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Paul – FS Concierge
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Just out of interest, I remember researching my competitors before building out my site in 2013 and from memory, the top 3 or 4 in the SERPs for my most valuable keywords are no longer on the first page.

I am not proposing a view either way – just an observation that a common SEO tactic is to aim to reproduce backlinks of competitors.

Having said all of that, I have owned and operated websites in tough for SERPs USA markets (Sales Job Boards) where I ranked one to three for years off the back of relevant links to authority tld’s such as .edu sites and being featured on prominent media sites.