To win a race, competitors must study each other.
They’ll watch past races, try to understand the strategies they’ve used, and take advantage of what might work for their own strategy.
The same happens in the race of SEO—one of the areas of online marketing where the competition is arguably a lot fiercer than other areas.
Here, it’s hard to make progress with your online visibility when your competitors are playing it smart.
And studying you, too (yes they are, trust me).
So, it’s time you play it smarter!
This post will show you how to track and steal competitors’ backlinks so you get seen where they’re being seen.
More Reasons to “Steal” Competitors’ Backlinks
I already said why stealing your competitors’ backlinks is a good idea, right?
Well, if you’re still not completely convinced, there’s more!
(Or just skip to the next section if you’re already convinced enough.)
1. Industry Citations
Get reputable industry citations where other good brands are mentioned, and get a slice of their audience who might just like what you have to offer.
Plus, it works towards building authority as a brand in your industry and a go-to website for advice and services.
2. Quality Backlink Profile
You’ll also increase the quality of your backlink profile with more, relevant backlinks from websites in your niche.
The backlink profile is nothing to underestimate, for a quality profile is a sure path to improving not only your rankings but also your reputation.
(You never know, prospects might just want to check what links you have there.)
3. Visibility Booster
Increase visibility in all the right places (i.e. the places where your audience and other people in your market can find you).
Your competitor is getting views and customers from the places they got the backlinks from.
Why shouldn’t you? Leverage common areas for visibility!
Defining Your Competitors
Before you can steal your competitors’ backlinks, you first need to know who you’re competing with.
So if you haven’t already identified your competitors, it’s a good idea to start with keyword research.
The guys ranking on Page 1 of Google are definitely the ones you should look more into. But if you really want to play it smart, then don’t disdain anyone ranking above you, whether you’re on Page 1 or Page 3 in the SERPs.
For example, my site ranks #69 (Page 8) for the key phrase “outreach based link building,” and the competitors ranking before me would all be interesting for me to track:
(These competitors are on Page 8, just like my result. Take a look at better ranked competitors from the top pages as well.)
Another way to find out who your main competitors are is to check out what blogs rule your niche at AllTop.com.
The sites shown here are the big guys of the industry, so unless you’re competing big yourself, they might be a tad too much.
But what you can do is look at their backlink profiles. They’ll definitely have many smaller websites in your industry linking to them, which makes their backlink profile a great place to find those other competitors.
For example, I used Monitor Backlinks’ Free Backlink Checker to quickly review Backlinko’s link profile:
While Backlinko is not a realistic competitor for my small website, I found a number of other competitors from their backlink profile, including DuctTapeMarketing.com. I’d add them to my list of competitors to track in the next step.
Once you have the list nice and clean, it’s time to start studying the competition.
Tracking Your Competitors’ Backlinks
There’s only one tool you need for this: Monitor Backlinks!
Free link checkers aren’t enough to track competitor backlinks 24/7—you need the full suite.
Besides, on top of monitoring your and your competitors’ backlinks, the full Monitor Backlinks tool also makes it very easy to monitor your competitors’ keyword rankings alongside your own. You’ll always know how your competitors are performing, and whether you’re doing worse or better than them.
Sign up for a free trial to check out everything Monitor Backlinks has to offer. No credit card required!
Once you’re set up, all you need to do is add your competitors to the tool for tracking. Open the main menu on the left and click the “Competitors” tab:
If you’ve already added your competitors to the tool (you’ll be prompted to do so when you first sign up), this is where you’ll find them.
If you haven’t added any yet, you can do so with the “+” button at the top right:
A dialog will appear for you to input the competitor URL:
Then, just sit back while Monitor Backlinks gathers all the backlink data for the competitors. This can take up to 24 hours.
After the initial setup, your competitors’ backlinks will be automatically tracked and the data will be updated in Monitor Backlinks every five days.
Nice and easy, huh?
Click on a competitor to be taken to their backlink profile. You’ll see that their backlinks appear in a neat list:
Each backlink comes with several helpful metrics:
- Date: The date the backlink was found and listed by Monitor Backlinks. This tells you how new it is.
- Linking Page: The page that’s linking to your competitor.
- Anchor Text & Backlink: The competitor URL that was linked to, and what anchor text was used. Anchor text can tell you plenty about the quality of the backlink.
- Status: Whether the backlink is followed, nofollowed or not found.
- Trust Flow and Citation Flow: Majestic indicators that tell you how relevant and trusted the backlink is.
- TLD/IP: Geolocation data. Where in the world is this backlink hosted?
- External Links: Number of links on the linking page. How many other backlinks is your competitor’s backlink sharing PageRank juice with?
Pay attention to which of your competitor’s pages are the most popular and get the most backlinks.
For example, we can see that this page on Backlinko’s site gets a lot of backlinks:
Their pages that get the most love are the ones you want to “replicate” (read: do it better) by adding your own unique spin. Refer to your core brand message to find your voice in the market and beat your competitor with the added value that only you can provide.
Monitor Backlinks also has another nice feature on your competitor backlinks list, called “Common Backlink.”
This tag tells you when you have a backlink from the same domain as your competitor:
This feature comes in handy when you’re working on replicating your competitor’s strategy to steal their backlinks (more on that next).
Once your content gets green-lighted for inclusion on the same website that your competitor is already linked from, you’ll see the “Common Backlink” tag pop up in your competitor backlinks list on Monitor Backlinks.
This makes it super-easy to keep track of your competitor backlink stealing efforts.
In fact, Matthew Woodley from Woodley Digital Marketing has used Monitor Backlinks to track and discover many competitor links that other backlink checkers were unable to identify.
In particular, he found a competitor’s PBN and then used the strategy he discovered with guest posts instead:
“I was recently able to uncover a competitor’s Private Blog Network (PBN) which enabled me to identify how we were ranking with what, on the surface, appeared to be so few links.
This then assisted me to gauge the strength of my competitor’s links and helped me answer the question of how many links are required to rank in this niche.
Once I had identified the PBN links, I was able to ascertain the link anchor text used to reverse-engineer how the competitor had obtained the rankings achieved and plan my link building campaign accordingly to emulate the same strategy.
However, instead of PBN links, I planned a guest post outreach campaign to avoid any potential Google penalties.”
That was sweet work from Matthew. Uncovering a whole PBN is no joke!
It’s also worthy of note that he didn’t replicate a competitor strategy that would’ve only hurt his website in the long run. Instead, he adapted it into a white hat strategy that would work to his advantage instead.
Not all that shines in a competitor’s backlink profile is made of gold.
4 Ways to Steal Competitors’ Backlinks: A Quick, Hands-on Guide
You don’t need to develop complex strategies to “snatch” a few of those great backlinks from your competitors.
The following four methods are all you need:
- Get the same backlink as your competitor
- Get a backlink from a different page
- Get a new backlink your competitor doesn’t have
- Get an editorial backlink
And since I promised to make this hands-on, let’s see how to get these links in practice.
1. Get the Same Backlink as Your Competitor
Did your competitor get an awesome backlink from a strong and relevant page?
There’s a good chance that the webmaster will agree to link you from the same page if you meet their interest, provide value and fit well with the rest of their content.
For example, you might want to get listed on the same industry resource page or expert roundup as a competitor, de facto adding value to the webmaster’s content.
Let’s say your competitor has been featured in this ultimate resource guide to learning SEO:
If you end up featured here, you’re like the one who wrote the book, right?
So, if you had—or could develop—a quality resource like an e-book or a whitepaper that people can use to learn SEO from, you could offer it for inclusion on the page.
But how do you offer it up? The outreach step is very important here (and with every other method on this list).
Before you even open up your email client, there are two simple but critical things to do to prepare a successful outreach campaign:
1. Understand the webmaster’s brand message and content. You want to offer content that will benefit them, not only you. If it doesn’t benefit them, there’s a very high chance that they’ll turn down your request.
2. Carefully review the webmaster’s page that you want a backlink from, and their content guidelines if relevant. You want your addition to be a perfect fit on the page.
Make your outreach message about the added value that you can bring to the existing page. You don’t need to mention your competitor, just explain why your content would make a great addition.
Offer something in return for the favor, too—for example, give the page a visibility boost through social shares or include it in your newsletter.
Here’s an example template you might like to use to outreach for the same backlink as your competitor:
I’m [Your Name] and I’ve been following your marketing content for X months. I especially enjoyed your content planner resource page and I thought I might be of help there.
In fact, I’ve recently updated my own content planner to give my readers a better tool to manage their blogs.
Do you think it might find its own place on your list of content planners? I feel that it might be one of the solutions your readers are looking for.
I’d be very happy to give your page a boost on my social channels, too!
Just let me know.
All the best,
2. Get a Backlink from a Different Page
Sometimes the linking domain is great, but the page that links to your competitor isn’t the right fit for your unique brand, and a different page on the site may be more suitable.
For example, say that your competitor sells marketing software and has a great link from a website in your niche. Their link is in an article about the best email marketing software automation tools, like this one from Venture Harbour:
The article reviews all the software and links back to them with a referral link.
Since you sell marketing planners and not software, you might do a bit of research on the site and find a more relevant article, like this one on the best time management and productivity apps.
This page is a better fit for a backlink to your website, so all you need to do is follow the same outreach process described in method #1, but targeted at the more relevant page.
With any luck, you’ll nab yourself some more of your competitor’s links!
3. Get a New Backlink Your Competitor Doesn’t Have
Say the linking domain is strong, but there’s no existing content that you can leverage, not even the competitor backlink you found.
Maybe the competitor uses their service and wrote them a testimonial, like in Brick Marketing’s case study with a client:
You don’t necessarily have to become a client yourself to get a link from their site, too. Instead, you just have to think a little creatively.
The smart idea is to get an entirely new link that’s different from the one that your competitor got for themselves.
In this case, the backlink carries a nofollow tag—hey, that’s not entirely a bad thing—but the depth of the interview is a strong visibility factor per se. It would be a great backlink to steal.
When you’re pitching webmasters for guest posts and interviews, it’s important to spell out the value you add to their website very clearly.
What can you bring to their website and audience that no one else has brought before?
With all the spam requests flooding their inboxes daily, you need to stand out.
For guest posting especially, it’s better to pitch your idea to the webmaster after you’ve studied the blog, so you can better highlight how you’ll help their readers.
And remember to add credentials to your pitch email—proving your expertise, authority and trust is even more critical after the 2018 Medic update.
4. Get an Editorial Backlink
These backlinks are entirely up to the webmaster.
For example, maybe your competitor was referenced as a source of some data with an organic, contextual backlink. Lucky them, they hit the jackpot!
But it’s not easy to request a backlink from website owners—many will even state on their website that they don’t accept this kind of link building practice (it happens).
So what you can do here is let webmasters know about a cool resource that you created and that they might be interested in, but leave any linking decisions up to them. In fact, don’t even mention a backlink.
The best kinds of resources to promote include infographics, whitepapers, e-books or some unique research or data that you obtained.
Webmasters are more likely to link to original, in-depth and up-to-date content.
So make sure yours ticks all those boxes, and that it’s presented in an appealing and compelling manner. You want the website owner to fall in love with your content and feel compelled to link to it.
When you’re crafting your outreach message, let them know why you found their website so appealing and in harmony with your own website and brand, and that you could work together to bring their readers more benefit and value.
Here’s an example pitch:
I’m a recent reader of your blog and I follow your updates on [topic] with much interest.
Because I see—and appreciate—that you use a lot of data in your articles, I wanted to let you know that my team and I just released a new survey-based research paper on [topic] that you might find helpful.
Of course, any feedback from your part is appreciated! Thanks for reading. 🙂
Final Thoughts on Stealing Competitors’ Backlinks
As you can see, there are plenty of ways to steal competitors’ backlinks and get seen by a wider audience.
The smarter you play it, the more visibility you gain in your market.
And when competitors see you around a lot, some interesting partnerships or collaborations can even be born!
But that’s for another story.