How To Find Backlinks Of Competitors – A No BS Guide

Before we delve into the steps to find the backlinks of competitors, know this:

This hack is 100% safe and beginner-friendly. Concepts like “skyscraper content” are built on it.

In fact, everyone does it — even the big shots like Neil Patel, Ahrefs, and Hubspot.

Besides, competitor research is a critical component of SEO and link building. So, don’t fret about Google penalizing your site — as long you don’t include any shady, black hat strategy to game the bots.

That said, here is a snapshot of what to expect in this article:

  • Identifying your competitors – the different levels of competitors
  • Different ways to find backlinks of competitors – using Ahrefs and Moz

Identifying Your Competitors

You can’t effectively find your competitors’ backlinks without knowing who you are competing with. So, who is your competitor?

  • Head to Google, type in your “main” (also called money or primary) keyword.
online marketing google search
  • Now, check the sites ranking on page 1 — especially the ones above yours.
  • Those are your competitors!

How come such sites are your competitors? Why not a business similar to yours, across the street – with a digital presence?

Don’t care about any business outside the ones ranking above you on search results or on page 1 of SERPs (search engine result pages). Here is why:

For a site to pop up above yours on search results, it receives tons of traffic. In other words, several backlinks are pointing to it.

Fortunately, you can check the backlinks of these competitors, reach out to the source, and increase your traffic too.

But wait a bit. You should know this crucial detail:

There are two types of competitors you should explore.

  1. Domain-level competitors, and
  2. Page-level competitors

Domain-level Competitors

Competitors on this level compete with you on everything — several keywords virtually across all your pages.

Note: chances are that you’ll find sites like Reddit and Quora in your research for domain-level competitors. Discard such mentions since they are generic sites outside your niche.

Furthermore, domain-level competitors are not always competitors on a business level. The chances are that they don’t sell the same products or services as yours.

Page-level Competitors

Like the name, page-level competitors won’t compete with all your keywords across several pages. They only compete for select pages — on a particular keyword or topic.

Like in domain-level competitors, a competitor at the page level might also be an indirect competition. Regardless, you can still learn from both and shoot up your site’s backlink profile and traffic.

Now, let’s see how to identify both domain-level and page-level competitors.

How To Identify Your Domain-level Or Page-level Competitors

Note: we’re using Ahrefs for its simplicity. But you can use tools like Moz.

For domain-level competitors:

  • Login to your Ahrefs dashboard
  • Click “Site Explorer” on the dashboard
  • Now, type in your domain
  • Check the left tab and scroll down to “competing domains;” click on that.

There, you have your competing domains!

ahrefs competing domians tool

In the case of our example, Ahrefs is the number competitor for Semrush on the domain level — BTW, this is just a test.

Pro tip: run a test with a couple domains if you are doubtful. Then, use your “domain.” After, draw up a list of the top 5; use the Sheet below as a guide.

competing domains table

For page-level competitors:

  • Pick any page on your site and plug its main keyword into Ahrefs’ “Keywords Explorer.”
  • Now, scroll through the results till you see “SERP overview.”
ahrefs top level domains
  • Make a list of the competing pages. In the case of our example, only Cloudflare is the real competitor for the keyword. Your site will be a different case.

In any case, compile a list of the 5 top competitors as below.

competing pages table

So, what next?

Let’s find your competitors’ backlinks (and their sources) and replicate them for your site.

Before we delve into the details, it’ll help to round up your top-performing keywords. So, use tools like Ahrefs to get the roundup and build on that.

That said, there are generally two POPULAR tools for finding competitors’ backlinks.

You can either use:

  • Ahrefs, or
  • Moz

We will talk about the two methods in this article. However, we’ll focus more on the “Ahrefs method” since it is easier to use than the former to get the job done.

Using Ahrefs

Guest Posts

Guest posting, undoubtedly, is one of the best means of building external links. And the beautiful part of it is an opportunity to show your expertise while getting a link in return.

More importantly, guest posting is a win-win for the writer and the site.

But how does that count in your competitors’ backlinks?

Well, you will unearth where your competitors’ authors regularly guest post. Reach out to the source and write posts for them too.

So, how can you use this method?

Luckily, there are three methods you can use:

  • Ahrefs Content Explorer
  • Google search
  • Image search

Before anything, ensure you have the name of the contributors to your competitors’ blogs and guest posts.

Ahrefs Content Explorer

  • Log into your Ahrefs Content Explorer
  • Input “author: author name.”
ahrefs content explorer tool

You’ll find all the articles the author has written. From the list, pick the pages with high authority. Reach out to them with a content pitch.

  • Similar to Ahrefs Content Explorer, go to the Google search bar
  • Type “author name” + “guest post”
  • You can also use the “author name + inurl:author” query 
  • Type the name of the author on Google
  • Right-click on the author’s portrait/headshot
  • Then, click “Search for Google image.”
  • You can follow up with the sites where the headshot is featured.

Skyscraper Content

As mentioned earlier, the skyscraper technique relies solely on competitor research. It simply involves finding what your competitor wrote that fetched them tons of traffic.

Afterward, you’ll create similar content, but you’ll make yours more robust, engaging, and relevant.

So, how does this method work?

  • Log into Ahrefs Site Explorer, then enter one of the URLs on your domain-level competitors’ list.
  • Now, look towards the left tab and search for “pages.”
  • Then, select “best by links.”
  • Apply the “200 OK” filter (HTTP code) to make the search results clear and more actionable.
ahrefs external backlinks tool

Note: you’ll find links to the service and home pages. Don’t use those; target blog sections and articles you can rewrite extensively. If possible, focus on long-form how-tos and listicles.

Pro tip: outside the “site explorer” method, you can use SERP overview to extract more juice from the skyscraper technique.

Paste the desired page title in “Keywords Explorer.” The end result will fetch you more ideas for skyscraper content.

The chances are that there will be sites that link out to more than one of your competitors. Such sites are hotspots that you can also subscribe to.

If they (the hotspots) already link out to your competitors, it’ll be easy to get a link from them too.

Here is what you should do:

  • Revisit your domain-level competitors list
  • Now, scroll to the “more” button in the top bar and select the “Link Intersect” tool
  • Insert the domain-level competitors from your list, one after the other, and select “show link opportunities.”
ahrefs link intersect tool
ahrefs link intersect 2
  • Click the number under each competitor to see the links. Then, decide if the URL is worth the juice.

Pro tip: you will mostly find forums. But don’t discard them. If your competitors hang out on these “forums,” you should too.

One of the BEST places to seek backlink opportunities is from your competitors’ homepages. And here is why:

Often, companies, influencers, and brands will only mention the competitor and link to their homepage. That is a golden opportunity you can explore.

Here is how:

  • Revisit the list you made of your domain-level competitors
  • Pick one of the competitors and plug the URL into Ahrefs’ Site Explorer
  • Remember to change the default suffix from “domain” to “exact URL.”

Funnily enough, Ahrefs is the main competitor of our example. It doesn’t matter — this is only an example.

  • Now, scroll to the “Anchors” button on the left tab.
ahrefs anchors tool
  • Select one of the anchor texts and apply the “dofollow” filter
ahrefs backlink tool
  • Next, click on the referring page URL and take time to understand why the competitor was mentioned.
  • Lastly, reach out to the “author” of the article and sell your product or company as one of the names that should be added to the list.

Note: don’t stick to just one referring page. Do as many as possible. If the workload is too much, you can always hire the services of expert link builders.

The previous methods discussed don’t necessarily give you an upper hand over your competitors — only the skyscraper technique comes close to dealing REAL hits.

On the other hand, broken links hit competitors where they least expect. How?

Your competitors will hardly look to build on broken links. They probably don’t check if the 404 error is not an internal issue.

Either way, the opportunity is yours to grab.

So, how does this work?

  • Log into Ahrefs Site Explorer once again.
  • Enter one of the URLs in your domain-level competitor list into the search bar.
  • Next, sort the results by “pages,” and “best by links.”
  • Click the “HTTP code” filter drop-down; apply “404 not found.”
  • Click on one of the results and the “links to page” button.
ahrefs external backlinks 2

Reach out to the site and offer to help write what was broken.

Additional methods:

  • Explore your competitors’ new backlinks by setting alerts.
  • Reach out to influencers who are seasoned fans of your competitors. Get featured on their site, blog, or podcasts.

Using Moz

The beauty of Moz is the freemium option it affords users. Interestingly, even the Link Explorer is grouped under the “Free SEO Tools” tab.

So, you can enjoy the benefits before upgrading to the pro plan.

So, how does the Link Explorer work?

It works similarly to Ahrefs. But in this case, the navigation route is different.

  • Visit Moz.
  • Next, scroll through the top bar options to “Free SEO Tools,” and select “Keyword Explorer” in the drop-down options.
moz link explorer
  • Click the “get link data” button and insert your URL

Note: you’d be asked to register an account if you don’t have one with Moz. But don’t fret; it’s free.

Once the registration is complete and verified, you will see a new page: the dashboard. There, you’ll find tabs for “campaigns,” “competitive research,” “keyword research,” and “link research.”

Select the “link research” tab and select “inbound links.” Then, follow the steps below:

  • Check the “link state;” ensure it is active
  • Click on the “export CSV” button to extract the inbound links into a sheet you can work on.
moz inbound links 2

Pro tip: check the links and URLs to pick the best opportunities for backlinks. You might need to prioritize blogs and directory sites.

  • Sort the exported CSV by page authority. That way, you only do outreach to the best blogs and directory sites.

Step 3: Outreach

Now that you have the list. Check through the URLs if you can find recurrent authors. If yes, connect on social media and outreach.

You can use this template:

Outreach Template

Hi [name of author],

I read the “How To Do Keyword Research” article on Hubspot. That was a fantastic piece — detailed reporting.

However, do you know that you can add another tool in the “tool section”?

I know that because I wrote a similar article on my blog. Check the blog here:

[Your URL]

I’ll appreciate your feedback. Thanks!

[Your name, position at company]

In Summary

Exploring your competitors for backlink opportunities is completely SAFE. There is no backlash from Google.

So, you can replicate the technique even for your money sites.

However, ensure you check the sites your competitors are getting links from. If they seem like link farms or PBNs, don’t use them.

Such practices are against Google Link Spam Update. Worst case: your site could be penalized.


Explore your competitors’ backlinks but check them first before using them. And if at any point the process gets complex, contact an expert.