In Search Engine Optimisation, competitive analysis is frequently used both as a cornerstone and benchmark for mapping out a potential campaign. When analyzing the competitive landscape for a client, one key step is to work out the type of links that competitors are acquiring. This helps us to achieve several things:
- Establishes potential quick wins for the campaign
- It enables us to develop an understanding of what works and doesn’t work in terms of link building and promotional strategies (this could include PR, guest blogging, possibly spam in some verticals)
At Agency51, we like to do this early in the content marketing process. Fortunately, Majestic SEO has the excellent ‘Clique Hunter’ tool, making this process easy. However, at this research stage, we don’t yet want to dive deep into individual competitor link profiles (which can take a lot of time, especially if they have a lot of links.)
In this example, we’ll be taking a look at wedding stationery suppliers. First, we’ll do some top-level Google searches to find organic results:
- wedding stationery
- DIY wedding invites
- DIY wedding stationery kits
- wedding stationery supplies
- wedding stationery supplies wholesale
We’re looking at organic results only to pull back the competitors which should have the most links:
Once we remove the large, non-vertical specific sites such as Etsy, we’re left with the following domains:
The next step is to trim all of these to the root level using the beneficial URL trimming tool at SEOweather. Once we’ve done that, head over to Random.org’s list randomizer and put the URLs in a random order (this will be explained shortly.)
Now we’re ready to visit Clique Hunter. Before pressing the ‘hunt’ button, we need to remove three of the sites, as this would otherwise take us over the ten-site limit.
Once the report has finished running, it will look like this:
Next, select ‘download data and save it as a CSV file. Once the report had finished downloading, re-randomized the list and repeated the process a few more times. We want to do this to have a good enough cross-section of links between all the various domains.
We need to create a new folder on the desktop and put all the downloaded files in it. Next, create a blank CSV file in the same folder. We’re now going to use the command prompt to combine all of the CSV files. Open it up and use the following sequence of commands:
cd (connecting folder name)
Copy * (combining file name).csv
When it asks what you want to copy, type ‘all.’
When the file is opened, it should look like this:
How to analyze the data
We now have several options. The easiest is to merge the CSV into URL Profiler (using this guide here – ensure you add HTTP to all the URLs first; otherwise, it won’t pick them up as links), which will allow us to see details such as site type, IP address (which can help greatly in segmenting competitor links by type and also help in the uncovering of blog/spam networks all hosted on similar IP address or nameservers, for example) and metrics such as SEMrush and Moz metrics for additional qualification of potential prospects.
Alternatively, we can apply filters within the resulting Excel document and browse the results manually. It should be easy to identify common link patterns, potential partner sites, and more through visual inspection and some filtering rules. If we scroll down the results file, we can see that there appear to be a lot of spam sites:
There are several image galleries as well:
If however, we filter out domains that have zero trust flow, less than ten referring domains, and also filter on topical trust flow, some hopeful-looking sites appear:
Once we’ve secured some quick win prospects and gathered more of an idea of the linking landscape, we can start to plan a link-building campaign more effectively.
Ben writes about Internet Marketing, on-page and off-page SEO for Agency51, an E-commerce and Digital Marketing Agency based in York in the UK. His favorite topics usually revolve around using toolsets to achieve goals, whether