martinibuster - 8:30 am on Mar 3, 2010 (gmt 0)
As I mentioned previously, competitor backlinks are part of the link graph profile of your competitor. Acquiring them, in my opinion, only makes your site a subset of your competitors link graph which establishes your competitor's relevance. In my opinion, this is a poor strategy, particularly when your competitor is established.
I have found from experience, in order to jump to the #1 ranking and topple a giant multimillion dollar website, that acquiring my own set of inbound links that are relevant (my own link clique) works best for beating the larger more established website.
Another shortcoming of this strategy is that in many competitive niches most of the top ten are using similar link building techniques, meaning they are using each other as the template and succeeding by being more extreme. I have jumped to the top position by inventing my own strategy, one none of them had thought of, and not only ranking for intended long tail phrases but also captured the shorter tail phrases as well.
These days, I never use backlink analysis to create a strategy. Once you copy, you are in the box, not outside of it. I mainly use backlink analysis to judge whether the link I want to acquire is worthy of pursuing or not.
Here is something I wrote in an interview on SearchEngineLand [searchengineland.com] that is relevant to this discussion about backlink analysis:
The search engines are analyzing link graphs to determine the relevance of a site to a particular query, and part of that analysis is to throw out sets of sites that raise certain flags. This process is generally referred to as earning trust, but Iíve been coming around to seeing it more as part of the process of identifying what niche bucket a site belongs in, with the spam bucket being one of several. Imagine these buckets as clouds of sites that are relevant for particular topics. Now here is the question that webmasters arenít considering. Is it possible to rank a site according to the relevancy cloud that a site belongs in? If itís possible to extract meaning from the clouds of ďmeaningĒ a site belongs to, then itís possible that a relevant site with low to zero PR regains importance as part of a link building project. This is something I refer to as determining the link clique.
Aaron Wall offers a thought provoking response in that article where he focuses on backlink analysis of competitors as a way to analyze the competitor's strategy for weaknesses and discern if there is an entry point, that is, a marketing weakness that can be bested with a different strategy.
Mostly I do it at the beginning of entering new marketsÖand mainly when trying to decide an entry point to the market. If you try to compete head on with limited resources that makes winning harder, but if you find an area where the competition is weak or you have a strong competitive advantage you give yourself a much better chance to succeed. Most of the backlink analysis I do is just an overview look at the market using SEO for Firefox.