Use Open Site Explorer To Exploit Your Competitors Hard Work

Before you begin any SEO campaign there are a few things you really need to think about, one of them is “who are my competition?”.

If you intend to compete in a certain market you need to firstly be clear about your keywords and secondly clear about your competition, or more importantly what your competition are doing right.

There are many different aspects to look at both on and off page however, I would like to show you a really simple way of collecting your competitor’s links so that you can have a full spreadsheet of all the links that are helping those topping Google rank where they rank.

Now before I go into this I’d like to come clean, the tool you need to use is a paid tool, I am not promoting it but just to let you know at this point you may need to invest a little.


I really do hate sounding like a fan boy but the truth is when it comes to SEO tools SEOmoz have it licked, yes there are plenty of decent analysis tools out there but the sheer amount of the web SEOmoz are able to crawl makes their service unbeatable in my opinion.

Open Site Explorer

One of the tools that makes up part of their package is Open Site Explorer, it is like Yahoo’s site explorer on steroids!

Anyway enough of the promotion, how do we use this tool to really strip down our competitors link profile?

Well here is what I would do…..

Get Those Links!!

First you want to head over to the tool, then simply input the page you want to investigate.

open site explorer

Yes I am using SEOmoz as the tester but they won’t mind :)

Once you have input your details this will bring you up a nice list of links, your competitors links, but it is not quite the finished product yet and we need to play around with it.


Just under the main nav you have various drop down menus, this allows you to filter out certain links…

open site analysis

At this point I would suggest filtering out no follow links and filtering out any internal links.

You can use internal links to see how your competition link to their high ranking pages, can be insightful, but that’s for another post.


Now you have your list of links it is time to export them into an excel spreadsheet using the option below the drop downs.

(If you are downloading a particularly large link profile then this may take a few minutes depending on your connection speed.)

OK so we have all the details in a lovely excel spreadsheet, but were not done…..

Let’s neaten it up a little

So you have a spreadsheet looking something like this?

excel of competitor links


Firstly get rid of the nonsense at the top, check.

Now there are plenty of things in this spreadsheet we don’t need.

  • Highlight the ‘URL’ column and filter out all duplicate cells using the ‘Data’ and Advanced filter options in excel.
  • Secondly delete the title, followable, 301, origin and target url columns.

Now sort the columns in order of page authority and you have a list of your competitors links in the order of the most powerful.

Neaten up the spreadsheet a little and go ahead and download more of your competitor’s links!!

links spreadsheet

You are never going to beat those at the top unless you can get the same links, no you don’t have to and shouldn’t mimic the entire profile just pick out the best ones.

Building Links To Links?!? – Link Boosting!

Onething that I haven’t discussed that often is building links to links, I think I may have mentioned it in the comments every now and again but never really explained it.

The Problem

You need links with anchor text – Thats fairly straight forward

You need links from relevant pages – That is just about doable

You need links that flow PageRank – Ah thats not so easy or is it??

Now I am a firm believer in the fact that a link is a link regardless of PageRank, however if you really want to compete for a key term you are going to need some healthy PR flowing links.

But How Do we Get Them??

You may be able to control what anchor text a particular link sends you but you are never going to control the pagerank, or are you??

The Solution

Getting PageRank or toolbar Pagerank to a deep page is not as hard as you think, especially if the overall domain is a decent quality.

Look over your link profile, do you have any links sitting on authority domains but without any pagerank? If so 10-20 links could bump that page from 0 to 3 quite easily. Then what are you left with?

A link, anchored on a PR3 page on a domain with a homepage PR of 6 or above.

How many articles have you written on strong domains? Guest posts? do follow blogs?

Just a little bit of extra work can make all the difference.

So How Do We Do It?

Well this is what I would advise and I have used this technique many times over and it works well.

I would pick only links I had on the very best domains, if the homepage PR was 5 or over and I had a link on a deep page I would target it. I have done this with countless articles on ezine articles.

First you need to have the unique article wizard or your favourite article service, this tool allows you to merge three seperate articles to create unique versions. These versions will get a lot of exposure and a large amount will be indexed.

On each of the seperate/similar articles you are going to use one link to point at a deep page of your site and one link to point to the link you want to boost. This will make sure a) the link on the authority domain is indexed and b) it will get a minimum PR of 1.

Not bad but we can improve this.

Search for dofollow social bookmarking sites, Mixx is one I prefer. Submit the page to your favourite sites (be careful though some won’t accept pages on article directories) pick maybe 4-5.

This will give the pages you have links on an additional boost and make the link up to 10 times more effective than a regular PR0 link.

This is a technique many SEO’s use and it is what SEO is all about really, taking those things that are common knowledge and making them a little better. Everybody knows you can get links from article directories but not everyone knows how to supercharge them!

Try it out and let me know if you have any issues.

Link Building Strategy Lesson 1 – Understanding the Structure

Yes I do talk a lot on this blog about link building and I am sure you think you have heard it all before, however I am of the opinion that there is nothing wrong with going over old things, after all repetition is the mother of skill.

So I have decided to put together a full explanation of how we structure link building at SEO wizz, focusing on what we look for and how we go about getting it.

I guess the ideal place to start is by highlighting what we try and achieve in any one link buidling campaign:

– Building authority:- Yes link popularity is important but we also need to build links from authoritative sources.

– Domain Diversity:- You must look to get links from a diverse set of domains to increase value.

– Deep linking:- A lot of the links will point to your home page, but you still need a strategy for deep links.

– Think Local:- Many businesses are targeting local key phrases, so why aren’t they building links locally?

– Anchor Text:- Yes the biggy, you won’t rank without it, ANCHOR TEXT!!

If you are not implementing all of these then you are missing vital opportunities and your campaign will not be as effective, however let’s look at these in a little more detail.

Building Authority

I guess the first thing to ask here is – “How do we know a particular domain is authoritative?” – and it’s a good question as there are very little indicators available to check a sites authority in a given industry or niche.

However at SEO wizz this is how we like to target authority sites in a given area.

1) First we search on 4 – 5 popular keyword terms in our niche.

2) We may scan back as many as five pages and take note of anywhere between 10 and 20 sites that seem to pop up on multiple searches.

3) Then we go through each site in our list and check the Page Rank from the Google Toolbar, then list the sites in the order of highest PR.

Obviously the links with the highest PR are likely to hold the most authority, if you can you should sort after link from these pages, however don’t get your hopes too high, as if you’re in a competitive niche there is a good chance none will link back to you, this is very common, however if you only manage to get one this is a good start.

Building Links To Authority Sites That Are Not Relevant

I am a big promoter of relevance, I think if you link build with relevance in mind it holds more value and any traffic you receive is more likely to stick around…

HOWEVER, and it literally is a big however…. There is also tremendous value in building links from websites that aren’t so relevant, every link counts. My advice when doing this is to only build them on established domains or domains with a good amount of links pointing to them as a whole and try and stay away from site wide footer links. The page you get you link from may be a PR0 but if the domain is strong the link will and does carry weight.

No matter how you look at it getting links from websites with authority is time consuming but necessary, you may be able to make some progress without them, but need them if you really want to dominate.

Domain Diversity

Now this can be a hard one to convince people of when all they can see in the SERPS is a multitude of sites ranking with thousands of footer links, site wide and anchored.

However, our research is showing more and more that a diverse link profile is an essential element to ranking well and better Google visibility. I always like to hearken back to my university days when trying to understand domain diversity, let me explain…

If a Professor had his work quoted thousands of times by 1 or 2 other academics this would be great, however if they had their work referred to thousands of times by thousands of other academics, they would no doubt be the ‘known’ authority in that area. This is what Google wants to show at the top of the SERPS the ‘known’ authority in a particular niche.

Again building links from a diverse domain is not easy, this is why I always encourage tracking your linking domains as much as possible, you may need to use them on a new site or venture.

Local Link Building

If you are targeting local terms it is imperative you try and get your links from local sources, businesses, local authorities, local directories and education authorities are all great places to get local links from, just one can change how well you rank for a particular local term, trust me.

If you are a business going for those local terms this is something you cannot fail to take into account. Getting these links increases your relevance and is particularly important if you are targeting a specific country. Want to rank well in the UK? Then wouldn’t it make sense throwing a few domains into the mix?

There is very little research in this area but I think it’s a no brainer.

Anchor Text

Anchor text, yes the Daddy of the link building strategy. The must! You are going to struggle to rank for anything without it. Anchor text is the major search engine signal; if you are trying to rank for “used machinery” then at least 25% – 40% of your links need to have it in the anchor.

If you are building links naturally then there is only one thing to be aware of, the search engines will punish ‘anchor’ over optimisation, well Google will, especially if all the links come in bulk, this is known as ‘link bombing’.

At this point many webmasters ears prick up and start shouting about social media?

Even the most viral piece of content is not going to acquire thousands of the exact same anchor, even when they do the rankings are usually temporary thanks to Google’s freshness algo.

All I am saying is to go publish 50 articles to multiple directories with the exact same anchor text, especially if your domain is less than 12 months old, is fatal.

Also remember, there are natural ways to get the anchor text you want. We’ll look into that a little more at a later date.

Anyway these should be the basics of any link building strategy, you need them if you want to beat off the serious competition and remember these links need to be hitting multiple pages of your site, not just the homepage.

I am going to go through each of these areas in a lot of detail over the coming month or two, explaining techniques and tips on how to make them more effective and work harder for you. All the info will be easy to follow and more importantly it will work, or even more importantly it will be free!

One thing I do want you to take away and think about though is this;

“Don’t think about building links, think about building pages”

Remember better pages equal better links, how are you going to make the pages linking to your website more effective?

We’ll spend a full post on this at a later date.