How to Spy Your Competitors’ Online Link Strategy
A competitor’s back link profile can reveal a lot of information regarding its online strategy. In addition, it can give you ideas about where else to find links. Apart from studying your own link profile, it’s important to know what your competitors are doing. If they’re performing better than you in search rankings and other metrics, you can find out why by studying their back link profile. From there, it’s easier to figure out how to re-establish your competitive edge.
There are many third-party tools that can help you look into your competitor’s back link profile. The best of them do not come for free, but the cost is affordable, even for smaller businesses. Examples of such tools include Open Site Explorer from Moz.com, Ahrefs, SEMRush, Majestic SEO among others.
Information you can gain from back link analysis
From the list of links pulled using whichever tool, you need to sift and identify uniquely linking sites. These are sites which link to your competitor(s), but not to you. You can then group those unique links into smaller categories, which will help you determine which of those links make up an open avenue for your to pursue.
The purpose of competitor back link analysis is not to ape your competitor’s linking strategy link for link. Rather, it’s to help you identify more opportunities and improve your online strategy to establish a competitive edge. Aping will, at best, get you where they are, which still doesn’t help you cause.
In selecting your competitors for back link profiling, you need to find out who your true competition is. Not every site that shows up before your site in search rankings for your target keyword is a competitor. For instance, if you’ve opened a local business selling jewelry, you cannot be said to be in direct competition with Macy’s and Kay.com, who show up among the top results for the keyword ‘jewelry’.
You need to find sites that are much similar to your business, in size and location for instance, and begin your analysis from there. After you have done that, you can carry out an analysis of the top sites in your industry to find out more about what you can do to get to the top. Some insights to gain from back link analysis include:
- Couponing and directories
If your competition has many links from coupon sites, you know that part of their digital marketing strategy. If they have many directory links, chances are that they have a professional SEO working for them. You can follow those links and determine whether this is an avenue you too can pursue.
- Blog links
Follow links from blogposts to understand their context. Does it seem like the blogger is a real fan of their products and/or services, or does it seems like a link that had an incentive attached? Was the anchor text naturally placed? Does the link add value there? Are there bloggers you can also approach for the same? You should be careful with this, as your competitor could be blogrolling or paying bloggers, and that’s not something you want to do.
These links come from news sites, and they arise for various reasons. For instance, your competitor could have hosted and/or sponsored some local community event that attracted news outlets to feature its story. If the event still exists, e.g. annual trade fairs, find out whether you can contribute to the next one. Publicity could also arise from contests, product launches and promotional offers among others. Determine which are suitable for your business.
Try to find out who is collaborating with whom. You can find this in terms of reciprocal links between sites in related industries. If they are clearly objective links, contact the webmasters to find out whether they could include your site as well.
Back link Monitoring
Once you have carried out a comprehensive analysis of your competitors’ link profiles, it’s now time to set up a real-time analytical tool. This will help you monitor your competitors’ online actions in order to develop your own counter-strategies so that you can maintain your competitive edge over them.
You can carry out a broad cross-sectional analysis of your competitor field by making up a keyword list. The more streamlined your keyword list, the easier it will be to carry out market analysis i.e. where there’s a fairly uniform list of keywords. It’s much harder for market niches that are diverse in nature e.g. clothes.
When carrying out market-wide examination, you’re not only interested in identifying the strongest payers. Rather, you need to be on the lookout for any sudden and significant shifts in the competitor ranking list using your monitoring software. Most tools come with the option of sending automated notifications to you every time a competitor on your list makes some change to their strategy.
By keeping your eye on all changes and fluctuations within your market niche, you can stay ahead of your competitors. For instance, you can identify new competitors before everyone else, and ensure that no competitor takes you by surprise. If you see it coming, you can better prepare yourself to counter it before its effect becomes solid.