SEO Question: A top ranked competitor of mine has a few good links, and many low quality links. I don't think they should be ranking, but they are. Should I duplicate what they are doing?
SEO Answer: As an SEO I think you can learn more from seeing top ranked results that should not be ranking where they are than from sites you expect to rank, but far too many people desire to emulate those rankings without building the necessary criteria to rank.
Sure it makes sense to look at high ranking sites which shouldn't be ranking, and try to get some of their best links, but it is probably not worth replicating everything they are doing (including all of their reciprocal links and low quality links). You can't replicate their age with a new site (and there may be other criteria that you do not see and thus can not replicate), if your link profiles are too well aligned their site will probably get filtered out of the search results, and if their rankings are not stable you have little to gain by replicating what they are doing.
A friend of mine tried to get me to do a $750 per month ad buy on a ghetto top ranked site. I said no to them. The next month the ghetto site dropped off in the search results and our ranking is already higher than theirs (on a similar spend) by going after higher quality links.
It is far more valuable to notice the trends as to where the algorithms are headed and push in that direction. Find the sites that are ranked which should be, and where possible, try to make your site profile align with those sites.
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