I’m going to be upfront with you and tell you the hardest part of this: some of your competitors are probably doing one or more of the tactics I said you shouldn’t use and getting away with it. It happens all the time and it’s frustrating as all hell, but you still have to resist the urge to jump over to the dark side.
This is one of the most common things we hear at SEO agencies when a site owner comes to us with a penalized site. The site owner starts learning a little bit about SEO. They see that their competitors are buying links, or doing article marketing, or guest blogging everywhere. And that competitor is outranking them on the weight of those naughty links.
So the site owner figures that’s what they have to do to compete and they start dabbling. They buy a few links, and guess what? It works! Their rankings go up, so they do more and more. Eventually of course they get penalized, lose all the traffic they gained plus all the traffic that they had to start with, and go running to a SEO agency for help. And sometimes — not always, but sometimes — their competitors are still ranking great despite doing the same things.
You have to prepare yourself for this, and you have to resist the urge to cheat yourself. Unless you have the kind of business where you can just throw away your site when it’s penalized (there are in fact businesses built on this) it’s not worth the risk.
If your competitor is playing dirty, you still have to follow the rules — you just have to be smarter than they are.
And I can tell you from experience that it feels great to outrank someone despite their cheating ways. And it feels even better when, a few months or years down the road, Google finally catches up with them and they get penalized into oblivion while you continue to rank.