Link Loopy, Part 3: Finding the Opportunity Gap

Ian Lurie

This is part 3 of my 5-part series on link building. Yesterday, we talked about competitive link research. If you used any of the tools I listed then you now have a huge list of links from at least one of your competitors.
Today, we’ll take those tools, grab more links, then figure out which links you don’t yet have.

1. Using Linkscape for link research

I’m definitely partial to SEOMOZ’s Linkscape as my primary research tool. So we’ll use that for this example. Note, though, that you can use Yahoo! Site Explorer or any other tools that can tell you whose linking to your competitors. You can read yesterday’s post to find out why I like Linkscape so much.
I’ll start as if you haven’t done any research yet.
First, grab the competitor’s links:

  1. In Linkscape, type in the web address of a competitor’s site (those buggers at SEOMOZ are always stealing my thunder):linkscape-step1.gif
  2. Run the basic report.
  3. Then click ‘run advanced report’.
  4. Go grab a Kit-Kat while Linkscape goes through several hundred million links for you.
  5. Once it’s done, click the ‘Links to URL’ tab. That’ll give you links just to the home page, which I find saves my sanity when I’m scraping through thousands of links.
  6. Set every field to ‘hide’ for now. You can get fancy later.
  7. Click ‘Download CSV’. Save the file to your desktop.

You can repeat this for other competitors if you want. I find one list of links is enough to drive me batty, but if you’re a glutton for punishment, go for it.
Next, repeat the process for your own site.
Now you have at least two lists of links, along with MozRank and other data. The data’s a good indicator of link value, but I find one way or another I end up going after every link. So for now, don’t worry about anything except the links themselves. We’ll worry about the MozRank stuff in Part 4 of this series.

2. Choose: Domain or page?

Now you have a choice: You can grab the links on a page-by-page basis, or domain-by-domain.
Glutton for Punishment option: Page-by-page is more difficult because it means you’ll get a list of every individual link that points at the competing site, including multiple links from each web site. That’s a lot of links. But it gives you the most complete list. If you’re going to do that, copy the entire ‘URL’ column and paste it into another Excel worksheet.
Lazybones Option: If you’re a lazybones like me, cut-and-paste the ‘root domain’ column into another Excel worksheet.
Regardless, name the tab in that worksheet ‘competitors’ or something else easy to remember.
Then do the same thing for your own site. Paste your list into the file that has the ‘competitors’ tab, but use a different tab. Name that tab ‘mysite’ or something easy to remember.
You now have a single worksheet with 2 tabs named ‘competitors’ and ‘mysite’.

Don’t worry, you can download my sample worksheet here. No strings attached, just remember me at Christmas.

3. Remove the duplicates

If you went with the lazybones option in 2, above, you’ll need to remove duplicates. To do that using Excel:

  1. Open the competitor’s list of domains.
  2. Sort by domain.
  3. Select Filter >> Advanced Filter >> Unique Records Only

Voila – you now have a list of unique domains that provide links to your competitor. Do the same thing for your own link list, too.

4. Mind the gap

The opportunity gap consists of all the links that your competitor has but you don’t. Somewhere in those links are the ones responsible for them kicking your fanny all over the rankings.
So, you need to create a list that shows those links that your competitor has but you don’t.

  1. Open the worksheet that has the competitor and mysite tabs.
  2. In the competitor tab, add the ‘match’ function to the column to the right of the URLs. Use the exact format I’ve got here: match-excel.gif.
    Be sure to use the $ format for the comparison range.
  3. Copy the formula down for the entire list.
  4. Any URL with an ‘N/A’ next to it is one that your competitor has, but you don’t. Cut-and-paste all of those into the ‘gap’ tab.


I know, I know. Excel – why are you doing this to me?! But once you get the hang of using ‘match’ it gets easier. You can download my sample spreadsheet here, if you want to get a head start.

5. Now get to work

Now it’s time to go get those links. Read Part 4, tomorrow.

The Link Building Series

Part 1: Why Link Building Sucks
Part 2: 3 Competitive Link Research Tools
Part 3: Finding the Opportunity Gap
Part 4: Get those links
Part 5: Out-execute the competition

SEO Copywriting eBook
Ian Lurie
CEO & Founder

Ian Lurie is CEO and founder of Portent and the EVP of Marketing Services at Clearlink. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (25 years, if you're counting). He's recorded training for, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Follow him on Twitter at portentint, and on LinkedIn at

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  1. I’ve used LinkDiagnosis quite a few times and it’s VERY good at providing detailed backlink info. Make sure you’re using Firefox with it though.

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