Start by joining Majestic – this will cost around £45 per month on a monthly membership. If you plan to keep it long term, it is cheaper to pay annually – but depending on the amount of link research you’ll be doing, a single month may be sufficient. There are also two other tools you could use: OpenSiteExplorer (free, trimmed down version; full membership with Moz Pro at $99 per month) and Ahrefs (from $99 per month). I prefer Majestic, as I believe it offers the deepest crawl (it finds more links) and displays the most valuable metrics. It’s also the cheapest of the three options because it doesn’t try to do anything other than link research. The other tools have a free trial, though, and Majestic doesn’t.
Once you have a Majestic account, put your competitor website into the tool as per the screenshot below:
You can see in the following screenshot that this will give you a summary of the site’s backlinks. It shows both links and linking domains. We’re interested in linking domains, as that will show us the individual sites where your competitor has built links.
You’ll also notice that there are two metrics: ‘Trust Flow’ and ‘Citation Flow’. These metrics will be really useful when assessing how strong your competitors backlink profile is, and also when assessing individual sites you may want to ask for a link. Both of these metrics are shown as a score out of 100 (the higher the score, the better). Citation Flow is a metric that refers to a combination of the number and relative strength of the sites that are linking to a site. Trust Flow is more closely related to how close the given site is to a seed section of highly trusted sites. In an ideal world, you’re looking for sites that have a relatively high score for both.
In the next screenshot, you’ll see I’ve moved straight to the referring domains tab, where you can see a list of sites that link to Andrew and Pete. You can also see a button that allows you to export the whole list so you can take a look in Microsoft Excel or Google Docs. I personally prefer to export this data so I can manipulate it more easily.
Once you have a list of the sites linking to your competitor, you’ll need to spend some time deciding which sites you want to approach for links. I’d suggest that you start by ordering the sites based on those with the highest Trust Flow and Citation Flow. This will reduce the number of sites you need to manually review. Low scores don’t necessarily mean the site is a bad one – it could just be relatively new – but the higher these metrics are, the more authority the site is likely to pass to you.
When you start to manually review the sites, though, I want you to totally forget about SEO value. You are now asking yourself three crucial questions:
1) Can I see my potential customers spending time on this website?
2) Is this a good website that adds value to its users?
3) Can I add value by working with this site?
Good links don’t rely solely on link metrics. You want to make sure you’re reaching out to great sites with a real audience that you can help. No matter how strong the site is, if it doesn’t have any of your customers and is totally unrelated to what you do, you don’t want to build a link there.
I’m going to be covering what a good link looks like in detail through this series of videos and supporting blog posts – but this should be enough to get you started. I’m also going to be covering ways you can actually reach out to website owners.
One final tip – don’t stop at looking at specific sites that are linking to your competitors. Could you work with other, similar sites that your competitors haven’t reached yet?