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SEMrush Toolbox #4: Backlink Gap tool




Craig: Hello, and welcome to today's SEMrush webinar, where we are doing the SEMrush toolbox series. In today's episode, we're gonna be talking about the Backlink Gap tool. And today, the guest on the Webinar is Lukasz Zelezny, one of the best-dressed SEOs out there. Everyone knows him. Lukasz, for anyone who doesn't know anything about you, can you please share what's going on?

Lukasz Zelezny: Hello everyone. My name is Lukasz and I was working for the last six and a half years in uSwitch/Zoopla as a director of Organic Acquisition. I decided to pivot a little and I chose an exciting journey of helping businesses to improve organic presence and organic performance.

Craig: A pleasure as always. You said that you've left Zoopla now and you're now doing your own thing. Is that all going well for you?

Lukasz Zelezny: My calendar looks very, very busy, and every day pretty much from morning to late afternoon I'm in my room picking up phones, chatting through hangouts, and helping people to get better results in terms of organic performance.

Craig: That's good... so it's good to hear it's going well. It'll never leave me to the day I die, the day when I chose to leave employment to go working for myself.

SEMrush Backlink Gap Overview

What we'll do just now is we'll kick off the Backlink Gap analysis tool overview. So I'm gonna start sharing my screen and I'll just give everyone a brief overview of what the tool does. And then what we will do after that is Lukasz will have slides and he's going to share his expert opinion on how he uses the backlink Gap tool. And then we will have questions and answers.

I will start sharing my screen just now. The backlink Gap tool. First off, where you find the Backlink Gap tool when you log into SEMrush. You log into your dashboard and you find it under Gap Analysis. You'll see there's a tab here, Backlink Gap. So, if you just click on the Backlink Gap, it will open up a nice dashboard and it's self-explanatory.

Enter your and your competitors' domain names. SEMrush will analyze these websites’ backlink profiles and discover untapped backlink opportunities. And it will also give you a list of domain names to target for your link building campaigns. We all know that link building is very important for SEO.

So what you can do is put in up to five domain names up here which I'm just gonna do just now. I'm gonna put in Andy Drinkwater and I will put in Diggity Marketing. So that's Diggity's website. And I'll put in another one, Matthew Woodward. You put that in. You can put up to five domain names in.

And just press this little green icon... and what the tool will do is show you either the last three months, or the last year, or all time.

But what we want to do is utilize this tool to see what opportunities are available for you. So put your domain name in here and up to four of your competitors’. And then you see the graph there and you can go, as I say, to the last three months, or whatever it may be.

You can see if anyone has any growth spurts and stuff like that. Down here is the domain names where people have backlinks from. You'll see that the blue line is my website, the orange one is Andy Drinkwater's. The bottom, Diggity Marketing is the green line and Matthew Woodward's the brown line.

So we can have a generic overview just here. So this is a table which will show you google.com. So I've not got a link from google.com, Andy Drinkwater doesn't have a link from google.com, Matt Diggity also doesn't have a link from google.com, but Matthew Woodward has 22.

So that is an opportunity right away. And you can go through the rest of your list on your left-hand side here. So it'll give you the referring domain name and you can basically scroll down that list with the authority score. So the higher the authority score, the more SEMrush gives weight to that domain name. So obviously, google.com's gonna be at the top. Big, powerful website and everyone would love to have a link on there.

And then when you go across here, it'll show you Matches. So I've got four websites in there, only one of them has a link in google.com, which I said was Matthew Woodward's. If we just zoom out, you'll be able to see that at the end there. It just shows you what links people have got. And even for the likes of Weebly, which is there, all four of us have a Weebly link, so that's the web 2.0 link. Not of great value, but it does have a high authority score because it is Weebly.

It's not probably something I would follow up and get that, but obviously, what you want to do is work your way down this list to see what links your competitors have. And you see there that there are some great ones, like Elegant Themes would be a great one to have. We're all digital marketing guys so Site Ground, again, would be a great link to have: only one of us have that. Presto Shop, Entrepreneur, Fiverr.

You can basically go down this list and see who's got what. And obviously, the power of the domain name, really I would work from the top and go down because, obviously, the job here is not to get the volume of links, what you want to do is get good quality relevant links.

I personally would look at the authority score, but you've also got this here to view backlink opportunities that you're missing. So I can select a domain name here...I'm just gonna pick Andy Drinkwater's. And it's gonna bring up the opportunities that we're missing from that particular domain name.

And it will, obviously, compare that to myself, Matt Diggity, and Matthew Woodward's domain names. So you can use that little filter there to show yourself what's going on.

You also can use the Export button, which is over here. If you were gonna export any of that data and give it to a client, we just simply click on that and you've got the Excel and the CSV option there. So you can export this data into a spreadsheet if you want to show it to clients. You can also add notes and stuff like that, as well.

So that is the general overview of the tool.

Backlinks Gap and Backlink Analytics Integration

This tool was integrated into the Backlink Analytics report. So for example, if I click on a link that Matthew Woodward's got that none of those other guy's have got. If I click on that one there, the number one, it takes me to the Backlink Analytics report. And obviously, what it does is use the search filter and it gives me the Yahoo link that Matthew Woodward's got.

And you can add all the filters in if you really wanted to. We can also use these other options here where we can filter if it's a follow link or a nofollow link. So you can use these kinds of filters as well, but that shows you the backlink that Matthew Woodward has from Yahoo. And it's obviously some blog post that we can click in here and go and see the exact blog post, and go and see how it's structured, what we may want to get from it, and stuff like that.

Now, you've got some other scores here, as well. So SEMrush basically gives you a score from zero to 100.  So it gives you zero to 100 based on the importance of our webpage. You see that particular page score that Matthew Woodward's got a link on Yahoo is 19. And the Trust Score, again, based on zero to 100 is 28 for that particular link. So it's not the best link in the world, but you can also see the URL, the anchor text used, number of links on external links, internal links, the backlink type, so that would be text.

So it would normally give you whether it's a text link, an image link, or whatever it may be. It will also give you the first seen and last seen dates, as well. So that's when SEMrush’s bots first seen the link, and then the last seen date, which is only recently. So I'm sure the next time SEMrush’s bot hits that, it will also be there.

And you can also, if you filter disavow list, if you're working through your own backlinks and stuff like that, and you came across one on there that you didn't want to have, you can also use it if added to their disavow list as well by using this little button here where you can just add to the disavow list.

So it's got a lot of data here where the Backlink Gap then brings you into the actual Backlink Analytics report. So that is what Backlink Gap does; it identifies other link opportunities between you and your competition.

And you can go through here and see what opportunities are available that the other guys have got that I've maybe not got.

There's tons of data. And SEMrush's data is always improving. There's always getting more data and maybe at one point, someone from SEMrush will explain how much of that data they get. But it's improving all the time and SEMrush is always working to improve the tools and the data that they collect in terms of backlinks and stuff like that.

So what I'll do is I'll stop sharing my screen now and I'll allow Lukasz to come on and take center stage. So Lukasz, it's over to you now to show the guys how you use the tool and some of the results you've got from using it.

Lukasz Zelezny: Thank you very much, Craig. Thank you very much for this presentation, very useful. I think people find this very interesting and I'm going to switch to my presentation right now. So I have 33 slides for now and this is all about the Backlink Tool.

I'm going to show you examples and I hope you will find this useful. So let's start. So my career was for many years in price comparison. That's why I decided to pick a price comparison website. However, I was working for uSwitch. I decided to choose my former competitor, CompareTheMarket.

Using SEMrush to Get the Lowdown on Your Competitors Backlinks

And when you have a situation, imagine that you’re auditing a website for your client, or you are in-house for the first day, or you are working for an agency, a new client came that you have very little knowledge about. You're asking who is your competitors. And so SEMrush will help you straight away to answer this question because you need to know other players in the arena, in the field, that your client, your website, your in-house company is playing.

So I type CompareTheMarket and I have a couple of very interesting metrics here, like organic search, like paid search, like backlinks. And obviously, backlinks will be something that is the most important for the presentation.


So I know that CompareTheMarket already, according to the SEMrush crawler they have 6.2 million backlinks. And these backlinks are coming from 7.9 thousand domains. And these domains are coming from 5.6 thousand different IP numbers.

What can I do? I can go a little deeper. And when you scroll down, you will see the main competitors, main organic competitors. And here you can see, once again, we're talking about CompareTheMarket, whoever is from the UK knows how big price comparison websites are.

And you can see the major players here. So GoCompare, Moneysupermarket, confused.com, money.co.uk, uswitch.com, and then 20,989 more websites will be on this list.

Some of these websites are indeed price comparison websites. The other ones are suppliers, providers of insurance, or credit cards, or car insurance, and so on.

Now, what is the most important factor that is on this table is an affinity level. That is how similar one website is to the given one. So we can see that GoCompare on that list is the number one in terms of similarity to CompareTheMarket.


I will give you an example, sometimes you may see Wikipedia, you will choose your blog, which let's say is ranking 1,000 keywords, and then Wikipedia will be quite high. Comparing Wikipedia to your blog is a bit like comparing Goliath and David. So rather, we're trying to find websites of similar size, similar traffic, and a similar bunch of keywords.

You first need to find websites that are similar to you. Once you will find them, we can go into overall what Gap Analysis is. And SEMrush at the moment offers two major Gap Analyses. The first one is called Keyword Gap analysis and the second one is called Backlink Gap analysis.

What is the difference? So first of all, the Gap as such is what elements my competitors have that I don't. These elements can be whatever. It can be keywords, it can be links, but generally, we're talking about something that they have and I don't.


Performing A Backlinks Gap Analysis

What are the websites that competitors are getting links from and my website is not? So, performing a Gap Analysis. This is the screen I showed you before. So, competitors of CompareTheMarket, comparethemarket.com, one of the leading price comparison websites in the UK.

And you can see here that GoCompare has an affinity level of 52%, the highest one. The next one, Moneysupermarket, is 39%.

We will only compare these two. And what I see here, I see domains that are linking to either both or one of these two websites that I've chosen, CompareTheMarket, Go Compare. And that's sorted by authority score, so Google, Wikipedia, Yahoo, Weebly, Yandex, New York Times, and so on.


So first of all, we want to find opportunities for CompareTheMarket. So we can see that when I choose CompareTheMarket, then here in that column, the number of links that CompareTheMarket is receiving is zero and GoCompare is receiving some. For example two links from the BBC, 12 links from Forbes. One thing to mention is that I could flip that list and show you websites that only CompareTheMarket is receiving links from and GoCompare not.

I'm always saying that your competitor is the greatest source of information, and especially when you are second in the market. In many cases, you can follow the path that your competitor is creating.

So right now, we're going to the middle of the list and we will find an example; the website is called BusinessRecognition.org. The authority level is 18. And you can see here we know that CompareTheMarket is getting zero links and GoCompare four. Let me click on these four here. Then I click and I can see all these four links in this table.

I can open one of these links and see what type of links are there. And you can see here, the anchor text is quite long, probably very natural.

This is the most challenging part, can try to execute that information that they figure out using SEMrush. So we know that BusinessRecognition is linking to GoCompare. And now, the question is how can we receive a link from that article or from any other article? Or maybe we can write an article, or maybe there is some other way.

Maybe we should first contact this blog owner and say, "Hey, what can we do? Can we prepare you some analysis? Can we give you some data that you would like to put on your blog?" And so on and so forth. The number of opportunities is almost infinite, but it is not like SEMrush will do this for you. SEMrush is giving very, very valuable data. This is what you're paying for every month.

Do Nofollow Links Have Value?

And now, is that link DoFollow? So I just checked quickly that source code, and yes, that link is DoFollow. So that means that it participates in an SEO strategy. If it would be NoFollow, then it's still potentially worth to consider this because of potential extra traffic. If not an SEO, then we also go a little broader than our SEO world, SEO bubble, and we can go into referral traffic, maybe affiliate, maybe something else.

So the fact that a website is linking NoFollow doesn't automatically say, "Hey, exclude this website. That’s not worth it". Absolutely not.


And now, time for conclusions. So the first one is to identify link opportunities. Understand the reason behind the link. That's pretty much this kind of human logical thinking process. Why someone has a link? Was this a PR campaign? Is this a listing? Maybe they have websites that created some meetup, or some conference.

So maybe we should send our person there to this conference. It's quite abstract, quite a crazy example, to send someone for a conference because you will get a link. But on the other side, biographies of CEOs, or founders, and so on and so on are really often places that are also pumping links to your website, or to your competitor’s website.

And then finally, the last thing is to replicate. So when you understand the reason behind the link, if you understand why a competitor receives links from this or that website, just try to replicate. And this is probably the most difficult part. It needs a clever approach, it needs tracking.

You always need to build a spreadsheet or you need to use, for example, Link Assistant or any other software, or maybe even CRM just to track because otherwise you will be just bombarding random people with email two, three, four, five, 10 times. And people will be rather angry at you.

Craig: Thank you, Lukasz. Excellent presentation. I'm sure people have found a lot of value with that. So what we'll now do is go straight into the questions and answers. We've got 20 minutes, so I'm sure we'll be able to get plenty in here.

Should Your Link Distribution Look A Certain Way?

The first question came from Power Rubber. And he's asking what should the link distribution look like. Please give a piece of advice according to NoFollow and Follow links in terms of percentages. Is that something? Would you put a percentage on it? I mean, personally, I wouldn't put a percentage on it. As I said in the chat, it's perfectly natural to have NoFollow and DoFollow links.

Lukasz Zelezny: Yeah, thinking about the split between NoFollow and Follow is a first step to the hell of paying full penalties. It's something that doesn't matter. You can have 90% of no follow links because of some reasons and 10% of DoFollow.

If you will go to check links according to the players that are performing on the same industry, I think the split will be quite similar. It can be between 30 and 40, for example, DoFollow and rest NoFollow. And you will see that if one is completely different from the others, then they're probably trying to play with the links.

And as we know, playing with links is a very dangerous game. If you're working for a client who has historically good results, you really don't want to play this.

Craig: Yeah, and also just to add on top of that, as well, if, for example, you were to get a NoFollow link on Entrepreneur.com or whatever it may be and it brings in a hell of a lot of traffic, click through rate is an important ranking signal. So although that's a NoFollow link, it's manipulating other stuff that's gonna increase my rankings. So as you said, don't discount NoFollow links. You still can bring in value, traffic, and everything else that's gonna give you another tick from Google, if you like.

Next question: what do you prioritize; adding a link to an existing and older page or seeking a new article on the topic for link freshness?

Lukasz Zelezny: So if you're asking me, I would say if you have some kind of research...then approach people, owners of these websites, don’t even mention about links. And that is you doing link building for this specific new page that you created.

Focus on SERP Movements After Disavowing Links

Craig: The next question is from Patricia Butler. So Patricia has a fair amount of toxic backlinks and she wants the disavow. She's done that recently, yet the domain authority remains the same. What is the next best thing to do?

Lukasz Zelezny: Okay, Patricia, you said domain authority. You're using probably Moz or Ahrefs; these platforms don't know that you disavowed those links. So the fact that you have the same authority, that is pretty normal.

On the other side, I would like to mention that in SEMrush, there is a backlink audit. And you can quickly identify toxic backlinks. And again, if there is one or two percent, so a couple of domains, that you can flag as toxic, you can ignore this.

But if you will see that 50 percent of the domains are toxic, because you know that there was previously some cheap hustlers who are pretending that they know how to do link building, and they pump lots of spammy links that you are unable to remove. If you did not get a penalty yet, luckily, then straight away disavow these links.

Craig: And just to add on top of that, and I said it earlier, someone was doing negative SEO to my website. And I got a guy called who's a specialist in disavows and he disavowed tens of thousands of spammy links from my website, and the scores on my website don't change, but my rankings are increasing. Disavow does work, but don’t be looking at those metrics.

The next question is... what is a beneficial backlink strategy to increase organic traffic for content?

Lukasz Zelezny: Okay, so I think here this is pretty straightforward. It's less about backlinks, and it's more about the content you have. You need to make sure that your content is quite well written for full-length search needs. And I will give you an example. You can say “top 10 amazing places to visit in Scotland”, but nobody types this as such in a search engine. If you would write “what to see in Scotland”, or “what to see in Glasgow”, or “what to see in Poland for a weekend”, that is closer to the intent. And this is the first step.

And when you write content fulfilling the needs of what people are looking for, then you're doing backlinks, backlink building, and you're pointing this backlink's DoFollow to that content. And you really, really don't need that many backlinks. Sometimes, three, four valuable backlinks will be enough to be in the top five.

Finding Lost Backlinks in SEMrush

Craig: I'm just gonna show someone something. There was someone asking where to find lost backlinks. So if you go into your dashboard and go to Domain Analytics. So you'll see Domain Analytics here on your left-hand side, and then click on backlinks, it will take you to an overview page. Now, that will give you the overview page, just click on backlinks and you'll actually see, if I scroll down here, you can tick new or you can tick lost.

So that is where you can identify any lost backlinks. And you also see that here, it tells you that lost link was lost. So that's where you find your lost backlinks, whether it's for yourself or one of your competition. So Gina L. Is asking another question again.

Do you see any difference in backlinks from fully loaded JavaScript sites?

Lukasz Zelezny: Not really. If the JavaScript websites are pre-rendered, then there is no difference. So there is a little risky situation if the website is not pre-rendered correctly. But in most examples, the websites are properly rendered. Yeah.

Multiple Backlinks From the Same Domain

Craig: Perfect. We have another question, does getting more backlinks from the same domain impact SEO?

Lukasz Zelezny: That is a very, very good question, actually. Obviously, when you have a situation that you have a website that is linking to your blog from the footer, from every page, then you will see that one domain is linking 20, 50, 100,000 times; that definitely is not something that will make your ranking higher versus when you would have few links from that website.

Once again, links should be natural, however, there are exceptions.

Craig: Cool. So you mentioned there are footer links and all that kind of stuff. And through my own test, and I've got more of an opinion which I'll give you in a moment, do you feel that getting those footer links, or even sidebar links are as powerful as getting links in the main body of the page?

So before, everyone used to get footer links, sidebar links, whatever it would be. And I think the footer and sidebar links were powerful.

Lukasz Zelezny: I remember 2005, 2003, those were the days, let's be completely transparent, where most people were buying links and no one would pay for a link from an article. Everyone would pay only from a link from the sidebar, or from the footer. I think these days in very specific examples, they may be more beneficial, but in most examples, they are a pretty strong indicator that someone is still mentally in the late 90s and is trying to sculpture the algorithm.

Craig: Perfect. So me personally, I would always want it (a link) in the content now. I think for me, that's the place to go but I just wanted to hear your opinion on that.

So we've got another question. they're saying they've been working on submission links for a link time, but they don't get indexed how do you solve that problem?

Are Directories Helpful for Getting Backlinks?

Lukasz Zelezny: Yeah, well, directories, the first question is who is doing directories except for SEOs? Have you ever been to a directory to find something? I don't think so. Except for very specific technical directories, which would be, for example,  scientists looking for some specific stuff.

Google many years ago decided to go on a kind of a fight with directories. That's why we don't have anymore Yahoo directory, we don't have Google directory.

There is a couple of directories that you may still consider to use like Best of the Web, for example. You probably will get those links indexed, but again, using directories extensively is not something I would recommend. I would rather recommend you to use a local directory, which is a completely different story to directories for SEO. So in Thomson Local or Yell, for example, where you're adding the address and footprint of, "Hey, my business is here or there," rather than you doing this for getting extra links.

Craig: So as you said, look at getting the local stuff for your local map listings. Obviously, Google are looking for consistency of your NAP, which is name address, postcode, so put directory submissions onto the links of Thomson Local, yell.com, and everything. Leaving, as Lukasz says, the footprint is a good way to rank locally.

Now, what I would say as a lot of people make this mistake, is when they get directory submissions done, what they do is they submit the same bio for a business to 100 directories. And only one or two of them are gonna get indexed.

What you can do is go to a website called citationsbuilder.com. And what they do is they will ask you to write a bio, they spin the content, and then send it to an indexing tool so that your directory does get indexed because that's what you want.

You want as many variations of your website, name, address, and postcode in order to be out there on local directories, or niche relevant directories for the map listings.

But sadly, we are out of time now for questions. We're a minute over. So thank you, everyone, who came to watch. A big thank you to Lukasz.

Lukasz Zelezny: Thank you. Bye-bye.

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