Competitor Backlink Research

Competitor Backlink Research

The most important part of SEO is procuring inbound links to your site from other sites, preferably without the “nofollow” tag. You can just jump in and start looking around for sites that might link to you, but it’s more efficient to first investigate who is linking to your competitors. This information will give you some ideas, and may shock you at the sleazy link tactics of some of the competition (which you will of course endeavor to duplicate).

A free tool that can help you here is the Yahoo Site Explorer. You need to use the Yahoo.com site, since the Japanese Yahoo doesn’t seem to have this too, but the U.S. Yahoo adequately crawls the Japanese internet. To find pages linking to one of your competitors, you search for the URL of the site’s top page, click Inlinks, and choose “Show inlinks Except from This Domain to Entire Site.” The results are pages linking to your competitor, roughly in the order that Yahoo considers them to be important.

With Microsoft’s Bing having taken over Yahoo’s search results, Yahoo has announced that the Site Explorer may not last beyond 2011. But it has promised a Bing-based replacement when it disappears.

If you have a Google Webmaster Tools account, you can also find backlinks there.

The Advanced Link Manager application (for Windows or Macintosh) automates the process of grabbing data from Yahoo and Google as well as from Bing and Sogou.com, the latter apparently being a Chinese search engine about which we don’t know much except that it can be capable of discovering backlinks that nobody else finds. ALM’s advantage is that it saves a historical record of the backlinks for your site and your competitions’ websites, allows categorization of links, and lets you do a Boolean differencing of your site’s links versus the competition, by category, to produce action lists of sites to seek links from (which is a good task to outsource to a Japanese native discovered on oDesk or Elance). The downside is that if you’re not careful in limiting what you ask it to do, the application can bog down your computer for days doing a crawl. And Google will occasionally briefly ban your IP address if they detect automated crawling.

There are other tools, and the fee-based MajesticSEO tool uses an independent crawler to produce its database. It works quite well with Japanese sites, and is well worth the money. The data from MajesticSEO (or similar tools) can be pasted into Advanced Link Manager to improve its results.

What sort of things will you discover with these tools? You’ll probably discover that the top ranking guys have registered with Yahoo! Japan’s directory. You might find that they are included in expensive niche directories. You’ll find the occasional spammer who has links from blog farms or directory farms. But you’ll undoubtedly find some links from places where you can easily ask for a link for your site, such as free niche directories and for a local business, free regional directories.