Walkthrough – The basics for finding link building opportunities in Ahrefs

Nov 26th, 2018

Ahrefs Site Explorer is a subscription-based search engine optimisation tool used for monitoring and analysing backlinks, and page metrics. We use Ahrefs alongside other tools to analyse backlink profiles, anchors, link quality and content metrics. It is widely known as an industry leading tool for its ability to export large amounts of information about a website’s backlink profile, including newly discovered or recently lost backlinks

Here’s how to analyse your competitors’ performance to uncover actionable insights and opportunities to enable you to create more relevant content and build backlinks more efficiently.

Getting started

Log in to https://ahrefs.com/site-explorer

Type in the URL or domain that you want to analyse. This gives you a top level view of the website.

The example we’ll use here is bbc.co.uk

Let’s look at the tabs for

  • Backlinks
  • Referring domains

The main – ‘live’ index shows all the links that were live when Ahrefs last crawled the site

Below the main metrics there are two other figures:

  • Recent and referring domains
  • Historical backlinks and referring domains

ahrefs - backlinks and referring domains

From the dropdown menu you can explore these in more detail.


This index contains all live links plus lost backlinks that were removed within the last 90 days. This can be because the website had temporary downtime when Ahrefs last crawled it or because no longer exists at all.

ahrefs recent links


This contains the history of all links, whether dead or alive. The graphs are interactive and show you the dynamics of link acquisition over time for referring domains and referring pages.

You can also filter by time period: all-time, the last year, or the last 30 days.

These graphs are most useful when you compare another website side-by-side as it reveals which website is more effective at earning backlinks.

New and lost referring domains and backlinks

These graphs show you a non-cumulative view of a website’s or a URL’s backlink growth. They allow you to quickly scan for spikes that will help you identify new link-worthy pages that your competitors are creating, and help you to reverse engineer link building strategies or campaigns that were implemented over a specific period of time.

ahrefs - new and lost backlinks


Backlinks report

This shows you backlinks pointing to your chosen competitor’s website or webpage, including the following columns:

  • Referring page: Shows the total number of unique pages linking to a target website or URL.
  • Anchor text and backlink: Shows the anchor text of the backlink (along with a snippet of the text that surrounds it) and the URL where the backlink points to.
  • Traffic: The estimated amount of monthly organic search traffic coming to the referring page.
  • First seen: The date Ahrefs’ crawler first found a backlink to the target website or URL on a given referring domain.

ahrefs - backlinks view

Find replicable backlink opportunities

Identify what you want to achieve:

  • Find link-worthy topics on which to create new content.
  • Find out where competitors’ links are coming from.

Discover popular content by backlink volume

For this you need to find competitor pages that have a lot of backlinks and/or traffic (you always want to research backlinks to a competitor’s individual pages, rather than the site as a whole).

You can use this information to identify what’s working for competitors to inform your future content creation strategy in terms of the breath of information covered, as well as the type of content that is popular in terms of attracting backlinks.

Say you had an online meal-kit delivery service and considered hellofresh.co.uk a competitor. One of the first things you’d want to do would be to find out which pages are attracting the most links, then look at the content on them.

Which of your competitors’ pages are generating the most backlinks?

For this, go to Pages>Best by links. Then, to make sure the pages you’re looking at are working properly, filter by HTTP code 200 in the top dropdown lists:

ahrefs - best pages by link

I then filter to see find the page with the most ‘dofollow’ links (ie, the ones that are passing link equity).

As you can see, the homepage has by far the most backlinks. This is common to find, but not really relevant to this task as the homepage will contain content very specific to that website and nothing that we can really learn from or replicate.

The next most linked-to is a flavour-generator hosted on Hello Fresh’s blog. This shows us that interactive content has been successful at attracting links.

Filtering links by content type

Say you’re specifically looking for blog post topics – we can filter down to blog content only by typing blog.hellofresh into the prefix mode at the top of the page:

ahrefs - blog prefix

What does this mean for your own content strategy?

Look at popular content topics. Unsurprisingly, for a food-based site, six of the top Hello Fresh pages with followed links are recipes and specifically, those relating to particular seasonal themes, such as Christmas, Easter and Valentine’s Day.

  • Could you create content clustered around specific topics (hub-and spoke copy)?
  • Can you create content that covers the same topics, but ‘outperform ‘by adding more value, eg, are there subtopics that the competitor pages touch upon that you could expand upon?

What you find may suggest that you don’t even need to create brand new content, but improve existing content and/or tweak how it’s positioned.

  • Could you combine popular topics with successful formats to create content that relevant sites would want to link to? For example, recipes with recipes a hot topic, an interactive step-by-step recipe post could be an, idea to consider.

Discover linking domains to target

The idea here is to try to replicate a competitors’ linking strategy by examining referring domains and backlinks.

For this you need to look at the sites that link to your competitors’ content to pinpoint who you should be targeting as potential backlink sources (yes, this is a bit sneaky, but can be very effective).

Referring domains report

This gives you a table of all of the unique linking websites to a target domain. If the site has a lot of referring domains, manually reviewing it will be an arduous task, but you can use some of the filters in this report to narrow down the results.

If you set the link type filter to ‘dofollow’, you can find only the domains that are passing link equity. All of these columns are sortable. If you sort by the number of dofollow links in descending order for HelloFresh.co.uk, you’ll notice that the sites with the highest number of domain linking back are national press, such as theguardian.co.uk, wsj.com and telegraph.co.uk. This gives you some direction as to where to focus your link prospecting efforts.

Backlinks report

If we go back to the backlinks report, this allows you to see all of your competitors’ backlinks. This report might look overwhelming, but you can help to filter out non-English and nofollowed links, and also to the platform (in this case, blogs). In this case I’ve selected ‘group similar links’ to cut down on the number of results from other regional Hello Fresh sites, such as hellofresh.com and hellofresh.co.au.

This gives us a more manageable and better quality of backlinks to investigate and target:

ahrefs - backlinks fltered

How do you approach these backlinks to convince them to link back to your content? This is a topic we’ll approach in more depth in an upcoming blog post.

Fancy a free, bespoke SEO audit? 

Amongst many other things, this will include a review of your backlinks, referring domains and anchor text distribution, as well as a review of up to four of your main competitors’ websites. Pick up the phone and call 0845 205 0292, or visit our free analysis page.

Facebook Twitter Instagram Linkedin Youtube