There are a lot of resources out there surrounding competitive link analysis (and a lot that have been written by me!) but whenever I speak with people that are working on SEO projects, it's always one of those "yeah, I know I should do it more" tasks.
This is the first thing that I'll do whenever I'm mapping out a new campaign, regardless of the size of the project. I've done this within campaigns for local businesses and blue chip companies alike - it works just as well for both.
That's why you should be doing it too!
What Does It Involve?
Compiling a short list of competitors within your industry.
Looking at the websites and specific webpages that are linking to them.
Finding opportunities where you can get similar links.
It's a simple process and it doesn't always take that long, especially once you've done it a few times.
From using simple competitive research techniques I've found tons of link opportunities, including those on top-tier publications. More than anything, the real value comes in the fact that the link opportunities are always hyper-relevant to your business.
How It's Done
The first step is to use a link analysis tool like Ahrefs, Majestic or Open Site Explorer to get a list of the backlinks for one of your competitors.
In the above example I'm checking out the backlinks from the awesome Brian Dean's website, which my blog often competes with in the SERPs.
Just by scrolling through the webpages that are linking to him I can see a ton of sites where he's written guest posts. These would be my first starting points - if Brian is writing for them then there's a high likelihood that they'd be interested in having me write for them too, seeing as we cover largely the same topics.
Next up is a Huffington Post link. I'd love a link from the Huffington Post, so I could go through to the article and find out who wrote it. In this example it's Elena Prokopets. Maybe reaching out to her on Twitter would help me start building a relationship so that I could share some of my content with her?
A few links down and I've noticed that Brian has a link from WordPress.org. Not bad! Turns out that his content has been referenced within one of WordPress's codex posts. If I were to reach out and offer some additional insight, citing one of my articles, there's a chance I could bag a similar link, especially considering they have a 'Useful Resources' section.
These are just a couple of examples of things you can find and then instantly act upon. My advice is to run competitor research on a weekly or monthly basis to find any new opportunities that you can take advantage of whilst the iron is still hot.