How to Build Links Easily for SEO: Reverse Engineering Competitor Links

What if there were a “magical” tool that would allow you to see who links to a competitor?
Guess what: there is. In fact, there’s more than one. In this video, we’ll explain┬ásome tactics to reverse engineer competitor links and then “steal” their links (or at least their link-building ideas). Let’s get started!

Watch the Video

Competitor Link-building Strategies

In most competitive keyword queries, the winners are engaging in link-building. That is, rather than passively waiting for “spontaneous” and “natural” links as is the official policy of Google, they are instead pro-actively building links. They have a link-building strategy.

Photo credit: small world via / CC BY-NC-SA

Photo credit: small world via / CC BY-NC-SA

Google won’t tell you what it is, as Google would like to keep you in ignorance, and Google wants to keep up the fiction that the link-profile of the Internet is “spontaneous,” “natural,” and “objective.” But – fortunately – independent third-party tools can help you reverse engineer who links to a competitor.

In most cases, what you will find is that these inbound links come from certain definable sources, such as –

  • Directory links.
  • Association links.
  • Press release links.
  • Nonprofit sponsorship links.
  • “Link bait” such as widgets.
  • Blog links (links from bloggers, such as “guest posting” or even pay-for-link schemes, etc.

Your job is to do your relevant keyword searches on Google, identify the “winners,” and then put their URL’s into the link tools to “reverse engineer” their strategies.

Using (Free) Tools to Reverse Engineer Competitor Link-building

Fortunately, free or semi-free tools exist to help you reverse engineer who links to your competitor. A few are free, but (unfortunately), for most you need to pay. The cost is about $99 / month for the good ones, but what you can do is sign up for just a month (or use the free trial period), and then download the links to your competitor. So even if you are on a tiny budget, you can use them for next to nothing.

Here are some of my favorites.

As a few examples, let’s use –

As you work thru a tool, you’re looking for –

  • Strategy. What link-building strategies have been deployed by that competitor? Do you see, for example, directory link-building, press release link-building, blogger outreach, link bait, etc.? Which ones will be easiest for you to emulate?
    • Take notes, and make a list of their most “visible”strategies, and note which ones you think will be (relatively) easy for you to institute.
  • Complementary Sites. Are there sites that link to your competitor, that might also link for you? (An example would be an industry directory).
    • vs. Competitive Sites. If a site that links to your competitor is his mom / Grandma / best friend / supplier, etc., then can you “duplicate” the effort by reaching out to a similar site?
    • List sites as “complementary” (YES, you could get a link) and “competitive” (NO, you could NOT get a link), and note the “idea” or “type” behind them (e.g., a DIRECTORY link, or a BLOGGER link).
      • This will give you food for thought to help you devise a strategy for your own link-building!

Use the tools listed above as a type of “military” intelligence… you’re looking to discover the competitor’s link-strategy and then “outdo” her by doing it better, yourself.


Photo credit: small world via / CC BY-NC-SA

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About Jason McDonald

Jason McDonald is a top-rated San Francisco SEO Consultant. His consulting services include search engine optimization consulting, social media marketing consulting, and Google AdWords consulting. Jason's motto as a consultant is that he doesn't do SEO 'for you' but rather he does SEO 'with you.' That goes as well for his social media marketing consultant activities and Google AdWords consultant services. Besides serving clients in the San Francisco Bay Area, Jason consults with clients in Silicon Valley (San Jose), Oakland and other cities throughout the Bay Area. Beyond the Bay Area, Jason is available as an SEO consultant, Social Media Consultant, and as an expert witness in litigation involving social media marketing, search engine optimization and pay-per-click advertising.