You want top rankings right? If you Google your main keywords do you want to be in those top few positions? FUCK yeah you do!

Today I am going to dive into a topic that is so basic yet nobody does it.. I’m talking about competitor link research. You are never going to out rank your competition unless you see what they are doing and then do it better. How else do you think our team and many other services are so successful? We don’t rank our clients on top by just blindly creating links like many “SEO gurus” do.

Everyone is stuck on worthless metrics that can be gamed like Domain Authority.. Guess what? The majority of SEO circle jerkers that talk nonstop about DA are doing it because they want you to think you are getting amazing links when in fact they are just spammed domains with inflated DA. It sounds good but it isn’t doing ANYTHING to help your rankings.

You need niche relevant links from real websites. There will always be spam sites that surface on top of some niches and we all know how the churn and burn game works.. you obviously don’t want to copy their link strategy (unless of course you are looking to get some insight on what is currently working in the dark world).. but for this I am talking about authority (real) sites ranking on top. The kind of sites you would love to switch positions with.

If you can take a look at the links your top competition is using to rank you can then beat them at their own game and with their rankings comes the traffic they WERE receiving. Uncovering the linking opportunities that are helping your competitors rank on top can be done with some elbow grease, a lot of caffeine and some link research tools and software.. some that are even free.

Don’t believe the SEO gurus that want to sell you the magic bot to build links and the super top secret elite coaching programs that are only $29.95 per month that claim to let you into the world of the big dawwwwgs (RIP zso o/ ).. that is all crap. This type of link research and link building takes work.

So, if you are afraid of hard work or simply too lazy just stop reading now. If you want to build great links and aren’t scared of working keep reading.

There are 3 parts to this:


Analyze the link profiles of your top competitors

Naturally you might think about just going after the top spot.. If you do this you are going to miss out on a lot of low hanging fruit that the other top sites are using. There are going to be some links that will be VERY hard to duplicate. For example, if a site has a link from Forbes you are going to have a hard time to duplicate that unless you have an unlimited budget.. but by looking at the link profiles of the top 10 sites in your niche for your target keywords you might finds a handful of high authority .org links that you can copy and it will actually provide more of a benefit that the single link that you couldn’t copy.

Yes, this is more work.. but if you are going this route you might as well do it right. Like I mentioned above this requires hard work.


Create a list of the best links that you want to go after

Don’t just copy every link you see they have. There is a good chance that even the sites ranking #1 have some shitty links that you don’t want to touch with a 10 foot pole. This is the beauty of this.. you can hand pick the best links that are obviously contributing to the high rankings. Pick and choose the very best ones and ignore anything that is even slightly questionable.


Duplicate their winning link profile (but make it even stronger)

As mentioned in the point above you want to leave out the shitty links. If a top site hired a low quality SEO company in the beginning or even years ago there is a chance that they have some crappy links in their profile. Every site will have that.. and if it is a huge authority site with a lot of low quality sites linking to it you don’t want to copy them.

When you are able to duplicate the strong links and eliminate the shitty ones it can actually make your link profile BETTER because you were able to hand build it from the best links available.. all on a silver platter! In the beginning this will be a lot of manual work. (Yes.. remember I said this would involve work..) But, when you figure it out you can throw a VA into the mix to help you out or train employees or staff to help with it. There is nothing that I am going to explain in this post that is too hard to learn. A lot of it is common sense and everything is very scalable.


Let’s steal some links!


Type your main keyword into Google and copy the top 10 URL’s.


Now it is time to find some GOLDEN NUGGETS. You are going to run these 10 URL’s through the following link tools. Let me list them and explain why each one is helpful.


Open Site Explorer

This is a good tool for digging into authority sites because it will show you most of the good links a site has. No tool is going to show you everything and that is why we use multiple different ones.. but this one will show the real golden nuggets.

The free version of this tool will only give you VERY LIMITED data and it costs $99/month.. BUT you can visit this link for a FREE 120 day trial:

Yes, 4 months FREE!

Anyone that is serious about SEO should have a subscription to this…just keep signing up for free trials after they expire with a different email address. This link above has been working for like 2 years. With this code there is no reason to use the limited free version.



This is another link exploring tool that will help you really see what links your competitors are using. The free version will give you very limited data (just the first 10 results) so you will want to get on their monthly plan if you are serious.. It runs $79 a month.

I’m not sure if there are any free offers or discounts floating around. I pay for it a year in advance to save an extra 20% off.. some people will share a single account with friends to bring the cost way down. You will see that Ahrefs will return links from their crawl that open site explorer doesn’t and vice versa.



This is the third link tool I use when looking at competitors. Again.. this tool will find links that OSE and Ahrefs don’t. Some might assume that each one is the same and find it silly to run each sites through the 3 tools but if you are serious about REALLY finding out what is helping your competitors rank you need to use them all.

Majestic has an offer that is almost 50% off when you subscribe for 3 months at a time. If you are just starting out and have a very limited budget just use the free open site explorer 4 month offer.. this lets you get started without paying a penny.

Step #3

Now that you know what 3 tools to use run the reports and download the link profiles. They will download into excel spreadsheets with a bunch of columns.. most you don’t need.

Sort them to best fit your needs. For example to make things simple I will delete all columns on my open site explorer reports except:


You obviously need this to see where the link is placed. Captain obvious here.

Anchor Text

This is important.. are they using heavy keyword anchors, brand anchors or just generics like “here” “click here” etc. This is very important.. if you are trying to duplicate a successful link profile you need to get the same links and also stay fairly close to the same anchor profile.

Domain Authority

In order to trim my list I delete anything that is less than DA20. This is done mostly to just give me an easier starting point. I’m really not interested in duplicating low quality links.

Page Authority

For the same reason above I trim everything that is less than PA30. This just helps to give me a better pool of links to work with. You don’t have to copy this.. it is just my personal way of doing it.

You will then sort your Ahrefs and Majestic reports in the same way.. keeping only the important metrics and deleting the rest and then trimming your list by removing the low quality links.


Step #4

Now you have 3 lists of links and you will have to go through them manually and eliminate and shitty link. Sort each list by URL.. this way multiple links from the same root domain will be listed together and you aren’t wasting time looking at the same URL multiple times.

Use common sense here. If you are doing link research for a financial site and there is a link on a beauty secrets blog delete that.. even if the metrics look good you will want to clip it because it isn’t niche related. A financial website has no business being linked to on a beauty blog.

Go through your lists and manually check them all. Yes this takes time. Is it worth it? Yes.

When I do this I make a column and add notes next to the links that I keep on my spreadsheets. If it is a guest post link I note that down. If it is a comment link I note that. I have my own method where I just put “GP” for guest post”.. ”C” for comment.. ”FP” for forum post.. ”D” for directory…etc.

At the end of this work you have 3 lists of links to go after and they are all classified by types. This helps because it is easier to duplicate comment links than it is guest post links because you have to create the content and reach out. Being as organized as possible will help you a lot. It makes your life a lot easier.


Step #5

Now it is time to start duplicating the links that you have left on your 3 spreadsheets.

Since I noted each type of backlink on my spreadsheets it makes it easy to plan out the duplication process. Comment links are simple to get. You will need to create accounts on the sites and post a meaningful comment that won’t get flagged as spam. By glancing at the post and other comments you can create a reply that won’t get flagged in 20 seconds. These are simple links to duplicate. Don’t worry if some are nofollow.. you have to have a diverse link profile and every natural site is going to have plenty of nofollows.

Forum links are also pretty easy to duplicate. Register on the forums, complete your profile (take 30 seconds to put up an avatar and complete the full profile.. even with BS info.. just make it look real. This will help you from getting flagged for spamming. If you register and just start posting links you will get nailed fast. Just think how that kind of behavior is tolerated around BHW, Inbound, or any marketing forum.. it isn’t lol. So make some posts and get a little active before you drop links. You can often go to the same thread your competitors link is and add yours. Something like “Yeah that actually is a good resource…I use that along with (your link)”.. this way it doesn’t look like 100% spam.

Directory links will often be very easy to copy as well. If your competitor has a nice fat link in a directory go there and register and drop your link as well. If you go after all the directory links at once it will save you time. You will often have to enter in an address, phone, contact info etc. I create all this in a .txt file and then just use that to copy/paste into each directory. This will save you a lot of time over manually entering the same info over and over. Do things like this to help you save time.

The guest posts are the hardest to duplicate. There are going to be some links that were created by a contributor or editor on a website. You might not be qualified to post on some sites (or they might want huge money for links on the site) so use common sense. If there is a link on a Huffington Post blog delete that from your list. The time, effort and money required to duplicate that link isn’t worth it. This is one reason I pull links from the top 10. You will find plenty of great opportunities.. even guest posts that you can duplicate when you are pulling from a deep sample of good sites.


These are all going to be high quality links if you do this right. You don’t need to ping them. The search engines will find them. What you can do to give them a jump start is to share them on social media and Tweet the links you create and also send them through


Want More Traffic?

After you duplicate some really good links using the info above your authority will increase. This makes it easier to naturally rank for the low competition long tail keywords.

So, fire up SEMRUSH and find some long tails that you can now rank for…

Now run through the top 10 sites you just duplicated links from. SEMRUSH will show you what organic keywords they are ranking for. Remember.. you just checked them for your main keyword so this will show you all of the keywords they rank for. Now that your website authority will be on par with theirs it will allow you to rank for many of the same terms.

Just like the other tools, SEM RUSH will allow you to export all the data. Do this for all of the sites and then go through looking for keywords to target. If you make a huge master list of long tails to target you can knock out a couple per day.

It is all about doing the work.. this is the part where many fail. Wake up 20 minutes earlier in the morning and write a couple blog posts. Doing this would allow you to target 2 long tails a day. After a year you would be targeting over 700 more long tail terms. This is where serious traffic comes into the picture. You just have to be willing to DO THE WORK.

Nothing in this post is hard.. you can even use the free 4 month open site explorer offer and do this with ZERO $$$ needed. There is no excuse not to do this.. only laziness.

I hope you enjoyed the read and feel free to add your own points plus any question you might have.. until next time..

Tommy McDonald

Tommy is an SEO professional with years of experience running highly successful SEO companies, founded SerpLogic after noticing there was a major void when it came to options for SEO agencies needing a reliable and professional one-stop outsource solution.You can read all about me in the “About” page here on our blog!

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