Competitive Link Analysis

What Link Builders Are Not Telling You

Even when I post about Keyword Research and Link building, I only ever touch on the quick analysis needed to define a keywords accessibility and a niche’s profitability, that being the PageRank of the top ten sites currently ranking for that particular keyword. But defining your link building strategy from here on in is going to go require a little more analysis, at least if you want to see page one results.

So what exactly does Competitive Link Analysis entail then?

Analyzing the Competition

The thing about link building and SEO is “no one really knows what the hell is going on most of the time” Even Google admits that in the interest of national security or what not, one hand never knows what the other is doing, so it’s only fair to assume that trying to logically understand the ranking process can only make you stupider. Don’t go there.

This is why we Analyze the Competition and Use Competitive Link Analysis to get the upper hand on not just the competing pages in question, but Google as well. And there are a number of other benefits to competitive link analysis:

  • Find more Targeted Keywords.
    What ‘other’ keywords and phrases is that site competing for? From this, you not only get more Keywords that you may not have thought to target, you also can see how they are optimizing their site overall.
  • Find hundreds of quality link prospects.
    This is the whole reason for ‘studying’ the competition in the first place, and the reason this is the best way to find targeted links is because if they are linking to your competition, they are more likely to link to you too.
  • Get an Insight into their SEO Process.
    Half the SEO Battle is knowing how much of what link to throw at what page on your site and when, and how, so getting an idea of the incoming links to your competitors site can definitely shed some light on the balance you are going to need.

Getting ahead of the competition.

getting ahead of the seo competition

So how do we Analyze the competition, or at least how do we find their backlinks?

There are a number of methods, and there is also a number of tools and services that will do it for you, and will do a damn good job too, but for the sake of this post – let’s assume you are like any normal person and are not made of money and therefore need to know how to do this free.

The Yahoos way of Finding prospective Links

This is one instance where Yahoo definitely has the upper hand on Google. Go to Yahoo Search and use the ‘Site Explorer’ option. To do this, either bookmark this URL: https://siteexplorer.search.yahoo.com or Go to Yahoo Search Engine (search.yahoo.com) and type in LINK:www.thecompetingdomain.com as this will then redirect your query to the Site Explorer anyway.

Once you have done this, Yahoo gives you a list of all the Pages indexed as well as all the incoming links. Granted, this is at most maybe 90% of their links, but since this alone is usually overwhelming enough, you needn’t worry about it too much. But this list looks messy and there is no semblance of order to it, just a series of links and URLS all listed in a row.

SEOQuake will sort things out

SEOQuake is a Browser extension available for Mozilla and Google Chrome users that gives the PR and other basic stats about each site in a little toolbar under each listed URL. This is great when you are searching Google, but when you use it in Yahoo Site Explorer it goes one step further and sorts the results for you in any way you choose. By allowing SEO Quake to run and then choosing to sort by PageRank you quickly get a very neat list of potential backlinks, all listed in order of PageRank.

When you combine SEO Quake and Yahoo Site Explorer you have the perfect combination to find more than enough of your competitiors backlinks to keep you busy for a while.

What methods or tools do you employ to find your competitors backlinks?

Alex Whalley is the owner and founder of Build | Rank | Profit: The Niche Site Marketing Blog and the Principle Consultant at BuRP! Consulting, a Sydney based Search Engine Marketing Firm. Connect with Alex at the official Build Rank Profit Blog and learn EXACTLY how to Build, Rank, and Profit from Niche Sites today!


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{ 39 comments… add one }
  • Barney Delaney May 17, 2012, 9:04 am

    Thanks for sharing Alex, very useful tool in the bag!

  • Argonauta Boracay September 11, 2011, 10:17 pm

    Hi Alex,
    great infos. Gives me hope that google doesnt understand itselfs.
    Will try some of your tips given above.
    Thanks again and greetings from
    Greetings from Argonauta Boracay- Philippines

  • Darren Scott Monroe February 6, 2011, 3:03 pm

    AW LOL brother had no idea you were over here! AND the irony this posted on my birthday. I use Market Samurai as well as the suggestions you made. Good post brother.

  • Raj January 27, 2011, 8:15 am

    Thank you so much Alex for this post as I found SEOQuake to be very useful!

  • Eren Mckay January 11, 2011, 12:13 am

    I basically use yahoo to analyze the backlinks for a particular page. Uniting seoquake and yahoo is a really great idea. Had never actually thought of that before. I do have one question though: How do you go about obtaining links from the same places the competitors got links from?
    Do you email the webmaster? Do you offer a guest post? Personally I have never emailed anyone asking for a link – just goes against my nature. So I would really like to know your strategy to obtain links from the places that your competitor have gotten links from.
    Thanks for any help,

  • Heather C Stephens December 30, 2010, 10:57 pm

    Wow Alex,

    First of all, I’m just starting to baby step my way into understanding SEO and I’ve read several confusing and overwhelming posts, but this one really made sense! 🙂 I have not yet focused on building backlinks aside from a few guest posts and commenting on some of my favorite blogs and it’s evident that I really need to pay attention to them at this point.

    I’m on my way to download the SEO Quake and then back to your blog to get your keyword research resource.

    Great info!

  • rob December 19, 2010, 10:43 am

    Just loaded up the Quake and it’s pretty nice. Gives you a fair amount of info in one click versus clicking all over the place.

    I like it. Thanks!

  • Pavan December 17, 2010, 5:54 am

    SEOSpyGlass. I use the tool to effectively analyze Link analysis and competition research. It actually uses data like Yahoo siteexplorer and others but provides a lot of research on competition.

  • Mike December 16, 2010, 7:39 pm

    Hey Alex, another great article, buddy!

    Some people make the mistakes of only performing keyword research and not caring about anything else. They don’t care whether there are any more keywords that have more targeted traffic and they don’t care about their competitors. Oh yeah, they are making the biggest mistake, right?

    Every time I do a keyword research, I always get top 3 competitors on my niche and get the most out of them, I get where they link to, what anchor text they put in and sometimes, I found their secret sauce! That secret sauce is an anchor text that no one else is optimizing for and guest what, I found it and I hit it hard. Result? Twice times traffic lol 🙂

  • TJ McDowell December 16, 2010, 2:48 pm

    Downloading SEOQuake now. I’ve been looking for a tool like this. I use Yahoo all the time, but like you were saying, the links aren’t ordered and there isn’t much information on the link in the yahoo results. I recently tried the free version of Open Site Explorer, which ordered the links better than Yahoo, but wouldn’t display all the results without paying.

  • Richard December 15, 2010, 11:38 pm

    I’ve been using yahoo to check links, but most of the time I don’t really bother. I just try to pick low competition key phrases and build my own links from there. If the competition is low, I think you can concentrate on your own link building rather than having to study what the competition is doing.

  • Dan December 15, 2010, 5:13 pm

    Good post! No expert here either, but this SEOQuake is a great tool for link building! Thank you!

  • Tom December 15, 2010, 2:59 pm

    haha! Gotta find a way to keep busy 😛

  • Daniel Sharkov December 15, 2010, 1:58 pm

    Hey Alex,

    You nailed it once again! Analysing the competition is some of those things I know I should be doing, but never actually do. Don’t know why I am disregarding that component of quality link building so much, but should definitely go for a change. The benefits are there – you summed them up pretty well. Something I would have never thought of doing without reading the article is the trick with Yahoo Site Explorer. Without doubt an interesting way to get your hands on some relevant links and get higher in the SERPs.

    Really like those types of straight-to-the-point articles! Great work mate! Keep rocking! 🙂

    Great work mate! Keep rocking! 🙂

  • Alex December 15, 2010, 1:54 pm

    Hey Alex,
    Some of the basic tools to research the links of the competition. But you can do much more than that, especially if a website has links from other website (and the links are sitewide) this makes your endeavor of finding the other guys links harder, and because of those links you may miss others.

    As an other method of find links you can try to see a pattern the other guy uses and making links, something like leaving his motto everywhere (this way you can search his motto and find where he was hiding some links ;D).

    There are lots of methods(maybe some are more technical), but you pointed some almost foolproof and can be used by anyone.

  • Steve December 15, 2010, 12:41 pm

    Some good tools you listed Alex. SEO quake rocks, like Tom said, I sometimes forget I have it and have it turned off a lot of the time. Gotta remember to turn that thing on more often >.<

    TBH though I am losing faith in any posted PR since what is "listed" hasn't been updated since Apr. I guess even if it is outdated it can be a good a benchmark as anything, but unless they update the posted PR on Dec 31, I wouldnt hold a ton of faith in what we "see" as PR.

    It all comes down to relevancy and quality, if you are linking from relative and quality sites I think you will do better.

  • Andreas December 15, 2010, 10:37 am

    Link builders normally don’t tell you where they are going to get the links for you, because thy are of low quality, like links and profile which provide almost 0 to 0 seo value.

  • Mirko Gosch December 15, 2010, 10:17 am

    Hey Alex,

    Very nice and informative as usual post. I hope that anyone to whom the analysis of the keyword competition is rather new pays special attention to your first sentence:
    “…I only ever touch on the quick analysis needed to define a keywords accessibility and a niche’s profitability, that being the PageRank of the top ten sites currently ranking for that particular keyword.”
    That´s it. Exactly. Yet quite often still you find thousands of bloggers advising people to regard the number of SERPs for a specific keyword as an important factor.
    Let´s hammer this down once and for all: Analyse the first SERP and you´ll find all the answers you need to gauge your competition. Perod!

    And here is another tip for aspiring SEO traffic generators: If you are confident in the usage of SEO Quake and know how to read and interpret the data this awesome extension supplies then go and check out SEO-Spyglass. This tool is SEO awesomeness. There´s a free version of SEO Spyglass with which you can mess around and if you like it and want to upgrade make sure to buy the cheapest paid version (97 USD I think) -no need for the more expensive version. But warning: This is advanced stuff and if you are rather new to this whole backlinking analysis stuff then get around SEO Quake first!

    To our search engine success.


  • Keith December 15, 2010, 9:03 am

    I use Market Samurai to easily identify everything I need to know about search volume, links, seo competition and more. By far my favorite tool in the arsenal….

  • Surender December 15, 2010, 3:12 am

    I use backlink watch to seek out the sites from where my competitors are getting their links. I think finding my keywords and concentrating on them should be my main concern instead of looking out for what others are doing.

    • Alex December 15, 2010, 7:49 am

      Then you are definitely on the right track brother!

  • Bilal Ahmad December 15, 2010, 12:32 am

    When i started blogging, i targeted only 2 keywords for my home page, but slowly i realized that i can write on other keywords to increase the over all traffic. Google Keyword Tool is not always accurate in result.
    One of my keyword is showing 8,250,000 and i am ranking for the 1st position. Still the traffic is low.

    • Alex December 15, 2010, 7:50 am

      The game of ranking for keywords and the game of targeting and converting buyers is a very different one, as you are finding out. But you need to be in first place before you can have something to work with.
      Keep it up Bilal, good going man!

  • Sheila Atwood December 15, 2010, 12:00 am


    I like using both of these tools. SEO quake is my favorite because I can instantly see Alexa rating etc.

    I also use the view resource box in my browser to see what keywords they are using.

    • Alex December 15, 2010, 7:51 am

      Thanks for the tip Sheila!

  • Patricia December 14, 2010, 11:59 pm

    Hi Alex

    I checked my competition before I started blogging seriously. Need to stay ahead of them from the onset, in such a small niche 😉

    As always, I enjoy your content and this is no exception. I’m sure you are learning even more in your dual with Moon.

    Patricia Perth Australia

    • Alex December 15, 2010, 7:53 am


      As Always I enjoy your comments. If they were not so thoughtful and unique I would swear you are outsourcing this – because I wonder how you are everywhere at once all the time!

      Respect, and thanks AGAIN 🙂

      • Patricia December 15, 2010, 7:32 pm

        Hi Alex

        The only thing I want to outsource are my techie tasks lol You know how I totally repect the geeks. But I wouldn’t want anyone else blog hopping or writing my comments for me eh 😉

  • Brankica December 14, 2010, 10:52 pm

    I am using SEOQuake and I am pretty satisfied with it. However I like SEOpen toolbar even more. Maybe it has less options but it brings back all the backlinks from a website.
    Although Google formulas are still a secret to many of us, I can see people winning the war against them.
    I have ran into so many spammy blogs lately that it is getting annoying. Pages filled with keywords linking to other pages filled with links.
    But your post is great for all of us that want to win the game by playing it fair.

    • Alex December 15, 2010, 7:54 am

      Thanks for the insightful comment Brankica, and you are right – there are a lot of link farms out there, or blog farms as they are now becoming, but they are only required when things get very serious I think 😉

  • John December 14, 2010, 10:49 pm

    Holy Crap this is some good info. I was actually already using SEO Quake, but not with Yahoo. I can see I’ve kind of written off Yahoo but there’s still a lot of value to be had there. Awesome post.

    • Alex December 15, 2010, 7:55 am

      Haha, Thanks man!

      Awesome comment John 🙂

  • Lennart Heleander December 14, 2010, 10:19 pm

    agree 100%, SEOQuake is a very good complement of seo work to find the strongest back links and also the best keywords, use the term deliberately in my daily work in the creation of strong and good titles to articles.

  • Nasrul Hanis December 14, 2010, 9:40 pm

    This is interesting.. and some of us might forget the importance of tracking the backlinks that we got.. Thanks for your tips, Alex!

    Got to implement it now!

    • Alex December 15, 2010, 7:56 am

      Nice to see a man of action!

      Thanks for the comment Nasrul, glad you found the post helpful 🙂

  • Tom December 14, 2010, 8:26 pm

    I totally agree that Google is to crazy to try to understand – so reverse engineering your competition is the next best thing!

    But darn you and your smartness Alex! I’ve been using SiteExplorer for a while now and have seoquate (but it’s turned off), but never thought of connecting the two. Going to do some link building right now… haha

    • Alex December 15, 2010, 7:57 am

      Haha awesome Tom!

      I see you have a NOTHER new project going on

      Respect man!

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