5 Reasons Why Copying Links is Bad for You

When you start out in link building, almost everyone recommends to check out your competitors. And I agree: it is very important to know who you're dealing with in the SERPs.
Many people additionally recommend to "get" all those links your competitors have built so far. However, this can be a potentially dangerous and rather inefficient approach to link building. Let me tell you why.
1. You will never truly lead the rankings
It sure does sound promising and logical. Just copy all the links that can be copied of, say, the top 20 ranking websites for your target keywords. Depending on your niche, this may or may not be a ridiculous amount of work, but it can be done if necessary.
However, this has one implication: even if this works out great and you reach the top (e.g. rank #1), you will never become an actual leader. Your ranking will probably stick for a while, but if just one of those 20 competitors is actively building links on a daily basis, he passes you in no time.
Now if you approach the issue more thoroughly, you can try to copy all new links as soon as they appear in your favorite link research tool as well. This still has a serious problem to it, though: it's not natural.
2. It's unnatural and may get you penalized
Google watches link growth and link building velocities very closely. If all of a sudden, you start "obtaining" a healthy chunk of your competitors' links (which they probably acquired over a couple of years), your site is likely to be checked by one of Google's quality raters.
This can trigger severe penalties, rendering all of your work useless. If you're really unlucky, Google may even trust all of your links less, effectively devaluing even the links you've had before.
3. You risk being reported
SEOs really don't like to see their hard work copied. But it happens all the time nonetheless.
However, some competitors might take this very seriously and report you to Google - and you may be in for a penalty and link devaluation once again.
4. You depend on link research tools
I bet if there was no Yahoo! Site Explorer (and similar services), 90% of all link-building SEOs would be out of work. Way too many SEOs actually depend on other peoples' link building strategies.
5. You're not seeing all the links there are
All available tools can only return a limited set of link data. Some do a better job than others, but no tool can show you all the links that Google has actually taken into consideration to build their rankings.
Savvy competitors hide their own link networks anyway.
But I need those links!
I know you do. But if you're really dependent on copying other peoples' links (which you shouldn't be!), at least do it the smart way.
This means absolutely not getting a link on the very same page on a target domain unless it's highly relevant.
Also, slow and steady wins the race. Don't pull one allnighter after another acquiring all those precious links at once. Set limits! Depending on your niche this may be one link a week or ten links a day. This also greatly depends on your existing link profile.
If you're just starting out, get your first links elsewhere anyway!
But most importantly, and this is my advice to you, instead of being a copycat, try to learn, understand, adapt and apply. Find new link sources, discover new link opportunities, broaden your horizon. If you do, the sky is the limit.