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5 Ways to Analyze Inbound Links for Competitors
Friday, March 06, 2009
When it comes to gaining competitive intelligence in the online space, many companies like to perform a competitive analysis on their competition from an SEO perspective. In the past we've discussed what your SEO strategy should consist of, but there are really two parts to SEO when it comes to optimization of a website. There are on-page factors such as meta data and page copy and there are off-page factors such as external linking (aka inbound linking from other websites). A good competitive analysis will look at things such as:
  1. On-Page Factors
  2. Off-Page Factors - Inbound Linking
  3. Technical Site Issues / Navigation

In this day and age, external link inventory is still a key ranking factor in algorithmic search. The thing is it's not just about the number of links that you have pointing to your site pages, it's more about the quality of the links pointing to your site pages. People always ask us about reciprocal linking vs. paid liking which I've discussed in Do Reciprocal Links Get more Weight Than Paid Links? We've also been asked whether to focus on inbound linking vs. on-page SEO (short answer do both).

So let's discuss the ways that you can analyze your competition's inbound linking activity. Of course there are various paid tools that you can use, but there are also some free ways of evaluating your competitor's external link inventory.

5 Ways to Analyze Inbound Links for Competitors

  1. Use Yahoo Site Explorer - http://siteexplorer.search.yahoo.com/ Yahoo site explorer is free and very easy to use. Simply enter the URL of the competitor's website. Click "Inlinks". Click "Except from this domain" from the "Show Inlinks" dropdown. You now have the option of evaluating links to a single page (which is the default) or evaluating links to the entire site based on Yahoo's indexed pages of the site. The information that you are provided with is key for analyzing the inbound links:
    • Title of the page linking to the competitor (one way to improve IBL Quality is to obtain links from pages that feature prominent keywords in the page title that is linking to your page)
    • The URL of the page that is linking to the competitor's page. Are they getting links from relevant deeper site pages, or from the homepage or from entirely irrelevant pages.
      In addition, you can export the first 1000 results to a spreadsheet.

2. Use Google's Link Command - while this feature only provides limited information, it does provide some insight into the types of sites that are linking to your competitors. You can evaluate whether they have a lot of .org or .edu sites (as these type of links carry more weight that typical .com links). To perform this query, type the following query into a Google search bar: link:competitor-site.com, where "competitor-site" is the actual URL of your competitor's site. So for Enquiro for example, it may look something like: link:enquiro.com. Now it should be stated that this information that Google provides is but a sample of the link inventory for a client and may include internal and external link data for a site.

3. SEOmoz LinkScape - this is a great tool that will provide you with assistance in identifying how many unique domains are linking to a competitor's page, subdomain, or entire website. The reports produce return limited data, but does provide enough data to examine where your competitors may be gaining an advantage with regards to inbound links to their pages. http://www.seomoz.org/linkscape

4. SEM Logic from Fortune Interactive - although a little "buggy", this tool can help identify the sites that are linking to your competitors for a given key phrase by search engine. So let's say that you were in the crm software space and you want to evaluate your online competition in Google. You can use SEM Logic to run a report for the phrase "crm software" in Google and the report returns information on the top 100-110 sites in Google that are currently ranking for this phrase. From here you can evaluate consistencies between top ranked sites to see if they are receiving links from the same sites, or to see the types of links that they are obtaining. The downfalls of this tool is that there is a cost associated and the reports can be "buggy". http://www.fortuneinteractive.com/ Here is a case study/example of the data that can be gathered for a report for the phrase "auto insurance". http://www.fortuneinteractive.com/pr/autoinsurance.html

5. SEOBook's Link Analysis Tools - there are a wide variety of tools that can be found here: http://tools.seobook.com/link-tools/. Many of them can be used to gain some insight on competing sites for various link details. The tools are often updated, so this is a great resource to bookmark for future reference.

Gaining competitive intelligence as to the Inbound linking activity of your competition can help ensure that you are not missing any opportunities to obtain similar links from quality resources. The importance of quality inbound links cannot be understated as this remains a key factor as to how search engines ranks certain sites the way that we do. Personally I can see this changing in the future as searchers continue to search for relevant results. It's not always the case when a site has the most links. We all know that Google and the other engines are attempting to take a stand on paid links, but for now the focus for many webmasters and site owners remains on acquiring quality inbound links.


posted by Jody @ 8:09 AM  
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