How To Build High-Quality Backlinks By Spying on Your Competitors?

In this post, I’ll teach you how to extract your competitors backlinks.

It’s a simple process that allows you to mine for the link profile of other sites.

However, the biggest challenge is knowing what to do with your competitor backlinks.

But don’t fret – we will detail everything about this SEO process.

Let’s start, shall we?

Table of Contents

Why Keep Track of Competitor Backlinks?

Monitoring your competitor’s backlinks brings lots of benefits.

For starters, tracking your competitor’s backlinks allows you to analyze their link profile.

By monitoring their backlinks, you’ll see how many sites are linking to them.

Having this information in your fingertips will be beneficial to you as a site owner.

Because here’s the kicker:

You can get a holistic view of how they reached the top of the SERPs!

Of course, and as mentioned earlier, there’s more to monitoring backlinks. The list of backlinks won’t mean much if you don’t do anything about it!

What does this mean?

So you have a list of sites that link back to your competitors.

Next, you must filter the results to only see the authoritative sites.

Last, you must then find a way to get a backlink from the same sites as well.

Here’s one thing going for you regarding competitor backlinks:

Since they already linked to your competitors, there’s a good chance they will also link back to yours!

Spying on competitor links plays a critical role in building authoritative backlinks to your site. It is a scalable and sustainable technique to help improve your site’s SEO performance.

Gone are the days when building links is a numbers game. Nowadays, you have to work hard and smart to churn out high-quality backlinks to your site.

For instance, a single link from a site like Mashable or TechCrunch possesses more valuable than thousands of links from mediocre sites.

So by focusing your efforts on gathering competitive backlinks, you can fast-track your site to success!

How to Track The Backlinks of Your Competitors?

Now that we’ve established the value that competitor backlink research brings to the table, it’s time to discuss the exact process of finding them.

In particular, we’ll discuss about the most basic way to find backlinks of your competitors using Google search.

On the search bar, type the following:

Link:[competitor URL] -site:[competitor URL]

For this search query, we are using Google search operators to help us filter the results.

Link” refers to the site that links back to the competitor URL.

Keep in mind that this search operator has been deprecated since 2017. However, it remains a useful alternative for finding backlinks on Google.

Site” shows you indexed pages of the competitor URL.

The “” sign before “site” means that we are excluding pages from the competitor URL. This way, we only see pages from other sites that link to your competitor.

When using this search query, replace competitor URL with your own.

Running this query, we’ll check out Neil Patel’s link profile:

On the results below, you will see sites that link to Neil Patel’s. The search query also hides pages from Neil Patel’s site.

Also, to generate 100 URLs for every page, click on Setting > Search settings from the page.

Then you need to toggle to results per page to “100.

Once done, go back the SERPs to extract the backlink information for easy reference.

To do this, you need to download SEOQuake.

It’s a Chrome extension and Firefox add-on that helps you break down SERPs and web pages according to different SEO metrics.

Once you’ve downloaded and installed SEOQuake, you should see this section on SERPs:

Click on “Export CSV” to download the sheet.

Once done and after you open the file, the data would look like this:

It doesn’t make any sense because the formatting of the sheet is off.

Therefore, before opening the file from SEOquake, make sure to convert it first into .xls or .xlsx so you can open the file using Microsoft Office or Google Sheets without problems.

After converting the file correctly, the data should look like this:

Each link is broken down into SEMrush’s different metrics.

When building links, you want to focus your energies on acquiring links from sites with high SEO scores.

For example, if the site where your competitor got a link from has an SEMrush Rank within 100, then you need to find a way to get a link from that site.

By working on getting links from the best sites, you can accelerate your SEO growth soon!

However, we’ve just downloaded the top 100 results. Neil Patel has over 503,000 backlinks that you can check and review.

To move on to the next 100 links, go to the next page and repeat the process.

Now, I’ve detailed this process for you to understand the difficulty of spying on your competitor backlinks using the manual way.

Because I don’t recommend you doing this at all!

As mentioned earlier, Google discontinued the “link” search operator and no longer returns fresh results.

Also, repeating the exact process for every 100 links from SERPs is a futile exercise.

There’s so much more you can do with your time than by extracting backlinks from competitor sites!

So what do you do?

SEMRush: A Better Alternative for Competitor Backlink Research

For SEO specialists, SEMRush needs no introduction.

This all-in-one SEO software has been around a long time and trusted by experts. It has proven to be one of the best backlink audit and analysis tools over the years.

Best of all, you can generate data and filter them with just a few clicks of a button!

No need to repeatedly save the results on a spreadsheet which could rob hours of your precious time!


As readers of Master Blogging, I am giving you an opportunity to be better than your competitors by spying on their SEO!

Click here to sign up for a prolonged trial of SEMrush to boost your blog’s SEO performance!

So how does this tool work, you ask?

Typing the domain name on the Domain Overview bar yields you a wealth of information not available from free tools.

A quick search of a domain immediately shows you impressive data about organic search, display advertising, paid search, and more.

As a backlink research tool, SEMrush doesn’t disappoint one bit. It provides an exhaustive list of backlinks broken down into different metrics.

The first two columns of the results are the Page and Trust Scores. The higher they are, the more authority the site wields.

Therefore, if you want to organize the authority of your competitor backlinks, then list them down from highest to lowest.

This removes the process of finding out which site is the best place to get a backlink from.

You can also see organic competitors that have a similar link profile as yours. It lists down sites that share the same referring domains as you do.

The table also shows the Competition Level. The higher the level, the more similar you are with that site. It’s a good index to see which sites to watch out for when running your link building campaign.

Another feature that makes SEMrush unique is the Backlink Gap.

List down your competitor sites to see if you have backlinks from the best sites.

If not, use this as an opportunity to learn how they got the link from the site so you can replicate it!

Now, I’m not going to lie to you. I’ve covered other backlink checker tools in this post to help you spy on your competitor’s link building strategy.

But I’m featuring SEMRush in this post alone as my most recommended backlink analysis tool.

That’s how much I trust and believe in this tool. And so should you!

Again, click here to sign up for a 30-day trial and give this tool a spin. Cancel your subscription anytime.

Now, let’s see…

What To Do With Competitors Backlink Data?

We’ve discussed the things you could do with all the backlinks you’ve gathered using SEMRush.

But what’s more important is knowing what to do with all that data.

The goal is to use your competitor’s link profile to build yours. You may even need to “steal” most of them by getting a link from the site where they have one.

But all is fair game in link building! It’s just a matter of putting the data to good use.

Below are some ideas you can turn competitor backlinks into yours.

This could be done through any other backlink checking tool. But, to be frank, none are more effective than SEMRush.

In particular, SEMRush has a feature called Backlink Gap that works best for this purpose.

What Backlink Gap does is compare the backlink profiles of five competing websites at the same time.

All you need is to supply the URLs and SEMRush does its thing. Doing this would reveal sites that are linking to your competition but not to you.

As more backlinks are discovered, you’re able to identify the “gaps” or links/sites you could be capitalizing on.

In the example above, four of the biggest shoe brands are put head-to-head to see where each brand’s backlinks are coming from.

There is even additional information when you click on specific dates. You’re shown a brief summary of the day’s backlink activities. That’s incredibly useful for anyone interested in daily reports.

So what do you do when you have a list of missed backlink opportunities?


You reach out to these sites (the high-quality ones, anyway) and you try to get your links added.

You analyze the backlinks and figure out why your competitors are being mentioned while you are snubbed.

In most cases, you’ll be surprised at how your link can be added by getting in touch with the author.

For example, if your competitor was linked in a post that curates a list of products related to your business, ask if the author would consider adding yours as well.

The same goes in scenarios where your competitor is giving direct quotes about your industry. You can offer to add a different perspective in exchange for a link.

How frequently you reach out is entirely up to you. What’s important is that you remain courteous and never come off as annoying.

2. Check Where Competitors Publish Guests Posts

Doing guests posts is definitely not dead. You’ll be surprised at how many of your competitor’s backlinks are byproducts of guest posting.

So why not capitalize on it?

Your competitor’s backlinks are a treasure trove of guest post opportunities. You need to get on top of that right away.

To find opportunities using SEMrush, type in the domain of your competitor and click on Backlinks.

From here, you need to filter the results using these options:

  • Search by anchors – [name of blogger]
  • By Type – Text
  • Click “Follow” instead of “All links”

Once you set up the filters correctly, you should see something similar like this:

Again, not all results will show you sites where your competitors published a guest post or two. Still, it wouldn’t hurt to run through the list to see sites where you can potentially place your own guest post.

Because here’s the thing:

If your competitor was somehow able to land a spot at a high-quality site that accepts guest posts, then so can you!

Every site is different but there’s nothing wrong with sending the site an email introducing yourself and offering your services.

If they are interested in the types of subjects your competition has to offer, then there’s a good chance you have something of value to add.

>> Check out my detailed guide to learn how to leverage guest blogging.

3. Check Where Your Competitors Leave Comments

Backlinks can come in the form of comments.

Your competitor will leave comments in online forums, blog posts, and other places online.

And, sometimes, these comments make for amazing backlinks.

By looking at your competitor’s backlinks, you’re able to see where they have been leaving comments. And if you’re smart, you’d use this opportunity to leave comments as well.

To do this on SEMrush, go to Domain Analytics > Backlinks then click on Anchor on the menu.

Next, scroll down and locate the name of the blogger or person who owns the site.

We want to see the backlinks that use the name as anchor text. It is what most blogger use when leaving comments on a site.

You should see something something like this after clicking:

Granted, not all of the results will be blog comments. But you can bet to encounter a handful of them along the way.

It’s because novice and intermediate bloggers actively use blog comments as a link building tactic.

On the other hand, there’s also a good chance you’d find backlinks on forums. While most marketers would ignore links from these sources, you may want to dig in deeper.

You could discover niche forums where your audience is most likely to hang out.

So not only are you creating links, you’re exposing your site to a whole new audience!

There are many reasons why a competitor would lose links that were once theirs:

  • The site owner could have removed the link directly
  • The page could have been unpublished
  • Edits have been made to the post/article
  • The page is now being redirected.

If your competitor is good, he will find ways to reclaim those lost links. But there’s a good chance that those links would be “lost” on them forever.

To steal these links, log in to your SEMrush account and go to the Backlinks page of the competitor URL you’re analyzing.

Scroll down the page to see the backlinks and tick on the “Lost” box.

You need to organize the list according to descending Page Score and Trust Score. Doing so allows you to show the best sites on top.

Open the top pages to verify if the link is indeed removed by the site owner. If yes, find a way on how you can get a link here instead of your competitors.

Reach out to the site owner and ask if s/he can include your link to the site instead.

Also, you only want to contact sites that are high-value and allow do-follow links. Don’t waste your time talking to site owners or authors that have no-follow links unless there’s some value there outside of link building.

Once you have a list of sites to contact, you must determine why the link got deleted in the first place. What you do next would depend on the site owner’s reasoning.

  • The article was rewritten – Your competitor’s link was removed because the article was updated. You should contact the author and ask if you can be added instead. Of course, you would have to be able to contribute something of value.
  • The link was replaced – The link could have been replaced because the author discovered a better source. Find out what that source is. If you have content that can match that source, contact the author and let that person know what you have to offer.
  • The site is removing old links – Some sites do a general sweep of their pages and remove links they feel are no longer useful. If they are removing links as part of their housekeeping initiative, there’s nothing much you can do. You can try to contact them anyway and maybe get lucky.

Next, send an email to the site owner asking them to link to your site. Take into consideration why they removed the initial link. Also, explain the value of linking back to your site.

5. Make Your Content 10x Better

This is where things get interesting.

Sites link to your competitors for a reason. And the most likely reason why?

Great content.

Using backlink information, you can do research on what are the most linked competitor pages.

To do this, enter the URL of your competitor on SEMrush, and go to Backlinks > Indexed Pages.

It shows the pages with the most referring domains as backlinks.

Now comes the hard part.

Find content that’s similar to yours and asking yourself these questions:

  • What kind of content is your competitor creating?
  • Why are sites always citing them as resources?
  • How helpful are these articles?
  • What makes this page better than mine?

Once you have your answers, the next step is to rewrite and improve your old content similar to your competitors.

The goal is to create better content than your competitors.

And the best way to create better content is by reviewing what others have created and implementing the same tactics!

I mean, if it works for them, it should also work for you!

To assist you in creating better content, use SEMrush’s SEO Content Template.

It allows you to create SEO-friendly content by analyzing the top 10 pages for your target keyword.

P.S. If you don’t know your target keyword yet, read this first!

From here, enter your keyword phrase on the search bar.

After creating an SEO Template, you should see key recommendations. These will assist you in creating the best possible post about the topic.

Keep in mind the semantically related words and text length. Mention the words in your content and keep the text length close to the recommended words.

Remember: the idea is to make your content similar to the top 10 pages for your keyword.


There’s a reason why competitor backlink analysis is one of the best ways to strengthen your link profile.

It gives you access to websites that link back to your competitors.

The fact they did that means that they can do the same for you!

Of course, you can only do these things if you use SEMrush.

As shown above, it’s a powerful SEO tool that automates your backlink research and helps you find link building opportunities faster.

And while SEMrush is a premium tool, you can try it out for 30 days at no cost to you!

Click here to set up your 30-day free trial account. Then enjoy all the data and research you can conduct against your competitors using this awesome tool!

So what’s next?

SEO experts would have you believe that link building is the be-all-end-all for ranking on top of organic search.

While they’re not entirely wrong, there’s more to SEO than link building.

In fact, I personally believe that keyword research is the very heart of a successful SEO strategy.

By finding the right phrases to optimize for in Google, you can increase your blog traffic even without building links!

However, to find the best keywords for your blog, you need to use the best tool for you.

A quick search on Google would show you thousands of pages suggesting multiple keyword tools all at once.

Let’s face it – the number of posts discussing this topic only makes your decision much more difficult.

There are just too many tools in the market nowadays!

However, in this post I wrote about keyword research tools, I give you a breakdown of each tool – their pros, cons, and which tools work best for which blogger.

Unlike other posts about this subject online, I take time to show you how each works and my personal recommendations.

I even provided a scoring system to help you gauge which tool is the best from the objective point of view.

You simply can’t get any better than that!

Again, to read the post, click here.


You might also like this video