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Copycat Technique - A Proven Link Building Strategy

Updated: Aug 23, 2022

Copycat Technique is the art of mimicking your competition’s backlinking strategy.

It is a proactive approach that involves using Internet research tools to identify potential linking partners and then reaching out to them as part of a link-building campaign.

In this article, we'll cover:

  • How to use Copycat Technique to improve your backlink profile

  • How to use Copycat Technique to design winning content

  • The basics of manual outreach

Table of Contents



I coined the term “Copycat Technique” during an expert round-up I organized in which I asked over 100 SEO experts to reveal their preferred tactics for earning quality backlinks.

The round-up results were incredible.

In total, our experts recommended over 45 different tactics and tools for building high-quality backlinks, and I came away from the experience with so much knowledge that I didn’t have before.

The five most popular techniques among our panel of experts were:

  1. Create Pillar Content (Read the article to learn more about “Pillar” content)

  2. Write guest posts on other sites

  3. Conduct manual outreach

  4. Answer media inquiries

  5. Sign-up with local directories and resource sites

But the 6th most popular answer was a little harder to put in one sentence.

One participant tried to summarize his favorite technique by saying, “Reverse-engineer your competition’s link-building strategy,” but such a phrase raises more questions than it answers.

First and foremost: How?

What tools and resources does that entail? What skills are required? Most importantly: what is the procedure?

I came up with a basic strategy, and then I went about finding the best tools and resources to complete every step in the process.

I decided to name this strategy Copycat Technique.

The logic behind Copycat Technique is simple: By matching your biggest competitor’s linking profile, you can potentially catch up to them in search results placements.

The best part is that executing Copycat Technique is easier than you might think.

Copycat Technique consists of three straightforward steps:

#1. Research – The Foundation of Copycat Technique

Copycat Technique relies heavily on a suite of free Internet research tools that will reveal who is already linking to your biggest competitor.

SEMRush hosts most of these tools.

SEMRush has the top ten-most active web crawler globally, which means they have one of the largest backlink databases on Earth.

Their database contains over 27 Trillion known links between 170 million unique domains, and their bot indexes just under 7 billion pages every day.

SEMRush is are considered by many to be the foremost experts on backlink analysis.

They also maintain several free research tools that are critically important to executing Copycat Technique effectively.

These tools will not only show you who is already linking to your competitors, but they will also help you quantify the potential “link juice” that each of those prospects stands to contribute.

By understanding the relative authority of those linking partners, you can prioritize the most valuable link-building opportunities.

Backlink Checker

Enter your competitor’s domain into the SEMRush Backlink Checker.

The search results page will reveal their Authority Score, the number of backlinks they have, and the number of domains that host those backlinks.

It will also show a list of pages that refer to the target domain.

That list contains the titles and URLs of the pages and the Authority Score, URL Rating, Number of Referring Domains, and Traffic Score for each of those pages.

The Authority Score, is an SEMRush metric that speaks to your perceived authority within your niche by assessing the relative authority of the pages that link to you.

Authority Scores are numerical scores between 0 and 100, with higher numbers indicating more substantial influence.

Factors that play a role in determining your Authority Score are the number of backlinks you have, the number of domains that link to you, whether or not the links are ‘follow’ or ‘no-follow,’ and most importantly: the Authority Scores of the sites that host your inbound links.

As you review your competitor’s linking partners, take note of any with a Authority Score above 50.

In step #3, we will prioritize those sites in our outreach campaign.

Read through the list to get a general idea of the type of organizations linking to your competitor.

Are they universities? Perhaps they are news organizations? Or maybe they are smaller blogs?

They could (and likely will be) a combination of all three.

If they are universities, look for the name of a professor or department head somewhere on the page.

If they are news organizations, look for the name of the journalist who wrote the article. In the case of smaller blogs, what is the email address of the blogger?

If you can’t find someone’s contact information, try searching for it on is a tremendous resource for tracking down professional email addresses.

You can also check the WHOIS database for free at

The WHOIS database is a widely used query response protocol that reveals the registered users or assignees of an Internet resource, such as a domain name.

Unless the owner of a particular domain has opted to remain anonymous, the WHOIS database should contain the names and contact information of anyone responsible for maintaining that specific domain.

#2. Modeling – The Hardest Part of Copycat Technique

To execute Copycat Technique properly, you must model your competition’s most popular content.

Keep in mind that modeling does not mean plagiarizing.

Modeling means developing your own unique content in the same style as other high-performing content.

A good strategy for modeling popular content is to find a popular blog post or article and then consider what other questions the intended audience may have?

Here are some examples:

If you have a health & fitness blog and your main competitor has had success with an article titled: “101 Ways to Lose Weight,” you should create a similar article with a title like “Best 101 Ways to Slim Down.”

It's also a good idea to optimize your content around less-competitive keywords; like "Slim Down" instead of "Lose Weight."

There may be some crossover between the content, but the result should be novel and unique to your own experience.

Be sure to incorporate some ideas that your competitor didn’t include as well.

Suppose you run a review site for handheld electronic gadgets, and your competitor has had success by making unboxing and tutorial videos.

In that case, you should review other products in the same way – with unique unboxing and tutorial videos that showcase your original style.

Again, we’re not copying the content; we’re mirroring the format.

Perhaps your competitor is known for their infographics? You should make a point to publish your own unique infographics around related topics.

Whatever your competition is doing, you should do it too.

Creating better content is always best, but that might not always be practical.

Creating different content is often the more realistic approach and will still be enough to earn quality backlinks.

Again, remember to target less competitive keywords that your competition may have missed.

SEMRush has a free tool that identifies gaps in your competitors keyword strategy called Keyword Magic Tool.

Google Autocomplete

By letting the Google algorithm complete your search query automatically, you can see what types of questions actually compel people to search for answers.

The autocomplete function is a quick and easy way to plan your content around relevant search topics.

It works like this:

Go to and type an incomplete question into the search field. For example:

  • How to learn

  • How to stop

  • How to make money by

Make sure you hit the space bar at the end of the query but don’t press Enter.

Take note of how Google tries to complete your sentence for you and note those suggestions.

These are your new blog post titles.

Write content that answers these questions efficiently.

Keyword Difficulty Checker

SEMRush offers a free tool called Keyword Magic Tool that helps you understand how hard it will be to rank for a particular word.

Unlike Google’s ‘Competition’ tool, which only looks at paid search results, Ahrefs’ Keyword Difficulty Checker gives insight into organic search results.

The calculate the difficulty of ranking for a particular keyword, Ahrefs analyzes the search results for a specific keyword and assesses how many referring domains the top 10 ranking pages have.

The more referring domains among the top ranking pages, the more difficult it is to rank for that particular keyword.

Ahrefs measures keyword difficulty on a scale of 0 to 100, just like Domain ratings.

#3. Outreach – The Final Phase of Copycat Technique

It’s time to reach out to the authors, bloggers, and web admins that we uncovered during Step #1.

These are the people who created the backlinks to your competitor’s page, and they’re in a position to do the same for you.

Begin by writing them a personalized email.

Introduce yourself, explain why you’re contacting them, and include some links to your best content.

The constant challenge of creating more content is something that content creators deal with regularly, so they’re likely to respond favorably to anyone who has the potential to make their job easier by handing them fresh material.

Here’s an example of a cold-outreach email:

Hello Jim,

My name is Sam, and I am the owner of High Fashion, a style blog that focuses on menswear.

I noticed that you had referenced my competitor GQ Magazine in an article you wrote about the most trendy hats to wear to a nightclub.

We recently published a similar article about the most stylish watches to wear in the workplace.

I wondered if you might consider including a link to that article in one of your future posts?

Here’s a link to the article: “Top 10 Most Stylish Watches to Wear in the Workplace.”

I’d also be happy to provide a comment or two if you would like.

Thank you so much for your time and your consideration!

Sam Johnson.

Notice that I make specific reference to the article that mentions my competitor.

By making this reference, I am delicately signaling the recipient that I have taken the time to read their content.

When you receive hundreds of generic emails every day, personalized emails stand out.

Be sure to include a link to your content too.

It may seem obvious, but it can be an easy thing to forget when you’re focused on sounding professional.

I also always let them know that I’m available to be interviewed or answer any additional questions they may have, and I close by showing appreciation and gratitude before signing my name.

I’ll typically send a follow-up email if I don’t hear back from them within a week.

In addition, there are also professional marketing agencies that specialize in backlinks, like Fat Joe, that provide blogger outreach, link placement, and article writing services.


Copycat Technique is a reliable and effective strategy for building quality backlinks.

The more quality backlinks you have, the better your ability to rank for keywords.

The better your ability to rank for keywords, the more traffic you get.

More traffic might mean more sales, or higher ad revenues, or more subscribers.

All good things.

Remember that Copycat Technique is just one technique you can employ as part of your larger link-building strategy.

It’s vital that your on-page SEO is solid, or it will dramatically impact your ability to rank for keywords and make your content seem less relevant.

Other techniques like Broken Link Building and Skyscraper Technique may also yield positive results.

When it comes to building quality backlinks, I have one simple rule: Do what works.

If a technique yields quality backlinks, then it must be a good thing to do.