As any digital marketer will know, quality over quantity is the aim of the game in modern SEO. However, it can often be a slow, tiresome and frustrating process to source new backlinks from high profile authority sites.
This summer, there have been a number of updates to Google’s algoritm, culminating with Hummingbird, meaning many marketers out there are currently facing sweeping changes with their keyword rankings. It’s common knowledge that backlinks from authority sites are the objective for your site’s backlink profile, but where do you start? Fortunately, your competitors are likely to have done half the work for you, and this brief guide will point you in the right direction so you can use their hard work for your gain.
Scrape Your Competitor’s Backlink Profile
If you’re the small fish in a big pond in your industry, chances are you will be up against some large competitors with an in house digital marketing team, or are employing an SEO company, and may already be securing lots of high quality backlinks from leading authority sites in your industry. Alternatively, you may have seen a smaller competitor rise up the rankings, meaning either they are employing SEO tactics that tick the right boxes for Google, or they are employing some black hat methods, which are best avoided. Either way, those competitiors that are currently above you are the sites to start with for this guide.
The first step is to purchase a back link checking service. There are several out there, Ahrefs is regarded as one of the most accurate and most up to date, the extremely versatile Scrapebox can also be programmed to scour the web for millions of backlinks, though in this instance we’ll be using the Open Site Explorer by Moz, because it comes free with a Moz subscription and is an accessible, easy to use solution for beginners. Power users or people in highly competative industries beware, though: OSE tends to be a bit slower at indexing new backlinks, and has a limit of being able to download only 10,000 backlinks. If this is you, you can follow these steps with Ahrefs, or check out this awesome guide for using Scrapebox as a backlink checker.
For this demonstration, we’ll be examining some of the competitors fighting for a batch of funeral related keywords.
The first step is to search Google for the keyword you want to rank higher for. Enter the homepage URL of the site appearing at no. 1, download the backlinks through OSE as a CSV file, then rinse and repeat this for the sites on position 2, 3 and so on. For the best results, make sure you grab all the links pointing to the entire domain, not just that page.
Import Your Competitor’s Backlinks Into Excel And Start Mining The Data
Once you have all of your CSV files, open the first in Excel. OSE will have given you a fairly comprehensive set of metrics, from anchor text, to domain authority, page authority, nofollow/dofollow and more.
You’ll need to now evaluate this data to find some good quality target sites for your own backlinks. First up, use the filter tools and remove all the low ranking sites - those with a low domain authority and low page rank. You’ll also need to filter out all the no follow links and then all the internal links, since it’s unlikely your competitor will let you put a backlink on their own site! Next, filter out any social media links.
You should be left with a shortened list of backlinks from high to mid level domain authority sites. The next step is to comb through all the URLs and open up any that look like they could be blog posts. Key giveaways are long URLs or any mention of ‘blog’ in the URLs. Copy all these links into a new sheet.
Repeat this process with all the competitor backlink profiles.
You should now have several lists of URLs to go through, assuming the SEO company working for your rivals have been successful in getting some good blog posts. Merge these into one spreadsheet and start opening these URLs up in new browser tabs.
Looking through my example list of funeral plans backlinks, I found this post about green funerals on The Ecologist:
By running The Ecologist’s home page through OSE, it’s clear that this was quite a catch for the SEO company behind this campaign!
How To Turn Their SEO Win Into Your Gain
So far, all we’ve done is found out that this particular SEO company has produced a decent backlink for their client, on a high authority website which has received a fair amount of social signals. This tells us two things. 1) This site is very likely to accept guest posts, and 2) someone from your industry has been successful in getting one.
This is a basically a warm lead, as you now know the editors of this site at least have some interest in the kind of content you’d be pitching to them. You are now able to narrow the gap between you and your competitor by getting a link from the same site they have one on, meaning that advantage they once had is now equal.
Pitch Your Content
The next step is to approach the editors of this site. If you’re lucky, the site will have a contact page with some details on their guest blog policy. Getting as much info on this as possible is essential, as any knowledge of what they require can improve your response ratio. In this instance there is an email address for editorial enquiries, so thats our best bet.
Everyone has a different style of approach, but that can wait for another blog post
Provided your approach is good and gels with the site’s editor, you will hopefully be walking away with a brief for your guest blog post and a shiny new backlink for your site!
Have you had success with this SEO method? Have you got tips to take this a step further? Let me know in the comments below!