April 16, 2024

Should You Research Your Competitors’ Backlinks?

Building a website for your business is a lot of work. Creating detailed pages that not only look good but also effectively market your product or service can require knowledge outside of your usual skill set. In many cases, getting to the grips of using your website as a marketing tool can help business owners market their business effectively. 

However, as you progress through the world of SEO, or Search Engine Optimisation, you might find yourself wanting to free up some of your time and get outside help. 

One such task is competitor research. Competitor research is a vital method used by business owners and SEO experts where they look into the marketing strategies of their nearest competitors to target areas which may have been missed. Competitor research can help you fill the gap between you and your competitors’ marketing campaigns. However, a particular area of competitor research where most businesses need help from trained SEOs is competitor backlink research

So what exactly is ‘competitor backlink research/ analysis’, and should businesses research these backlinks at all? 

Researching your competitor’s backlinks benefits your business as good backlinks show trustworthiness for your site. In fact, they are reportedly the third most valuable ranking factor for Google. Therefore, gaining backlinks from competitors would be a valuable task for anyone wanting to bridge the gap and get their business punching above its weight online. 

As SEO specialists, we often research the backlinks of competitors for businesses as this helps identify external linking opportunities in market niches. If your competitors have attained valuable backlinks, then these opportunities are likely available to you too and could offer a ‘quick win’ opportunity for you to build a strong backlink profile. 

Let’s take a closer look at backlinks, building a backlink profile, and how reviewing your competitors’ backlinks can improve your online presence and help you catch up to your competitors using SEO tips, tricks, and tools.

Jump to:

Should I Research My Competitors’ Backlinks? 

First, to read up on Competitor Research, why not read What is Competitor Research And How To Do It?

Competitor research may seem sneaky at first, however, it is very common in marketing to see how others take their products or services to market. You can then use your findings to inform your strategy and identify areas of development within your own strategy.

Backlinks are important as they offer something referred to as ‘link juice’ for websites. This is where one website shares its authority with another. 

Getting backlinks for a website offers the website:

Getting backlinks for your website is incredibly important. Not only due to other users coming to your site from the referring site, but it also helps search engines find your site and share authority with the referring domain. 

Backlinks can also have a negative impact on your site, too. If a high authority site refers to a site with very poor authority, then it may have a negative effect on the higher authority site. Domain authority is therefore only portioned out between trusted domains. 

Read more about domain authority with What is Domain Authority and How can I Increase it?

So, What Are You Looking For, Exactly? 

When looking for a competitor, we are looking for a business in our niche that may regularly appear above you in Search Results. 

You will likely be aware of who these competitors are. Once you have found your competition online, you are going to find good backlinks within your competitor’s site which link to authoritative domains that may also share their authority with you. We’ll explain what we mean by ‘authoritative domains’ in a minute. First, let’s find your nearest competitor. 

Follow Vs. No-Follow Links

Not all links are created equally. Some links on websites are created with a ‘no follow’ attribute which tells website crawlers to not follow the link and inspect what is on the other side. In this case, that’s our website.

Whilst these links don’t offer as much ‘link juice’ as links with a ‘follow’ attribute, they are still somewhat valuable to your site and improve its authority. 

Many high authority sites will offer ‘no-follow’ links to lower authority sites to help keep their own authority intact. In these instances, you may want to find other links which offer a ‘follow’ link. 

How Will We Gain Backlinks?

Once we have found authoritative referring domains, we will build it into our SEO strategy to reach out to these domains in an attempt to gain a backlink ourselves. We may do this by writing content for them or offering to feature some of their products on our site in exchange for a backlink in return.

We talk about reaching out with PR opportunities a little more further down in this article, as well as in our recent post ‘Does the SEO Skyscraper Technique Still Work?

How To Find Your Competitors

So, using software such as SEMrush, we are going to find gaps between one of our clients, Northern Willow and some competitors in their field. 

Northern Willow is an all-natural, handmade wicker basket company based in the UK. For our purposes, we will find competitors within this niche. Later, we will find high-ranking non-competitive publications and websites to earn a backlink from them. 

To better understand how we are going to find our competitors, the business owner may already know what their major competitors are. However, you can quickly find your nearest competitors in terms of keywords by using SEMrush’s domain analysis tool. This will give us this graphic. 

Based on Northern Willow’s Organic Keyword Rankings, we can identify that ‘The Basket Company’ is a competitor that we want to ideate towards. We will use them as our competitor, although you might want to add 2 or 3 more competitors to find better backlinks which can be gained. 

After checking out The Basket Company further (a five-minute browse on their site), we can see that they offer a similar service to Northern Willow. They offer similar products, at similar prices, and their site speed is similar to that of Northern Willow. So what gives? 

One way in which websites gain better rankings is through domain authority, a score given by search engines based on a number of factors and which is shared by domains when they link to each other. 

Domain Authority

Domain Authority is a score given by search engines to full website domains based on how authoritative they are with reference to all other domains known to that search engine. 

A high-ranking domain may be Apple.com, whilst a low-ranking domain may be a used mobile phone shop in your local market. True, they both sell iPhones, but which one is Google or other search engines going to see as the authority on the new Apple iPhone when you are linking in your content? 

Just like with academic papers, or even Wikipedia, referencing highly authoritative sources gives provenance to that source and to the article you are reading or writing. 

A site like BBC News would only link to very good sources on rumours surrounding the release of a new iPhone, so the Apple website gets authority by being linked by a high authority source and gains a share of this authority itself. 

With this in mind, we aren’t just targeting any and all backlinks for our SEO campaign, we are going to target those backlinks which can give us authority within our niche. 

The Domain Authority for Northern Willow currently is 12.

The Domain Authority for The Basket Company is currently 30

Next, let’s look at the Domain Authority for some of the referring domains for each website to see how they compare. 

Get to know more about domain authority with our blog What is Domain Authority and How can I Increase it?

The Value of Referring Domains 

As mentioned, referring domains share some of their domain authority with the site it is referring to. As such, we would want to look out for and make a note of all the referring domains which have a high domain authority score. We can use SEMrush’s Backlink Gap tool to see all referring domains to our competitors and sort by Authority Score. 

Using SEMrush, we see that our competitor has attained backlinks from publications such as The Telegraph, Cosmopolitan, Country Living, and The Evening Standard as well as a few others. 

These are all great publications with high authority. Let’s use Country Living as an example and reach out to them for a backlink.

Reach Out with PR Opportunities

Country Living is a high-authority publication that we might wish to pursue. They fit our basket company well, and they target similar niches and similar members of the general public that we do. 

Now, we can review the way that they produce content or offer services and see if we can find a gap to request a valuable backlink. 

We can potentially gain a backlink by offering them an interesting article written for their website or magazine around our mutual interests. This may take the form of a blog or article outlining ‘7 Stylish Uses Of Wicker Around The Modern British Home’. In this blog, we will link to our website in several different instances. 

Read our Blog ‘How Do You Optimise a Blog For SEO?

Once you have conducted your competitor backlink audit, may want to plan out your PR campaign so that you:

  1. Find a topic within your niche
  2. Create a shorter, ‘taster’ article for the publication
  3. Reach out and offer them an opportunity to feature your exclusive article
  4. Write the article for those who are interested
  5. Speak with the editor and agree to publish your article
  6. Gain a backlink. 

How Does Gaining Backlinks Benefit Your Website?

From here, your article will be published on another highly authoritative website and your tactically placed backlinks will feed users and crawlers towards your website.

Sometimes, the article may go live altered without any backlinks linking to your site, or the links will be ‘nofollow’. Depending on your relationship with the editor or webmaster who runs the referring domain, this may be an easy fix. Simply reach out to the publication again and ask to change or add links to the content. 

From here, your site will potentially increase its domain authority which improves its search engine rankings. From this. you may notice an increase in the Key Events that your website tracks as a part of its online performance and health. 

Gaining Backlinks with Wildcat Digital

Here at Wildcat Digital, we are experienced in researching our clients’ competition and gaining valuable backlinks into potential areas where our client’s businesses could flourish. 

In the previous year, we have gained many backlinks for our clients in regional and niche publications for their specialist areas, as well as articles in international publications such as The Independent, I Magazine and many others. 

Gaining these backlinks can help your business grow in its online presence, and could provide a new marketing avenue, leading to more custom through your website, but they also vastly improve the health of your site through improved domain authority. For more insights into marketing effectively online, contact us at Wildcat Digital today.

Post by

Jon Herdman

Will Hitchmough


Our founder, Will Hitchmough, worked at a number of high profile Sheffield Digital Agencies before founding Wildcat Digital in 2018. He brings an extensive knowledge of all things related to SEO, PPC and Paid Social, as well as an expert knowledge of digital strategy.

Digital Marketing can be a minefield for many businesses, with many agencies ready to take your money without knowing how to deliver results. I founded Wildcat Digital to deliver digital success to businesses with smaller budgets in a transparent way.

Chloe Robinson

Content Strategist Team Lead

With a degree in Marketing and a background in more traditional, offline marketing, Chloe joined Wildcat in 2021 after deciding to move into the digital marketing industry. She joined us as a Content Specialist and quickly moved up the ranks, becoming a Content Strategist and later an SEO Team Leader.

Outside of work, Chloe is an avid creative. If she’s not knitting, you’ll likely find her behind a sewing machine or in the kitchen trying (and often failing!) to make sourdough.

Paul Pennington

SEO Account Director

Paul has a strong background in SEO, having previously founded and ran a successful eCommerce business, as well as running a personal blog that achieves an average of 17K users per month. Paul’s knowledge of SEO is extensive, with a strong emphasis on client handling and technical SEO.

Outside of work, Paul enjoys spending time with his family and staying active with weight lifting and combat sports.

Nadea van der Merwe

Head of Operations

Nadea joined Wildcat in 2021 and has since overhauled the way we work. She has a background in various administrative, operations and HR roles, which gave her the experience and skills needed to lead and organise a growing business. 

Outside of work, Nadea loves anything that keeps her active, but she especially enjoys hiking, camping and mountain biking.

Molly Sturgeon

SEO Account Manager

With a background in sales, Molly is a natural Account Manager, brilliantly handling any issues that come her way. Having joined us as a Digital Marketing Executive, and working part-time through her final year of University, Molly is a shining example of how hard work pays off. She is now an SEO Account Manager with a particular interest in Content and Client Management. 

In her spare time, Molly loves to get out in nature, hiking and exploring the Peak District. She also loves cooking and likes to unwind with a bit of yoga.

Libby Oldale

Senior PPC Account Manager

Libby joined Wildcat in 2021 as our first PPC hire. With a degree in Digital Media Production, a Master’s in Digital Media Management and previous experience in Social Media Management, Libby hit the ground running and has since climbed the ranks to Senior PPC Account Manager and has a particular interest in the eCommerce sector.

Outside of work, Libby likes gaming, and cooking and likes to keep active by lifting weights.

Jasmine Savery

SEO Team Leader

Jasmine joined Wildcat in 2022 with a strong background in SEO and Account Management. At the time, she was finishing up a Level 4 Apprenticeship in Digital Marketing from the Chartered Institute of Marketing, and has since worked her way up to SEO Team Leader. Jasmine excels at content writing and promotion, and particularly enjoys finding creative ways to join the dots on multi-channel campaigns.

In her spare time, Jasmine volunteers at a charity, helping combat loneliness & social isolation experienced by older neighbours. Outside of Wildcat, she owns a catering company, Savery Grazing, creating delicious grazing tables & platters for a range of events. She also loves skiing and exploring the Peak District.

Braden Godley

Senior PPC Executive

Prior to joining Wildcat, Braden founded and ran his own Social Media Management agency where he gained valuable skills in growing brands’ online presence, which has since proven invaluable in his role at Wildcat. 

Outside of work, Braden is a big football fan, regularly travelling to Pride Park to support Derby County. He also enjoys watching and playing snooker, hiking in the Peak District, and attending air and car shows.

Jon Herdman

SEO Executive

After spending ten years managing businesses, restaurants, cafes and event spaces across Sheffield, Jon decided to change careers and joined Wildcat as an SEO Executive in 2022. He especially enjoys the client management side of the job, helping them to understand digital marketing and ways in which they can build their business’s presence online. 

Outside of work, Jon likes to keep fit with running, badminton and football, and also loves music. 

Rachel Davies

SEO Executive

Rachel joined us as a graduate, having recently graduated from Sheffield University with a degree in English Literature. Since joining, Rachel has proven herself to be a Content Queen, and particularly enjoys getting stuck into projects that allow her to explore her creative side. 

Outside of work, Rachel enjoys a wide range of hobbies, including rugby, singing, reading, and spending time with her family and three labradors.

Carl Atterbury

PPC Team Leader

Carl joined Wildcat in 2023 with a wealth of experience in PPC. He has experience working with a wide range of clients, industries and budgets, from small local businesses all the way to international e-commerce businesses. Carl has a particular interest in strategic planning and forecasting. He is passionate about data analysis and creating sustainable long-term cross-channel strategies.

In his spare time, Carl enjoys keeping fit by lifting weights, bouldering and running. He’s also a keen musician, having played the double bass and bass guitar for 20 years.

Dariusz Baczyk

Team Lead & Technical SEO Account Manager

With a degree in Computer Science and SEO experience dating back to 2017, Dariusz has a wide range of SEO skills and knowledge. His specialist knowledge of Technical SEO has firmly landed him the title of Wildcat’s Technical Wizard, and he has recently taken on the responsibility of Team Leader for the Panthers Team.

In his spare time, Dariusz loves hiking, experimenting and trying new coffees and loves learning new things. He is currently learning more about CRO and AI and how this could benefit our clients.

Jamie Stowe

SEO Account Manager

With a degree in Film and TV production, and a varied career history, Jamie made the move to marketing with a Masters degree in Digital Media Management. He has since worked in SEO at Agencies across Sheffield, before joining Wildcat and working his way up to SEO Account Manager. Jamie has a particular interest in backlinks and Digital PR and has recently gained a client a valuable backlink from Forbes!

In his spare time, Jamie is an avid foodie and loves trying new restaurants and cuisines. He also loves to travel and spent a year travelling to Australia after university.

Andy Blanchard

SEO Executive

Andy joined Wildcat in 2023 after starting his digital marketing career in-house for a local Sheffield company. Since joining, he has developed a strong interest in Technical SEO and has strong skills in Account Management. 

Outside of work, Andy loves music and plays in a couple of bands. He also enjoys rock climbing, cycling, photography and good food.

Siena Russell

Client Success Coordinator

Siena joined us in 2023 with a background in sales and digital marketing. She leads on client relationships across the company, ensuring that our customers are happy throughout their journey with us, from their initial consultation through to onboarding and beyond. 

Outside of work, Siena enjoys travelling and getting stuck into the local culture. She likes to make the most of her experiences and particularly enjoys watching sunrises and sunsets from beautiful locations around the world.

Thea Chapman

Senior SEO Executive

Thea has a wealth of experience in SEO, having previously worked for other Digital Marketing Agencies in Sheffield. She has a particular interest and skills in Technical SEO, but is more than willing to get stuck in and give anything a go. 

Outside of work, Thea spends most of her time with her children, but also loves reading, photography and gardening. 

Tom Brookes

PPC Executive

Before joining Wildcat, Tom worked across different industries, building skills in sales and customer service. He later developed a passion for digital marketing whilst working on personal marketing projects and freelance ventures, and gained numerous certifications in PPC and Social Media. 

Outside of work, Tom enjoys staying active by going to the gym and hiking. He also loves travelling and motorbiking.

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