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The Battle for Backlinks

Be Aggressive in Keeping Up With The Competition

Competitor intelligence – attractive terminology that perhaps sanitizes poor sportsmanship? This may seem a little dog-eat-dog but better to bite than get bitten.

This is a third consecutive post that should help you boost search rank by borrowing good ideas obtained by checking under the hood of your competitors’ websites. Previously, we discussed checking your competitors’ keywords and also their metada. This strategy, similar to keywords and metadata, is available to everyone able to access a few online tools. Those too noble to participate will be disadvantaged in the race for website search ranking.

This is neither hacking, nor identity theft, and not even mystery shopping. It’s even a stretch to call it spying, since it’s done openly and it matters not if you’re caught.

Lifting Some Links

We know that links from independent websites inflate your search rank. Acquiring these is an ongoing effort, and includes a consortium of outreach. This may seem sneaky but you may acquire some worthwhile inbound links by seeing who’s sending visitors to your competition. With the right tools you able to perform an MRI of sorts, revealing referral sources driving traffic to your rivals.

Moz Open Site Explorer

The goldmine of who’s feeding the competition is the free Open Site Explorer product at Moz-dot-com, the first of two tools we’ll introduce. Type a URL into the search box and you’ll see almost immediately:

  • The domain authority rank
  • The page authority rank
  • Page link metrics that divide in two: those acquired within the past 60 days, and those established longer ago
  • All inbound links either to the specific page, a subdomain or the root domain

The inbound links listing provides the title and URL of the linking page, along with the anchor text, plus the page authority and domain authority of the referring source. There is even a hyperlink to the page containing the link to your competitor, enabling you to see exactly what prompted the linkage.

So what?

‘….it can be particularly helpful to find out if your competitor is running, or has run, a Groupon, Living Social, or other discount offer.’
Atlanta marketing agent to help investigate competitors

Just for the Asking

This isn’t an exercise to make you feel inadequate, but one to equip you with tools to boost your own search rank. Your competitors likely have inbound links – some, at least – that could also be available to your site, for the asking.

Once you’re viewing their links, it will likely hit you: websites that should link to your site as well as your competitors, needing only to become aware of you. List these prospects on a spreadsheet and contact them as soon as possible.

Open Site Explorer is a powerful product, but you know anything free has an upgrade that’s more powerful. Moz Pro, free for a 30-day trial, provides up to 10,000 links, runs unlimited reports, accesses social data (which we’ll discuss in a following blog) and tracks links over time. Check the site for up-to-date pricing.

Ahrefs

A tool with quite a bit of overlap but some differences in data slicing and dicing goes by a name familiar to coders: Ahrefs.

Enter a URL into its Site Explorer box, “try it for free,” and, presto: data galore.

Referring domains are located in the drop-down menu at the top of the page under “inbound links”. It’s interesting to see who is providing the most links, but it can be particularly helpful to find out if your competitor is running, or has run, a Groupon, Living Social, or other discount offer.

Keep in mind, however, the free version provides only the top five referrers. But if you find your competitor doing a deal, you might also consider one.

Prompting Clicks

You might also want to zero in on “Anchors Cloud”, which is probably a short scroll down. Interesting to note the anchor text that attracts visitors to your competitors’ sites. Although this may not be of value in your situation, the description used in what’s clicked might give you a better idea of getting people to your site, also. What words are prompting them to click?

Seeing what your competition is doing is a lot like an athlete scouting an opposing team or player, measuring his or her capabilities. Who was it who said:

“I love my competitors because they bring out the best in me”?

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