This is a guest article written by Traian Neacsu. He is the Director of SEO and co-founder of Pitstop Media Inc, a top rated Canadian SEO company that provides search engine optimization services to businesses across North America. The views of the author do not necessarily represent the views of cognitiveSEO.


High authority, relevant backlinks are gold for search engine rankings. And we are always attempting to trace and to get our hands on them.

When it comes to find the best backlinking opportunities, there are two options. The first is to do your own prospecting by identifying influencers, thought leaders, and adjacent (related but not competing) niches in your industry. The second option is to promptly find the most valuable links your competitors build, and to try to get those sites to link to you too.

This second option is called competitive backlink analysis. If you’re out for the low hanging fruit, the second option is probably what you’re looking for. After all, why not piggyback on their research, saving you precious time and money?

A component of our SEO services is link building. And part of that link building is performing a competitive back linking analysis. Invariably, when we start working with a new client they want to know why ACME Inc. or AJAX Corp. is outranking them. We show them why by performing few analyses, one of which is to reverse engineer their competitor’s backlinking strategy.

I use MajesticSEO and SEOmoz to gather raw backlinking data, and then use Excel to perform the analysis. Usually, these were all the tools I need. Until recently, that is. I have now added a powerful new tool to my arsenal: Cognitive SEO’s tool.

In this article I will show you how to use this incredible backlinking analysis tool to identify your competitors’ backlinking strategies.

There’s a ton of analysis you can perform, but in this article I will show you how to:

  • Weed out the dead links from the live ones (a time saver by itself when you go over thousands of back links).
  • Identify their most common backlinking strategies.
  • Dig deeper into their strategies by identifying tactics like important followed blogs your competitors are commenting on.
  • BONUS: I will share some filters to show you how to pinpoint specific backlinking strategies.

These are just a few of the things that one can do with Cognitive’s platform. Inbound link analysis is just a component of the platform – you can actually manage your link building campaign and track SERP rankings too, all under one roof. That’s nice.

For the purpose of this article we will focus on Inbound Link Analysis only.

Once you’ve created your account on Cognitive, I highly recommend that you link it to your MajesticSEO account to get more backlinking data.

If you want an in-depth analysis on your competitors’ backlinks, you have to create a campaign where you define your site and your competitors’. Don’t just use the Backlinks Reports, as those reports are just a quick overview on their backlinks.

You’ll get an email when the crawling of the backlinks is done. Select your Campaign at the top and choose the Inbound Link Analysis tab.

Cleaning up the dead links

SEOmoz tool is a good source for basic backlinking analysis, but the main problem with its data is that it contains all backlinks, live or removed.

So, the first thing you want to do in Cognitive’s SEO platform is to weed out the dead links. That way your analysis is focused only on currently live backlinks.

To do so, use the Inbound Links Filters:

It’s also a good idea to group links by domain, so your analysis evaluates partners, and not pages.       That is especially important if you analyze competitors that have a lot of site-wide links. You don’t want to end up analyzing 100 pages on the same domain. One or two is more than enough to identify your competitor’s strategy on a specific site.

The final result will look like this:

Important note about the Inbound Links Filters

All the reports provided by Cognitive SEO platform (webpage type, link positioning, link status, nofollow links, deep links) are also accessible as filtered attributes, features or metrics.

For example, if you want to identify backlinks in the footer, you could go to the Link Visibility report under the Inbound Link Profiles tab and look at the visibility breakdown:

But you can use the filters to access the same data in the complete Inbound Link Portfolio report:

Filters are actually a very powerful way to segment data from a report in even more detail.

A note on nofollow links

The platform also allows the exclusion of nofollow links, but I strongly recommend performing the competitor analysis including this type of link. You can uncover new link partnerships this way.

Most common strategies

Finding out what strategies your competitor is deploying is so easy, you won’t believe it. Just use the Webpage Type report under Inbound Links Analysis:

As you can see, we’ve identified that the most important backlinking source for this particular competitor is blogs.

Digging deeper with blogs

We’ve identified that blogs are a major backlinking strategy for them. Using filters, we will now dig even deeper to find out:

-        Which links are live

-        Which links dofollow

-        Which links are in the body rather than the footer and header

-        Which links contain the word “SEO”

All the results below are delivered in seconds:

BONUS: Specific Backlinking Strategies Filters

Use the following filters in the Inbound Link Portfolio report to pinpoint specific backlinking strategies:

To identify blogs where competitors are commenting and links are followed

Sponsorship opportunities

Guest posting

Exact match backlinks

Backlinking URLs with a lot of authority (lots of links pointing to them)

Juiciest backlinks (few outbound links from those pages and high home page PR)

For this one you have to use a mix of reports and filters:

Article directories or Press Release sites that dofollow

Finding country level backlinks

Kudos to Cognitive SEO for developing such a powerful and useful tool for backlinking analysis! Use it wisely and,

See you at the top!