The Many Uses of Backlink Analysis

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Conducting a backlink analysis is the foundation of any link building campaign. There is so much information to be gained and a wide variety of uses for the data you uncover.

If you aren’t sure how to start, check out the post I wrote a while back about how to conduct a backlink analysis. In this post, I’ll discuss the subsequent ways you can use that analysis to further your link building campaign.  Conducting the analysis is only half the equation: now that you have all the data you need to know how to apply it properly to ensure the success of your link building efforts.

Key Takeaways

There are a number of uses for a backlink analysis:

  • Competitor Analysis – Gain insight into the competitive environment surrounding your niche
  • Link Prospecting – Use the information from backlink analysis to find quality link building opportunities
  • Perform a Backlink Audit – The data from a backlink analysis can be used to perform a backlink audit and avoid over-optimization as well as remove potentially harmful links
  • Link Reclamation – Find links pointing to 404 pages and reclaim link juice through 301 redirects or contacting webmasters


Competitor Analysis

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One of the first places to start in terms of backlink analysis is with a competitor analysis. This involves conducting a backlink analysis for each of your major competitors. Competitors can provide a wealth of insight into the competitive environment surrounding your niche. This information includes:

  • Competition for specific keywords and ranking opportunities
  • Average number of links from unique domains per competitor
  • Competitor’s link building strategies and tactics
  • Types of sites linking to competitor
  • Types of content competitor has used effectively
  • Most successful pages on competitor’s site

This will give you a snapshot picture of how competitive your niche is, which will dictate project scope and size. Also take into account how established your own site is, as the scope and size of a project for a new site will be much different from for an established website currently ranking amongst competitors.

You can also use this information to apply similar techniques or strategies to your own campaign.

For example, perhaps one of your competitors created a resource that was particularly successful and netted them a number of links. You now know that type of resource will be well received within your niche and you can create something similar for your own link building campaign. Likewise, if your competitor has a specific page that is attracting the majority of their links, you should seriously consider creating a similar type of page as part of your own campaign.

You can also take a look at what types of sites are linking to your competitors.These sites make for some of the best linking prospects around because if your competitor already has a link there, chances are you can get one, too.

There is a lot to be learned from a competitor analysis and the insight you gain will give you a solid starting point for your own link building project.

Link Prospecting


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Another great way to use the data from a backlink analysis is for link prospecting. This process partly goes hand-in-hand with the aforementioned competitor analysis. This is because your competitors offer some of the best link prospecting opportunities available.

You should always make note of where your competitors commonly acquired their links during a competitor analysis – this will help you understand the online neighborhood of your industry.

However, you shouldn’t stop there, and again, I urge you to dig deeper. If you find a high quality link prospect, take the time to look into where they are linking out to as it is likely other relevant sites within your niche (i.e. more link prospects and opportunities).

Conduct a Backlink Audit


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If you fear you have been hit by an algorithmic penalty from Google or seem to be losing rankings and don’t know why, it may be a good idea to conduct a backlink audit.

The data you obtain from a backlink analysis gives you a chance to take a closer look at the links you have and the strategies you’ve employed.

One way to use the information from a backlink analysis is to ensure you avoid over-optimization. This includes over-optimization of a particular strategy as well as over-optimization of specific anchor text. Over-optimization of a single strategy can quickly put you on Google’s radar and potentially result in a manual penalty. By sifting through your backlink profile you can get an idea of which strategies you may be leaning on too heavily and adjust accordingly.

This can help you avoid leaving a large “Google footprint”. If you can tell from looking at your own backlink profile that a particular strategy is being used to manipulate search rankings, it is safe to assume that Google will want to devalue or maybe even punish you. This is why you always want to work to create a natural backlink profile.

The same goes for any over-optimization you may have in terms of anchor text. Over-optimization of anchor text is even more dangerous as this is something the Penguin algorithm targets. Through a backlink analysis you can get a better overall picture of your anchor text variance and avoid over-optimization as well as identify where new opportunities may lie.

This would also be a good time to look at any “bad” links you might want to possibly remove or disavow.  Nearly every established site or sites with previous SEO work will likely have a few links worth removing. A backlink analysis will help you find these toxic links to help you keep a clean and natural backlink profile.

404 Pages/Link Reclamation

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Finally, you can use the information from a backlink analysis to assist in the reclamation of links. This is particularly important for sites which have been redesigned or had pages removed.

This process actually begins with using Google Webmaster Tools to identify any links to 404 pages (although it is possible to include this step within a backlink analysis if you’re using Open Site Explorer).  After you have compiled a list you can begin to conduct backlink analyses on each specific URL to discover any links pointing to the dead or removed pages on your website.

After you have identified all the links pointing to 404 pages, you have two primary options for link reclamation.

The first is to use a 301 redirect that will redirect the link to your new page. Although some link equity may be lost through this process, it is the easier of the two options as you do not have to contact the webmaster/owner of the site where the link is located. However, make sure the new page the link redirects to is similar to the old page and still relevant to the link.

The second option is to directly contact the webmaster of the site linking to you and ask them to update the link to point at your new page. This can be more difficult as you have to track down the webmaster and actually get a hold of them. Furthermore, there is the chance that the webmaster simply decides to remove the link altogether.

Be wary of the information you obtained during the backlink audit process in terms of over-optimization, as some dead links may not be worth reclaiming.


There are a variety of ways you can use a backlink analysis to aid your link building campaign:

  • Competitor Analysis – Get a picture of the competitive landscape of your vertical
  • Link Prospecting – Find promising link prospects through backlink analysis
  • Perform a Backlink Audit – Use backlink analysis data to audit your backlink profile and remove potentially toxic links and avoid penalties from over-optimization
  • Link Reclamation – Find links pointing to 404 pages through backlink analysis and reclaim link juice via contacting webmasters or utilizing 301 redirect

It can be time-consuming to conduct backlink analyses, but the insights they provide make them well worth the effort. Backlink analysis should be a staple of any link building campaign as they can guide and support your project every step of the way.


All images are creative commons licensed.

Jon Ball
Jon Ball is CEO and co-owner at Page One Power. He is a research expert that specializes in the implementation of highly effective link building... Read Full Bio
Jon Ball
Jon Ball
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  • Hi John

    You know, I was expecting a better article from the owner of PageOnePower. Good ol’ “Check competitors backlinks” is getting….well, old.
    We heard it 1000 times already and your article contributed nothing new to the table. It’s not like we gotta have same keywords as our competitors, shouldn’t we get better stuff?
    Why should we have same/similar pages as our competitors? Shouldn’t readers be told that they should create something that even their grandma would read? Who cares if competitors have “Custom Link Building’ page that ranks for a couple of KWs.?

    • Hi Nenad,

      I’m sorry you felt that way about the article.

      It is true that conducting a backlink analysis on your competitors is old advice, but I believe it is still something that is often overlooked. Especially when planning a strategic campaign.

      While I agree that you should always strive to be creative and find unique ways to build links your competitors can’t/haven’t built, I still maintain there is much to be gleaned from a competitor analysis.

      I wanted to explain that we can take away more from this data than simply where our competitors have links and that this information can be helpful with crafting our own link building projects, especially at the beginning of a campaign.

      For example, if your competitor has a specific page that is garnering a large number of links. I would suggest you create something similar as it is proven that this type of page is successful within your niche and it will be easier to build links to.

      I would argue that you should always care if your competitor has pages that are ranking for relevant keywords, as these are the pages your potential customers will find when they search those keywords. Certainly you wouldn’t want these searchers to find your competitors.

    • Hi Nenad, Thanks for reading SEJ! I appreciate your feedback and John’s thoughtful response. I definitely agree with you that we shouldn’t be copying our competitors and should instead be looking for a way to be unique.

      I think one of the reasons why John brings up competitor backlinks is that it’s so important to see what competitors are doing, so we can be better than them. Figuring out their weaknesses, what customers are looking for, and then combining them together to create an amazing product or service that is filling a need should always be key, no matter the industry.

  • we have been used backlink analysis form Competitor Analysis and to Conduct a Backlink Audit. Link Reclamation technique seems good to go with. Thanks for the idea.

    • You’re welcome weProms, glad you found it helpful.

  • Very useful post especially “404 Pages/Link Reclamation
    ” point thank you Jon

    • Thank you for the kind words below Yeasmin, I am glad you enjoy my articles.

  • I did read your whole article and really its find very informative for all the SEO guys. I agree with you.
    Really thanks for describe back links for any website.

    • You’re welcome Romano, thank you for your comments.

  • This article is best for the new SEO’s its really helpful before starting SEO for any website. Now a days Back link analysis is the most important thing because now there are so many things to survive in Search Engine World.

    • Thank you for your comments Danish, I am glad you found the post useful.

  • Was reading this blog post and I noticed a sentence that did not make sense, here it is “check out the post I wrote a post a while back” If you read it back you will notice what I mean.

    Other than that, I learnt a lot from reading this blog post. I am the apprentice here at Buoyancy Media and it helped me a lot.

    • Hi Jack,

      Thanks for bringing that to my attention, but unfortunately I am unable to edit the post after it as gone live.

      Also, thank you for your feedback on the article, I am happy to hear it was helpful to you.

      • Update – Editor Kelsey Jones was kind enough to fix the typo, so it should read better now.

        Thanks for fixing that Kelsey and thank you for pointing it out Jack.

  • Competitor backlink monitoring isn’t quite as manically important as it used to be. Not that it was exactly vital, in my opinion. As Matt Cutts has made very clear, you really should be going about an individualistic thing. Write content, include a backlink, but don’t spam the world with business spiel and nonsense.

    Good piece, though. It really is down to each person now – you have to have writing skills to make SEO work these days.

    • Thank you for your comments Alex.

      I would still argue it is always a good idea to keep an eye on what your competition is doing.

  • Back link Analysis is very important for competitive analysis and also for checking out the low quality links. Low quality links could hamper your website and with the help of tools like web me up you can sort the back links which are infectious and disavow them. This helps your site to be in a safer position even after an Google update arises. As there is a saying ‘Prevention is better than cure’ back link keeps you safe in many aspects.

  • I never understood why people call fixing broken links “link reclamation.” You’re not actually reclaiming anything. Link reclamation is when someone mentions your brand and does not actually link to your website. UGH