A competitor of us have been smart and taken all ? words used in singel query and bought this as their URL with local country ending. But I guess there is a limit for such smartness regards number of URLs. It seem like all URL (layout) are similar to each other, but with small changes regards text and pictures.
Is there anyone that know how many different URL our competitor can buy before they reach a "limit" in Google ?
The domain name really does not help that much. If you have one domain and build up a good link profile you will rank for all those terms. He is trying to get links to a bunch of sites you only have to get them for one. Buying up a bunch of domains so you can rank for different keywords is a waste of time you can do it better with one domain with good content and good link building. What he is doing is a sign that he is not a very good SEO. That is an amateur move. Should not be hard to beat.
I have not been very good when it comes to link building, but I think you are right. We are # 2-6 for most of the important keywords (our competitor is #1) and 99% of the link building is natural (maybe I added 1 link my self last year). A LITLE more aggressive link building might be all that is needed. As you say they need to build links to all their domains, while my single domain will be much easier to promote for such links.