Ownership: Investigate who authored the content and who owns the site.

This can reveal if the link resulted from outreach, a guest post, or a paid placement. Understanding these relationships can guide your own outreach efforts.

Quality of the Content: Evaluate the quality of the content where the link is found.

This assessment helps gauge the caliber of sites linking to your competitor, informing strategies to either match or surpass their backlink profile.

Context Around the Link: Determine the context of the link’s placement—whether it’s within a product review, a guest post, an industry report, etc.

This insight can shed light on the types of content and strategies your competitor employs to acquire backlinks.

Bulk Backlink Analysis Tool in Semrush

The Bulk Backlink Analysis Tool is an underutilized asset that allows you to go wide, offering a comprehensive overview of the domains linking to your competitor, and go granular, delving into the individual URLs containing the backlinks.

Both approaches are invaluable, contingent on the depth of analysis you seek.

To get a comprehensive overview of domains linking to your competitor:

Step 1: Collect 200 URLs at a time (the tool’s maximum capacity) from the sheet you previously downloaded and paste them into the tool.

Step 2: Select ‘Root Domain’ in Results Scope and hit the Compare button.

Step 3: Export the data to Excel or CSV and repeat until all URLs from your initial list are analyzed.

For a detailed examination of URLs containing links to your competitor change the Results Scope to ‘URL’ for a direct view, or start with 200 URLs again if beginning anew.

Here, you can evaluate the strength of each page linking to your competitor using the AS or Authority Score metric.

Semrush calculates this score by analyzing backlinks, referring domains, organic search traffic, among other metrics.

Yet, the most valuable insight comes when you explore the Follow column.

Clicking on the numbers here, Semrush reveals all the Dofollow links pointing to that page.

This detailed dive is a strategic move when analyzing competitors’ backlink profiles in-depth, potentially more thoroughly than they understand themselves.

While not always necessary, this approach is crucial when you’re competing against your top 2-3 competitors.

Every piece of insight can shape your strategies, helping you gain the upper hand.

Backlink Gap Tool in Semrush

The concept of backlink gaps is based on the goal of acquiring the backlinks your competitors have, and then some.

The Backlink Gap tool allows you to input your domain along with 1-4 competitors to identify where your backlink gap exists.

It analyzes each site’s backlink profile, lists every referring domain it finds, and indicates which sites have a backlink from each referring domain.

The tool offers filters to simplify the analysis of a large number of referring domains and an option to download the results as an Excel or CSV sheet.

Discovering referring domains that link to most of your competition, but not to you, highlights a significant gap in your backlink profile that you should aim to fill.

Additionally, this tool indirectly helps you uncover content gaps or specific linkable assets that are particularly successful for your competitors.

As you can see, Semrush offers some really useful tools when it comes competitor backlink analysis.


Reasons to Do Competitor Backlink Analysis

Find New Link-Building Opportunities

Analyzing competitors’ backlinks uncovers potential linking opportunities for your site.

Use these insights to enhance your backlink strategy and gain a competitive edge.

Compare with Competitors

Regular analysis lets you compare your link profile with your competitors’, identifying gaps and opportunities in your strategy.

Additionally, understanding your competitors’ top-performing backlinks offers valuable insights into successful strategies to replicate.

Discover Linkable Assets

Identify which content from your competitors attracts the most organic backlinks and create similar content for your site.

By replicating successful content, you can gain more backlinks organically than before.

Uncover Important Content Gaps

Some content pieces are more crucial than others, especially those earning backlinks for your competitors.

You’ll want to quickly close any content gaps that favor your competitors.

Discover Competitors’ Link Building Tactics

Analyzing your competitors’ backlinks will reveal patterns, allowing you to map out their link building strategy.

This insight enables you to replicate what worked for them without making the same mistakes.

Local SEO Opportunities

Discover local backlink opportunities by analyzing competitors’ local citations and backlinks, essential for local SEO efforts.

Additionally, understanding with whom your competitors are partnering locally can help you pursue similar relationships, knowing what already worked for them.