How to Find Competitor Backlinks with Ahrefs & BrightLocal + BuzzStream?
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Are other businesses like yours outranking you on Google?
Chances are, they’ve worked hard on building a backlink profile – and you need to do so, too. That’s why we want to talk about tips for finding competitor backlinks.
In our experience at Foxxr, we’ve determined that good quality backlinks are among the most critical aspects of SEO success. If you want to stand a chance against competitors, big and small, you need to understand what kinds of links they’re building – then catch up.
What are backlinks? Ahrefs says:
“Backlinks are links from a page on one website to another. If someone links to your website, then you have a backlink from them. If you link to another website, they have a backlink from you.”
When other businesses, blogs, and websites externally link to your competitors, that’s a point for them. The good news? If places are linking to your competition, they’ll likely also link to you – if you make the right connections.
This post tackles step-by-step guidelines to find competitor backlinks. Our Foxxr experts will walk you through actionable ways to replicate and out-do competitor links. Additionally, we’ll advise you on what kind of pages to pursue, what makes a link “high-quality,” and what standard links you should target.
Let’s dive in.
Finding Backlinks From Competitor Research in Ahrefs
Whenever we take on a new client at Foxxr, we ask them to provide a solid list of their top competitors. This is an essential step in our onboarding process – it indicates what types of links and pages we should be looking for to boost our client’s SEO value.
We don’t just rely on what you provide – we do our research to improve your SEO. Today, we’re going to talk about a crucial part of the competitor research process. Manually researching top-ranking keywords on Google allows us to see what client competitors are doing and how we can do the same for your brand.
You might think you already know who your competitors are and what they’re doing, but what many brands don’t realize is that there are multiple types of competitors out there. We discover two main “kinds” of competitors with most of our clients: domain-level and page-level.
A “domain-level” competitor is classified as a site that competes with you in search engine results. These are what you’re probably thinking of when you list direct competitors. They’re not just battling with you for success with one keyword – they’re targeting many of the same terms, topics, and phrases that your brand focuses on.
How do you find these domain-level competitors?
Our suggestion is to use Ahrefs SEO toolset, which you can subscribe to for $99/year (with the lite version).
With Ahrefs, you can use the “Site Explorer” tool to enter your website’s domain and quickly discover competing domains.
Not only will this show you what domains are your real competitors, but you’ll also find common keywords that overlap on your websites. This gives your SEO team a large chunk of information to work with as you search for and find competitor backlinks.
The other type of competitor you’ll likely encounter is one that competes on a page-level for particular keywords/phrases/topics. These aren’t competitors in every aspect, but they do have specific webpages that compete with yours.
For example: let’s say that you’re a travel agency, and you have a post for “Top 10 Places to Visit in Mexico.” Like a Mexican hotel or restaurant, there might be another business that doesn’t compete with you on most of your posts, but they will on all of your Mexico-related pages.
How do you find these specific page-level competitors? Again, turn to Ahrefs. Pick a page or post on your website, then enter the primary keyword you’re trying to rank for.
For instance, in the image above, you can see which websites rank the highest for the phrase “SEO tips.” These domains are all page-level competitors – and ones to pay attention to if you’re trying to rank for that specific phrase.
Once you know who your competitors are, it’s time to focus more on ways to find competitor backlinks. Ahrefs helps with that via its Site Explorer tool. Enter the domain of your competitors, then click “Explore Its Backlink Profile.”
This is a quick and straightforward way to discover backlinks that are benefiting your competition. You can also click the “Referring domains” link on the left.
This section reveals which domains are the most powerful and influential to your competitors. Use this page to understand which domains you should target the most as you build backlinks – and which ones should be at the bottom of your priority list.
Finding Backlinks With the Ahrefs Link Intersect Tool
Our next suggestion is to look into the Ahrefs “Link Intersect” tool. Here, you can enter up to ten competing websites, as well as your domain in the “doesn’t link to” spot. The page will then reveal where most of your competitors are linking and where you are not.
This is an easy way to find competitor backlinks popular amongst other brands but not boost your SERP results. You can also use the Intersections filter to reveal hyper-relevant results. Play around with this tool long enough, and you’ll give yourself plenty of information to build more backlinks.
Finding Out Which Links Are Harder to Replicate
The Ahrefs “Best By Links” report will also help you learn which backlinks will be necessary – but difficult – to obtain for your brand.
This helps you find competitor backlinks, but it also reveals how you will have to surpass our competitors’ content to rank for a keyword. You’ll see which pages on a target website/domain have the most backlinks, and you can use this information to plan future backlinking strategies.
Reveal Link Opportunities Using the Skyscraper Technique
Next, we need to visit a popular (and useful) backlink research strategy: the skyscraper technique. Here’s how you do it.
- Visit Ahrefs’ “Content Explorer” Tool.
- Enter the topic you want to find backlinks for.
- Review the domains that come up and learn about their backlink content.
As the Ahref blog puts in,
“The Skyscraper technique is a link building strategy where you improve existing popular content and replicate the backlinks. Here’s how it works in a nutshell:
- Find a relevant piece of content with lots of backlinks;
- Create something way better;
- Ask those linking to the original piece to link to your superior content instead.”
In simpler terms, you take a look at these “skyscrapers” of the content graph to understand what content is ranking best for the backlinks you’re focusing on. Then, you can learn from this content to produce better posts and media of your own.
Although unique content is still as important as ever, it pays off to take notes from editorial content that’s doing well in the categories you need to improve upon. Take notes, but don’t mimic completely – Google hates a copycat.
Look at Competitors’ Broken Links
Before we stop talking about Ahrefs and move on to our BrightLocal recommendations, there’s one last thing to discuss: competitors’ broken links. These are more important to your strategy than you might think.
The first part of this strategy requires a little elbow grease. Do your research to find the most authoritative, trusted, compelling websites within your industry/niche. Make a list of at least 50 sites, all of which are well-viewed in your area of expertise.
Then, head to Ahrefs and analyze these domains in the Site Explorer tool. Click “Pages,” then “Best by Links,” then filter by HTTP 404 errors.
This tactic helps you find competitor backlinks that are broken – and therefore not benefiting your competitor. Where there’s a weakness in your competition’s strategy, there’s room for you to swoop in and establish some strong backlinks.
Consider creating content/pages staged around these broken links. You might even be able to reach out to the domain with the broken backlink and say, “Hey, we’ve got a great link to replace this broken one!” It’s a mutually beneficial offer – and one that many domains should be happy to take you upon.
The general components of broken link building are:
- Finding the broken links.
- Creating replacement content/offering current range.
- Reaching out to publishers with your offer.
You can also use this tool to reclaim your links on other websites. Earn backlinks that use to lead to your content but that have been broken over time.
The best-broken backlinks to pursue immediately are:
- On websites that your target audience regularly visits
- On websites that are considered credible and authoritative
- On sites that your competitors use/interact with frequently
And that wraps up our section on using Ahrefs. Now, let’s move on to using BrightLocal as a competitor research tool.
Competitor Research Using Bright Local
Take Advantage of the Local Search Audit Tool
BrightLocal’s “Local Search Audit” tool will revolutionize how you look for competitor information – including how you find competitor backlinks.
For $29/month, you can sign up for a single business plan that covers up to three locations. You’ll then receive access to the Local Search Audit. Take a look at the “Links and Website Authority” section. There, you’ll see average scores for competitors.
At first glance, these business scores might seem confusing. Let’s break them down one by one.
Google Index Count: This is the number of pages that Google has indexed on your site – or a competitor’s.
Link Count: This is the number of links branching out from other websites back to yours.
Linking Domains: This is the number of websites that link back to your domain/website.
Majestic C Flow: This is a special link-related score calculated based on how many inbound links our website has.
Domain Authority: This is a search engine related score that predicts your website’s ability to rank in SERPs.
Generally, your goal is simple: you want your scores in the Local Search Audit tool to be higher than your competitors’ average scores. Pay attention to where you’re scoring poorly compared to some of your top competition – what can you do to change this quickly?
Perhaps you’ll need to add more inbound links first thing on your page. On the other hand, it might be more important for your website to establish better backlinks on essential websites quickly. Maybe you want to crank out more guest posts for the same sites your competitors write for.
There’s not always a “right” choice for every brand, but the comparison of scores with your competitors will point you in the right direction.
Use Bright Local’s Citation Tracker Tool
First things first: you need to set up a citation tracker in BrightLocal. Click the “SEO Tools” link on your dashboard, then “Citation Tracker” on the drop-down menu. This will show which locations you’ve already created or prompt you to create one if you haven’t already.
After setting up a citation tracker, you’ll be able to see a list of “structured” and “unstructured” citations/directories where your competitors have already created listings.
The “Citation Authority” score is calculated by Moz and considers the “SEO score” of a website and its predicted ability to rank well. The higher your score is, the more influence and success you’ll have in search results.
The “Citation Value” score isn’t something you can find just anywhere – only BrightLocal calculates it. The number indicates your site’s value as a cited source based on unique research criteria. The higher this number is, the more “valuable” your website is for other sites to link to.
We recommend evaluating both the Citation Value and the Citation Authority for a number of your competitors. Learn which ones are doing well and which ones are doing poorly – then learn from their tactics to better your scores.
The Bright Local Google My Business Tool
You might already be using GMB to learn about citations, but BrightLocal’s Google My Business tool gives you even more power. You can add up to five significant keywords to your list within a local region, then conduct an in-depth report.
When the report is finalized, you’ll see a list of citations for every keyword you’re researching at the top of the section. At the same time, you’ll see information on your competitors’ rankings for those keywords.
In this example provided by BrightLocal, the keywords are “HVAC contractor”, and “Air conditioning contractor”. Each tab offers the “top 10 results” for that specific keyword.
Clicking on any of these tabs gives you a list of citations, links, website authority, and other essential ratings. Sorting by Key citations allows you to see where you need to prioritize your backlink building – and which keywords you need to focus on for the local pack rankings.
So, that’s about it for BrightLocal and Ahrefs – but we’ve got one more tool to share with you. Let’s talk about using BuzzStream after using these tools to discover the backlinks of your competition.
You’ve used Ahrefs and BrightLocal to find competitor backlinks and learn from them successfully. Now, it’s time to turn to BuzzStream’s outreach CRM tool to ask for backlinks from important domains and businesses.
What is BuzzStream? In short, it’s an outreach platform that helps you stay organized and grow your link-building results quickly, no matter how big (or small) your business might be.
How to Use Buzzstream?
Start with your list of backlink prospects that you’ve created based on your research with Ahrefs and BrightLocal. These are websites you want to build backlinks on because your competitors already have – or they’ve failed to do so successfully.
It would be best if you reached out to these domains/websites – and BuzzStream will help you do that with a variety of outreach templates (also referred to as “sequences”). You’ll spend fewer hours slaving over the perfect email and more time managing all of your backlink conversations.
You’ll be able to create and use a variety of sequences for different outreach goals. For instance, your brand might need an outreach message for bloggers and one for websites that have broken links you want to fill. Create messages for filling broken competitor links and implementing your own on new sites.
Create these various backlink outreach sequences, then store them for future use. You can also set up customized reminders on BuzzStream that encourage you to reach out to email recipients that haven’t responded to your messages yet. After all, persistence is critical – especially when it comes to building backlinks the old-fashioned way.
Surprisingly, that’s not even the best part of using BuzzStream for backlinking. What we love are the organization and tracking capabilities.
BuzzStream also allows you to create lists that track and differentiate your various conversations with backlinking prospects. Instead of having to scroll through your email and manually monitor your multiple discussions, you can track levels of success with different prospects all in one place.
When you’re talking to real people behind real websites to boost your backlinks, you need to effectively manage these relationships. That means keeping notes, monitoring progress, and using just the right conversational tactics – all of which BuzzStream can help you with.
BuzzStream will also let you make notes about various prospects, such as where you met them, what they like, and what you want to talk to them about in the future.
Even after a site has accepted your proposal and given you the backlink, your work isn’t done. You’ll need to monitor this backlink and its success, as well as watch for further opportunities with the host website. Don’t just leave the backlink to acquire dust – use BuzzStream to keep an eye on things.
How much does BuzzStream cost? Well, the starter pack begins at $24 per month for one user and 1,000 contacts. You can add users for another $24 per month, or you can upgrade to the $99 per month package that gives you 25,000 contacts and three users.
Our experts at Foxxr highly recommend using BuzzStream, and we even help our SEO clients set up accounts to manage better and monitor relationships with prospects.
And that’s it! Those are the three tools we recommend using as you find competitor backlinks. This three-pronged approach won’t yield immediate results in most cases, but it will slowly give you a leg up on your competitors.
If you’ve learned two things from this post, let it be this:
- Competitor backlink research is precious to your backlink building strategy.
- Building your posts around other brand’s backlinks is hugely beneficial.
At Foxxr, we’ve been around the block a time or two, and we’ll admit that you won’t immediately outrank a competitor through any of the tactics we’ve mentioned. However, you can play catch up and take advantage of areas where your competitors are falling short.
We encourage all of our clients to use their competitors’ backlinks as a base – a place to build off of and spark more research. It’s not the only way to get powerful backlinks, but it’s a great starting point.
Want some more help learning how to find competitor backlinks?
Turn to our top-rated digital marketing agency. Link building is one of our specialties, and we’ll ensure that you’re doing what is necessary to rank highly and impress Google.