The importance of inbound links to help a page rank for a phrase in the search engines has been well established and it does not have to be explained to most business people. How many links do you need to jump competitors a few spots in Google? Actually that is not too difficult for an experienced internet marketing consultant to figure out. Assuming that the SEO has already been working on the site, then any on page work will already have been done and any technical problems will have been sorted out.
The it is simply a matter of analysing the quality if the links coming into the competitors page and how many of those links contain the phrase in the anchor text of the link. Up until recently SEOs have had a wonderful free tool to help them do this in the shape of the Yahoo site explorer. However, as Bing and Yahoo have merged their advertising operations, Yahoo no longer provides the explorer tool and Bing now only shows you information about your own site and not about your competition. Hence the bigger SEO operations have an advantage as they have paid tools that can give them the information.
So what can smaller internet marketing businesses do? Well there are a number of alternatives:
SEO Moz has the open site explorer tool. This is a very effective tool but it has limitations if you do not subscribe and pay a monthly fee. You are only allowed 10 searches per day to any IP and any serious IM will soon run out. There are also limits on the information that they give about each link.
You can also go to link diagnosis for the same information. For best results you need to download their Firefox addon before you start any research. The tool is slower to use than the open site explorer, but it returns a comprehensive report with enough information for a full analysis. There may be limits on the amount of times you can use the tool per day, but I have not come across any yet and I have used it 20+ times.
Another powerful alternative is ahrefs. Again there is a free version, but there is a daily limit on use which is too limiting for an IM professional. If you like this tool your best option is to subscribe to the service and pay the monthly fee.
The best option of all would be for Yahoo to reinstate the site explorer service, but it is hard to see what incentive they have to keep offering something which does not generate any revenue. In fact all it does is help SEOs who are trying to rank on their competitors site. Meanwhile these are some useful tools to keep smaller search engine professionals in operation until they can upgrade to payed services.