How to Reverse Engineer Your Competitor’s Backlinks

If you’re serious about reverse engineering your competitor’s backlinks, you need to use a professional tool to get the job done. This video walks you through four of the most popular link analysis tools on the market — including Bing Webmaster Tools, Ahrefs, Majestic SEO and Moz’s Open Site Explorer — so that you can make the best decision for your business.

Video Transcript

Hey, what’s up everybody, it’s Brian Dean from QuickSprout. In this video I’m going to show you how to use the most popular link analysis tools on the market that you can use to reverse engineer competition.

The first one I’ll talk about is Bing Webmaster Tools. Bing Webmaster Tools is very, very easy to use and it’s actually free. But, in order to use this tool you do need to verify your site within Bing Webmaster Tools. Once you’ve done that, login and click on the arrow next to the diagnostic and tools area of the sidebar. Then, click Link Explorer. When you do that you’ll see this area here. This field is where you put in the URL of what you want to reverse engineer. So, if you put in quicksprout.com that’ll show you all the links that point to the home page, and if you put an internal article it would show all of the links pointing to that internal page.

Once you’ve put in the URL that you want to reverse engineer, hit explore, and after a few minutes it’ll show you all of the links pointing to this site. Now, as you can see, there are a lot of links pointing to the QuickSprout home page. That’s partially because that site has a lot of links, but it’s also because Bing is very good at finding links. As you know, it’s a search engine.

The only downside of Bing Webmaster Tools is, as you can see, there aren’t any robust reporting features for each link. It just shows you the source URL and the title of that page. So, in terms of making decisions about which links you want to reverse engineer, Bing Webmaster Tools isn’t really good for that.

Speaking of a better tool, let’s talk about Moz’s Open Site Explorer. It works very much the same way. You put in the URL that you want to reverse engineer, hit the search button, and it’ll do its thing.

One important caveat is that when you use Open Site Explorer it automatically shows you both internal and external links. Obviously, for reverse engineering purposes you want to find only external links. So, under this tab where it says ‘from all’ you want to change that to ‘only external’, then click the filter button. That’ll make sure you’re only seeing external links.

As you can see here, it shows you the page authority and domain authority of each link which gives you a little more information. For example, if you wanted to reverse engineer a link on a competitor’s site that was on a resource page and the page authority was 90 you’d probably work a lot harder for that type of link as compared to a page where the page authority was 5. Obviously, page authority is SEO Moz’s proprietary metric for determining the authority of a given page.

The next tool we’ll talk about is MajesticSEO. Put in the domain or URL that you want to reverse engineer, click the little magnifying glass, and you’ll get much of the same information. Obviously, without a paid account at Majestic you don’t get quite as much data as they have. They only show you some.

But, what I like about Majestic is that it gives you a nice overview of a site’s link profile. For example, we can see just right away that there are ten thousand domains linking to the QuickSprout home page including quite a few edu and gov backlinks which are highly trusted.

Another feature that I really like from Majestic is that it shows you the trust flow. Trust flow is their proprietary metric for determining the trustworthiness of a site, and that’s all based on links. So, if you had a lot of links from trusted sites like QuickSprout does, like Guy Kawasaki’s blog or the Zemanta site, ProBlogger, it’s a lot more trustworthy than getting links from low quality blog network types of sites. That’s reflected in the trust flow.

The next one I’ll show you is ahrefs.com. In my opinion this is the best link analysis tool on the market. You just enter the domain name here, click the search links button. This also gives you a nice overview of the home page’s link profile.

There are a couple of ways to look at a site in Ahrefs which is a little more robust than others. For example, when you put in an internal page here it automatically looks at the URL, so links only pointing to that URL. But, when you put in a home page Ahrefs knows that and automatically selects this tab here which shows links to the entire domain. So, if you only want to reverse engineer a home page click the URL button and it’ll automatically show you links just to the home page. Obviously, this isn’t going to give you a lot of information. It’s cool and visual, but if you want to actually see the links you want to click on the external tab here.

Now, the only problem with this is that it finds so many links that a lot of times it can be overwhelming especially if a site has sidebar or blogroll links which will have a lot of links from the same domain. So, the first thing I do when I reverse engineer after I click this external links tab is click this ‘one link per domain box’. What that does is just limits the results from one domain. So, if there are a thousand links from one site it  only shows you the most powerful which makes reverse engineering a lot easier. You just go one by one through here and look through, see if you can get the same link.

Finally, we’ll look at a newcomer called cognitiveSEO. To use cognitiveSEO they have a free trial, so you can sign up. Once you sign in this is your dashboard, and you want to click on this ‘start  a new backlink report’ link. Just like the other tools, you put in the domain. Under the URL you can choose just the home page or the subdomain or the entire domain.

For this, let’s look at the entire domain. Click start report. It takes a little while, because this tool actually pulls information from a lot of different sources. It pulls information from SEOMoz, from Ahrefs, from Majestic, and filters out all the duplicate listings. So, it does give you pretty good data, but it does take a while.

Once it’s finished you can see the SEOMoz data here, some reports, and just like the other tools it shows you a lot of information about where the links are pointing to, where they’re coming from. Obviously, what we want to do is look at the actual places where the links are coming from which is where you scroll to the bottom and you can see. There’s a link from firstwebdesigner.com, Smart Passive Income, Guy Kawasaki’s blog, Copyblogger, and these are places that you could possibly get links from as well.

So, I hope this video was helpful, and I’ll see you in the next one.