One of my favourite SEO tricks that has stood the test of time is to simply steal your competitors rankings.
With a bit of elbow grease, backlink checkers & competitor analysis it is easy to out rank your competition.
You can even do it with a combination of free tools!
What You Will Learn
- How to steal competitors rankings
- How to check competitor backlinks
- How to perform competitor analysis
- How to steal their best backlinks
- How to build a links database
The Method To The Madness
Do a search for any keyword on Google.
Each of the sites in the top 10 search results have a backlink profile that pleases Google.
It is also likely they have fairly decent content and have taken care of the basics like on page SEO.
But for the most part each of the top 10 results backlink profile is powering the rankings.
Imagine what would happen if your site had the same backlinks as not just the #1 result, but every single page in the top 10 results!
Building The Perfect Foundation
Why spend time & money trying to figure things out when you can just steal your competitors best backlinks!
Performing competitor analysis like this allows you create a great foundation link profile to your site.
Replicating your competitors links takes a lot of the hard work out of link building & is very easy for anyone new to SEO to do.
This is a tactic I use all of the time with new sites before I do anything else. You build a very natural profile slowly but surely giving you a great foundation to leverage.
Step 1 – Get The Top 10 Results
The first thing you need to do is gather the top 10 organic results for the keyword you want to rank for.
Just do a quick Google Search and make a note of each URL.
We are going to run each of these URL’s through the backlink checkers below!
Step 2 – Finding All Of The Backlinks
To find all of the backlinks for each of the top 10 results we are going to use some backlink checkers.
There are a number of them to choose from both free & paid but each of them suffer from the same problem.
No 1 backlink checker can give you a complete overview of a URL’s backlink profile. They all have very different databases and offer a range of results.
So in order to do this properly, we need to combine the data from as many backlink checkers as possible!
Which Is The Best Backlink Checker?
So for this tutorial I decided to see how many links each backlink checker returned for this blog.
These are ordered from the biggest to the least below-
(Note: I just use Ahrefs, Majestic SEO & SEO Spyglass for my analysis normally.)
Ahrefs (free/paid) – 11,227
Ahrefs has won every backlink checker test I have ran – including this one!
The free account gives you quite a lot of backlink based data but you can only see the top 10 backlinks of each report.
Go to backlinks > external, then backlinks > new/lost to export as many as you can with the free account.
The paid account allows you to export all of them into a CSV file in one click. Check out my 1 million domain Ahrefs case study.
Majestic SEO (free/paid) – 8,500
I have a bit of a history with Majestic SEO but they are always one of the top performers in terms of the number of backlinks they provide.
If you sign up for a free account you can export all of the backlinks for sites you own & verify which is sweet!
But to check other people’s backlinks like Ahrefs it’s limited to the top 10 backlinks. Get more by going to the backlinks tab & the new tab!
The paid account gives you 1 click access to export everything into a CSV file. Check out my 1 million domain Majestic SEO case study.
SEO Spyglass (free/paid) – 5,599
In my earlier tests SEO Spyglass performed poorly but a recent update has added a database of 15,000,000,000,000 links. That is more than Ahrefs & Majestic SEO.
SEO Spyglass is different than other backlink checkers as it runs as a piece of desktop software rather than a web based tool.
It will go out and find backlinks, check if they are live, report on things like anchor text, PR, social shares & more. All of this data is retrieved in real time and is as fresh as you can get!
The free version of SEO Spyglass is limited to 1,100 backlinks per URL but you can’t export these links.
Where as the paid version goes all out allowing you to bulk check as many URL’s as you want without limits!
It is available for a onetime fee which makes it a great investment compared to the monthly fees of most paid backlink checkers.
Open Site Explorer (free/paid) – 2,129
Open Site Explorer comes as part of the Moz suite of SEO tools and as they don’t specialise in link checking the database isn’t anywhere near the size of others.
A free search will let you get the top 50 backlinks for each URL. Clicking on the just discovered tab will get you an extra 5!
The paid version gives you the export to CSV option as well as access to the rest of the Moz suite of tools!
BacklinkWatch (free) – 1,517
Backlink Watch is a great free tool and delivers a pretty decent size of results no strings attached!
While you can’t export the results easily you can copy them, then in excel right click > paste special > text > ok.
Backlink Watch actually uses Ahrefs to power its database so you can get some decent results.
As you can see in this test though Ahrefs actually returned 11,227 results where as Backlink Watch only returned 1,517 – 13% of those.
Small SEO Tools (free) – 599
The Small SEO Tools backlink checker is also completely free to use!
While it does return some good results it is hard to export them, you have to click through 10 result pages one at a time to copy them out.
But it is free to use so you get what you pay for I guess =D
Traffic Travis (free/paid) – 558
Traffic Travis is like SEO Spyglass in that it runs as a desktop application but it also has a bunch of other handy SEO tools & features.
The free version actually lets you do quite a lot of things not just checking backlinks!
It uses Open Site Explorer as its backlink data source but also looks up real time data like page rank.
It is a great free tool to have in your arsenal!
Link Diagnosis (free) – 250
Link Diagnosis is also a handy free backlink checker although it did deliver limited results.
On the upside though it uses the Open Site Explorer database and if you install the Firefox extension it is really handy!
You can even export all of the backlinks easily in one click!
Step 3 – Creating A Master List
Now you have collected as many backlinks as possible from as many sources as possible for each of the top 10 results we can move forward!
Open notepad and copy all of the links into one master .txt file and save it somewhere.
Next we need to remove all of the duplicates which you can do with the free DupeRemove tool.
Once you have done that we can move onto some backlink analysis.
Step 4 – Analysing The Backlinks
At this point your master list of competitor backlinks could be pretty large – so to make sure we are working efficiently we are going to do a bit of analysis to pick out the best backlinks.
In general all I look for are backlinks that are indexed in Google and have a PR value of some kind. These are the priority links.
You can make a separate list of links that are indexed in Google but don’t have a PR value as a secondary targets list.
Basically if its indexed in Google, it’s good enough to link to my site.
Method 1 – RankCracker
RankCracker is my private SEO tool that I developed for this exact process.
You can download your free copy of the software right here!
Method 2 – Excel / Scrapebox
If you have Scrapebox then you can use that to look up lots of different data.
Follow my backlink penalty analysis tutorial to check if links are still live, which anchor text they use, what PR they are and if they are indexed in Google.
Method 3 – SEO Tools For Excel
You can also use SEO Tools for Excel to build a spreadsheet to lookup a range of data.
The only problem is if you have a lot of links to process, this can be quite limiting.
However it is free to use and with a bit of elbow grease you can make a pretty good link prospecting sheet.
Method 4 – Inspyder Backlink Monitor
I use Inspyder Backlink Monitor to monitor all of my tiered link building campaigns. It is also a great tool to look up bulk data on backlinks.
Just paste the list of links, hit go and it will check if they are still live, if they are indexed, what PR they have and a bunch of other things.
You can also export data in a range of formats making it easy to filter out the best links.
Method 5 – SEO Spyglass
SEO Spyglass is not just a backlink checker, it is also a complete backlink analysis tool.
You can paste in a list of URL’s and it will first retrieve all of the backlinks for each URL.
You can then go a step further and get it to do a deeper analysis on each backlink to determine the quality of each of them.
If you have found backlinks from other tools it is easy to import those as well. SEO Spyglass doubles up as a great link finder and analyser in one!
Step 5 – Replicating The Links
Now it is just a case of going through each of the links one at a time and using your head.
Open each link in your browser and see how your competitor got their link on that page.
Sometimes it might be a blog comment, so you just need to post your own comment.
Sometimes it’s a forum post so you just need to register and get involved in the discussion.
Sometimes it will be a guest post and you will have to send an email to submit your own guest post.
As you work through the list replicating links you’ll get a good feel for this process.
While you’re doing this not only will you be uncovering great links you wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. You’ll also build your understanding of link building & SEO in general.
Step 6 – Creating A Golden Links Database
Getting as much value out of your time as possible is important.
So as you go through the list replicating links, make sure you keep track of everything and make a note of which you have replicated/submitted.
Once you have finished replicating your competitors backlinks you can then bulk check which ones you now have a live backlink from.
These backlinks are gold!
Create a separate links database spread sheet which lists all of the backlinks that have stuck!
As you do this over time you will build a huge list of powerful links that are helping to drive the top 10 results.
In the future you can come back to this spread sheet and use it for other projects over and over again.
This is a highly valuable business asset to have.
I also add a column called Niche with options like Technology, Business, Finance, General to make it easy to filter them by topic.
Wrapping It Up
So there you have it – one of my favourite link building tactics that has stood the test of time & algorithm updates.
It is easy for anyone to do and you can take advantage of free tools to get you started.
No need to learn spinning or any complicated software – it’s perfect for anyone new to SEO & link building.
The end result will be that you will have all of the backlinks your top 10 competitors do pointing to your 1 site.
This is the link building strategy I usually use on new sites before doing anything else and if that doesn’t get you first page rankings then you have the perfect natural foundation to leverage further.