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Three days ago we wrote about Bing’s new Webmaster Tools. One of the most important features of the new tools is the Link Explorer. Not only can this kind of tool be useful for scoping out your own links to ferret out the good from the bad, but you can also use the tool for competitive research.

What you want to do is pick a handful of your most fierce competitors. These are the companies online that are in the same business niche you are in and that are seeking out the same customers. Visit each of their websites and analyze them. Then, go to Bing Webmaster Tools and enter their URLs.

What you are looking for is links. Link you don’t have and links that are from valuable authoritative websites both within and outside of your niche. Don’t just focus on the links that are coming from sites within your niche. All links can provide value if you do them right. Find good, quality links and make a spreadsheet.

Next, you’ll want to visit of the link partners of your competition and request a link from them. But don’t just send an e-mail requesting a link. Do a little research first. Find out or imagine why that website’s owner decided to link to your competition. What do they have that you don’t have? Or better yet, what benefit do the readers of the linking website receive from that link? Try to think in terms of benefit to the webmaster or the website’s readers. Then present an offer that is attractive to them by telling them why they should link to your website.

That’s how you can use links for competitive research.

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