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Elena Dryamina

How to Conduct Competitive Backlink Analysis with SEMrush

Elena Dryamina
How to Conduct Competitive Backlink Analysis with SEMrush

Once you’ve discovered your online competitors and found their best SEO and PPC keywords, you will want to find out more about how their rankings are improving.

Backlinks are crucial for your website’s rank in search results. Links coming to webpages from other domains make a website findable for users and more trustworthy for search engine bots.

How many backlinks do your competitors’ websites have? Where are your competitors’ backlinks coming from? Do they have a lot of value and transfer a desirable amount of link juice to them? Conducting competitive backlink analysis is something you must do to answer these and other questions.

The SEMrush Backlink Checker tool will help you determine:

  • The number of inbound links per competitor website
  • The number of unique domains and IPs referring to each competitor
  • Competitors’ webpages with the most backlink weight
  • Whether a competitor’s website has backlinks from government or educational resources
  • A ratio of follow links to nofollow links

Read on. After finishing this article, you will become a real SEMrush backlink spy!

Spy on Backlinks of up to 5 Competitors at Once

To start using the SEMrush website backlinks checker, go to SEMrush → Backlinks → Backlinks Comparison, enter up to 5 domains in the input fields and click the Compare button (1). You will get a side-by-side comparison of competitors’ backlinks as well as their origins.


Define the Total Number of Backlinks per Competitor

In the first line (2) of the Backlinks Comparison’s table, you will see how many inbound links each competitor has. The number marked in the color green represents the website with the highest number of links, while the number marked in red indicates the competitor’s domain with the least amount of backlinks.


Evaluate the Quality of Pages that Link to Your Competitors

However, acquiring as many inbound links as you can won’t necessarily bring you to the top of search results. When it comes to building a strong backlink profile, quality is more important than quantity; only links coming from trustworthy resources will improve a website’s rank.

The backlinks comparison report helps you quickly compare the number of unique referring domains (3) and IP addresses (4) and the total backlinks pointing to your competitors.


If thousands of backlinks are coming to a competitor’s domain from just a few domains, they could be unnatural ones. Watch out for the health of your website’s backlinks as well! If multiple links are coming from the same domain or from only a few domains, they could be considered spammy; so you must check them and remove them quickly if needed.

Spot Backlink Opportunities on Educational or Government Websites

Links coming from educational or government websites are very powerful because these types of sites are believed to have high authority with search engine bots.

The SEMrush Backlink Checker shows you the number of .edu and .gov links (5) for each domain. Click on the number, and you will see a complete list of referring domains (6) with .edu or .gov TLDs.


Focus on domains that are the most relevant and useful for your target audience and try to get backlinks from them. You can use different tactics--offering scholarships or internships for students, providing educational resources, providing discounts to employees of governmental organizations, etc.


You can also find many other non-educational or non-governmental websites for which you could grab backlinks by generating Referring Domains reports for your competitors’ sites.

Distinguish between Competitors’ Nofollow and Follow Links

Even if backlinks are coming from authoritative and trusted sites, sometimes they don’t add any value to the website they are pointing to. If a link contains a nofollow attribute (<a href=”http://www.website.com/” rel=”nofollow”>Click here</a>), it will not transfer link juice or anchor texts to a page.

Knowing which types of backlinks a domain contains is crucial for estimating their strength. Check the Nofollow vs. Follow widget (7) to determine your competitors’ backlinks’ types.


Click on the orange or blue part of the widget to see nofollow or dofollow links, respectively.

You will go to the main backlinks report and see source and target URLs, backlinks’ anchors and the number of external and internal links per page, as well as the dates when SEMrush first discovered a particular backlink and the last time it was seen (8).


Run a Page’s Competitive Backlink Analysis

Determining which competitors’ pages get the most inbound links is important for understanding which kinds of content can potentially bring more natural backlinks.

Go to SEMrush → Backlinks → Indexed Pages, enter a competitor’s name and click Search. You will see which pages SEMrush checked on the website, and which of them have the most backlinks (9).


You can open every page in your browser, analyze why this content is being linked to and define the type of content.

Is it a review, how-to article, video or infographic? Grab ideas from competitor-generated content, and produce unique content that will result in high backlink counts.

You can use the SEMrush Website Backlink Checker to analyze competitors’ anchor texts and links’ distribution by country. You can also see whether a link contains an image, text, frame or form type.

SEMrush tools are also helpful for optimizing your Google Shopping campaigns, and even for finding ideas for emotional content.

Elena Dryamina is a technical writer at SEMrush. Her last article was, “How to Find Low-Competition Keywords with SEMrush."

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