Thinking of copying your competitors links? Big Mistake

We did a report for a new client this week, the new client’s website having recently received some kind of the Google penalty.  For years they had been at or near the top in their niche, their strategy had been “figure out what everyone else is doing and then try and do more of it”.  Sounds like a plan right?

Sure it does and it’s a plan that we agree with. The problem is it’s not as easy as you’d think to work out what the opposition is doing and it’s even harder to work out

  1. Which things they are doing other ones are helping them.
  2. Which things they are doing are dangerous but because of other mitigating factors are not harming them – yet.
  3. What things they appear to be doing that they aren’t fact doing.

In this case we went  over the client’s website with a fine tooth comb and found a lot of areas we could improve upon in terms of design, site speed, technology and content… gut their main problem was a bunch of junk links. After going through the back links I could find barely any value and from the sudden drop in rankings they had experienced recently… figured they likely had received a slap from Google for these bad links.

This news was not greeted with enthusiasm by the client who protested all they had done was copy back links of the top 10 sites in their niche and where possible get every link that those sites had. If links are good then surely more links are better yes?

Well. No. It just doesn’t work like that. Why not?

  1. If your links don’t appear to be genuinely given then Google won’t trust them. At best Google will ignore them but you are also risking a Google Penguin or even a Google manual links penalty by copying all the links of all your competitors.  Getting the same links as your competitors…. doesn’t seem so genuine.
  2. It’s very likely Google has a threshold for certain types of links. Got a few bad links? No problem. It’s almost impossible for a website to have no bad links as no website owner controls the Internet.  But if you copy all the bad links all your competitors? Then it’s probably threshold crossing time.
  3. Your competitors back link profile might in fact not be accurate and there’s no way for you to tell.  A competing site may well have got a bad links warning or penalty from Google and as a result have placed a disavowal request for all of their bad links with Google. Google may then have forgiven them and be disregarding those back links. There is no way for the casual observer to see this and a site doing well as result of these bad links now being ignored by Google… might appear to be doing well BECAUSE of the bad links.

So think twice before jumping in and just try to copy the SEO strategies of your competitors.

Especially when it comes to links building.

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