26 Sep 2012

Copying My Competitor’s Links = Avoiding Banned Tactics? (Weekly Q&A)

There’s an interesting discussion over at SEOchat Forums: Will I avoid spammy links by copying competitor’s link profile (which seems to work)?

Copy competitor's links

There’s some logic in that:

  • If my competitor’s rankings are good, his links must be working;
  • If my competitor’s rankings are stable, his links must be good and safe.



While competitor research is an essential step in researching your niche and getting inspired, boldly copying your competitors’ link is NOT a good idea.

Here are some points against that statement:

  1. You never know which of those links really worked and which can be spammy: Chances are you’ll copy the easiest ones first (which are most likely to be the weaker ones), so you’ll spam your link profile from the very start;
  2. Your more established competitor must have a good reputation (trust) with Google, so he can get away with some percentage of spammy links. Newer sites don’t have that prerogative.
  3. Last but not the least:

if you copy what a competitor is doing… the best thing you can do is tie. To better your competition…. your strategy and its implementation must be better than your competitor

What are your thoughts?


  1. Karl September 26, 2012 at 8:53 AM

    Copy your competitors high quality links when you can. Never copy the spammy ones, it may come back to haunt you later. But only have it as a small part of your overall link building strategy.

  2. Tedel September 26, 2012 at 9:58 AM

    I think you made a mistake here. Copying the best links of my competitors has never harmed me, the very opposite.

  3. Rafael Montilla September 26, 2012 at 4:45 PM

    You never know which of those links really worked and which can be spammy

    1. Karl September 27, 2012 at 4:35 AM

      I think a good rule of thumb is to think to yourself “if a google engineer saw this link…what would s/he think?”

    2. Ann Smarty September 28, 2012 at 3:00 PM

      Yes, but the bad part is that we are not Google engineers 🙂

  4. ed dawson September 27, 2012 at 1:36 AM

    Hi Ann,

    Completely agree with you on point 1 of starting with the easy links and chances of harming the link profile, but what startles me is point 2. How do you or Google in the large sense justify that if its a ‘trusted website’, it can get away with spam links.

    I mean spam links are spam and with the recent algo changes, shouldn’t Google be discounting all of them applying penalties?

    Or is it a case where If I am big enough, I can get away with anything? This is really a bad example and will hurt small businesses the most.

    Have you any idea on why Google does this? an official word may be? Will appreciate your comments on this, because I have read some posts on Aaron Wall’s seobook over Google’s bias with big brands and would like to know that the ‘trusted website’ you mention relate to big brands.


    1. Ann Smarty September 28, 2012 at 3:02 PM

      Please read the linked thread: it discusses how black-hatters were trying to push SEOmoz down by negative SEO with thousands of spammy links and it never worked – that must be the “trust” factor

  5. Cory Howell September 28, 2012 at 3:25 PM

    This pretty much sums it up “if you copy what a competitor is doing… the best thing you can do is tie. To better your competition…. your strategy and its implementation must be better than your competitor”

    In reality, it will level the playing field, but it’s really the “additional” links you add that will make your site stand apart.

  6. Cristian October 19, 2012 at 11:48 PM

    Copying some backlins with a good research before doing it may help you at start as , let’s say a boost but i think you’re pretty much right about the tie part :))

  7. Albert Lu November 13, 2012 at 1:51 AM

    I think this strategy of copying our competitors is more applicable if our competitors’ websites are Google page-ranked to be much higher than ours and we have a need to built more quality backlinks. Of course we should not copy backlinks blindly because, you are right, some links maybe spammy. I would do a Google page-rank check first before I adopt any backlink. If the Google page-rank of a particular website is high, surely it cannot be spammy at the same time. Once we are on par with our major competitors in terms of page-rank, I agree that we will have to develop new strategies to be ahead of our competitors. In the meantime, why reinvent the wheel when it is already there for you to use?

  8. Max January 2, 2013 at 2:23 PM

    I 100% agree with you on the last one!

  9. Josh January 23, 2013 at 7:19 PM

    Any real tips on getting some of the better back links ive been beating my head against the wall for days.

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