In the world of sports, athletes and teams study each other to learn their competitor's strengths and weaknesses.
They’ll watch past races and games, 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 types 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.
This post will show you how to track and steal competitors’ backlinks so you get seen where they’re being seen.
Why Steal Competitors’ Backlinks
There are several reasons why you might want to “steal” your competitor’s backlinks.
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.
For instance, let’s imagine you’re marketing a dental practice in your local community. By analyzing your top competitor’s backlink profile you might find that they’ve got links from multiple dental directories and review sites.
You can work your way through this list as a starting point for your link building campaign.
2. Quality Backlink Profile
You’ll also increase the quality of your backlink profile with more relevant backlinks from websites in your niche.
You really shouldn’t underestimate or neglect your backlink profile. A quality profile is a path to improving not only your rankings but also your domain’s reputation.
3. Visibility Booster
Increase visibility in all the right places like 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 sites 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 neglect anyone ranking above you, whether you’re on page 1 or page 3 in the SERPs.
For example, our site ranks in the 15th spot for the keyword ”what is the title tag” and the competitors ranking before me would all be interesting for me to track:
Another way to find out who your main competitors are is to check out the top blogs that dominate your niche with 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 out of reach.
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.
4 Ways to Steal Competitors’ Backlinks
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 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:
- 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.
- 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 business sells productivity tools. And one of your competitors 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 number one, but targeted at the more relevant page.
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.
For example, you could author a guest post on the website or be the protagonist of an interview-based post like this one:
In this case, the backlink carries a nofollow tag, 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.