You’ve probably heard of link building, but today, I’ll talk about ethical link building: what it is, how to build an ethical link building campaign, and some ethical link building tactics to start with.
You should know by now that link building is a crucial part of off-page search engine optimization (SEO) and getting traffic to your blog.
But do you have any idea what ethical link building is?
In today’s article, I’ll describe what ethical link building is, how to plan a campaign, and some tactics you can start doing today.
Note: If you’d like to read up on link building basics first, click here.
Ethical link building, often referred to as “white-hat” link building, is the process of establishing permanent, relevant, useful links to your website that are focused on creating value for human audiences rather than manipulating search engine algorithms.
Doing things for the greater good should be its own reward, but what’s in it for you?
Ethical link building helps you avoid search engine penalties.
Search engines, particularly Google, have become pretty good at determining if links to a certain site or page have been built through dubious methods. Just look at their article regarding link schemes; they know what to look for.
Sure, manipulating their algorithms might be fun for a while, but why antagonize Google when you need them to connect you to new audiences and bring in traffic to your blog?
Ethical link building is sustainable.
Building a money-making blog takes a while, and you normally want to set up a process that you can repeat whenever you need to. You want to build long-term relationships, long-term assets, and long-term systems.
Practicing ethical link building will help you ensure that you have all of these. As your blog traffic grows and your audience grows with it, your goals will change and you’ll have to tweak some of the steps to fit your particular goal, but your overall strategy will likely stay the same.
You don’t want to be constantly looking over your shoulder (in the online sense), worrying whether Google has changed their algorithm and whether you need to adjust your strategy yet again.
Ethical link building adds value to your audience, your niche, and on the internet.
Establishing a solid following isn’t possible if you aren’t adding anything to your target readers’ lives. Similarly, you won’t get any respect in your niche or in the online community if you’re putting out substandard content or spamming.
Ethical link building uses tactics that are centered around creating value for your audience. This allows to build something real and long-lasting that readers will want to go back to and share with other people. Remember, loyal audiences can be turned into loyal customers.
Link building is an art. It requires creativity, determination, and sometimes costs money. Thus, planning ahead allows you to maximize your efforts to have the most effective campaign possible. Here are the steps to planning a link building campaign.
Knowing what you want to achieve even before you start will help you determine your progress as you continue your campaign. Having a goal allows you to know whether or not your efforts are successful.
The goals you set at this point should tie in to your blogging goals as well. Do you want to someday sell your own products? Or do you want to focus on affiliate marketing? What you plan to achieve through link building should align with your long-term goals.
For example, the traffic you need for affiliate marketing to be profitable is more than the traffic you need for selling your own products. Also, selling your own products requires a loyal audience, so you have to ensure that your link building tactics are more targeted toward potential buyers.
Finally, make sure your link building goals are realistic. You can’t plan for a month-long link building campaign and expect your rankings to go up instantly. It takes weeks or even months for your to see an uptick in your rankings.
Most link-building campaigns are focused on a piece of content: a blog post, infographic, image, or video. Ensure that the content you’re going to share is presentable, professional-looking, and high-quality. This may be the first impression that your target audience has of you; don’t let it be the last.
As I’ve mentioned in my previous article on the basics of link building, the three kinds of backlinks you can get are natural, manual, and self-created.
More often than not, you’re going to be focused on getting manual links (i.e., those that were obtained through outreach) in a link-building campaign, but again, depending on your goals, you can aim to get the other two types.
At this point, you can now draft a persona of the type of reader who would find your content valuable. Generally, this would be the same type of audience that you’re already writing for.
For example, if your blog topic is calligraphy for beginners, fellow calligraphy enthusiasts would be likely interested in a blog post about the basics of lettering using a brush pen.
However, don’t discount other related niches, such as bullet journal enthusiasts (they might be interested in learning a new way to spruce up their bullet journals) or general DIY hobbyists (brush pen lettering is an inexpensive way to personalize crafts).
Be careful when venturing out of your niche; you don’t want to go too far. Make sure that the audience you target would truly be interested in what you have to offer. You want to broaden your horizons, but not lose sight of the shore, so to speak.
Note: depending on the specific link-building tactic you use, you may not need to do outreach. However, it’s wise to at least learn the basics of outreach, because you’ll definitely need it at some point in your blogging career.
I’ve outlined how to do a blogger outreach in this article, but the basic aim of outreach when link building is to tell other bloggers about yourself and about your content.
Outreach starts with looking for bloggers who target the same audience as the persona that you drafted previously. The next steps are to get them to notice you and build rapport.
When you’re confident that you’re in their radar, you then contact them with your link. Depending on what type of link you want to build, you either ask them to share your link with their followers, for a guest posting opportunity, or a link exchange.
Now, let’s take a look at some basic tactics that you can start doing. Note that there are a lot more tactics you can use, but I limited this list to free, white-hat tactics that you can start right away.
Content-based link building is white-hat link building in its simplest, purest form.
It involves creating unique, high-value content that attracts natural, organic links (this is often referred to as linkbait). Thus, links that are obtained from this method are said to be “earned” instead of “built.”
When putting together this type of content, the primary aim is to create content that your target audience will find relevant, informative, and compelling. High-quality content is more likely to engage users and to be shared to more users and new audiences, which results in higher search engine rankings.
Examples of value-packed content you can assemble for a content-based strategy include:
After you’ve created your high-quality assets and promoted them on social media, you can then reach out to other bloggers asking them to link to it. When you obtain links through this method, these are now “built” links.
The idea is that if your content is good enough to earn links on its own, then it deserves to be promoted. Your target audience deserves to know about such helpful and valuable content.
Also, even if your outreach efforts are a bust, you’re still left with high-quality content, which is more important for your success in the long run.
Ah, yes. The much-talked about skyscraper technique.
The skyscraper technique was made popular by Brian Dean of Backlinko as a method that reportedly increased his search traffic by 110% in 14 days. It’s comprised of the following 3 steps:
The idea is that instead of creating many different kinds of content and praying that one of them gets plenty of links, find content that’s already generated a ton of links and then try to top that.
For example, if you notice a straightforward list post is getting a lot of links, you then create a list post on the same topic but with more details and more resources. If an infographic is trending, make one on the same topic but include more information or make it more readable.
Afterward, you start doing your outreach, but instead of doing outreach to all the bloggers in your directory, you only target those bloggers who’ve already linked to similar content.
This tactic has worked for Brian Dean, as well as a lot of other bloggers and content marketers. However, it can fail: when there are hundreds of thousands of similarly awesome content on that same topic, it’s going to be really difficult to stand out from the noise.
Guest blogging entails writing content for another blogger to post on their blog. There are various other reasons to do guest blogging, but getting backlinks from other bloggers is one of the major reasons to do it.
I’ve detailed how to do guest blogging in a previous post, but the basic steps are as follows:
As with all techniques that worked for getting links, guest blogging was previously abused by shady marketers looking for a shortcut to increase their rankings. The process became increasingly automated, and the quality of the posts declined because of keyword stuffing.
The good thing is that Google evolved and was able to separate the wheat from the chaff; that is, the high-quality content from low-quality ones. Nowadays, guest blogging with high-quality content can still be used to build links.
Even so, be careful not to use guest blogging solely for building links. Similarly, be careful not to rely solely on guest blogging for link building; use a variety of link building techniques.
Ego bait is a piece of content that plays on the egos of the people featured in that content. The idea is that by engaging influencers in your niche, featuring them in a positive light, and linking to their content, they’ll be more inclined to link to that content and share it with their followers.
The name implies manipulation, but there doesn’t have to be anything manipulative about this practice. It’s based on a simple psychological principle: “scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.” That is, feature them in a prominent post that boosts their credibility, they might just share to it or better, link to it.
The general steps to this link building approach are as follows:
For this tactic to be effective, it needs to not look contrived. Make sure that the concept for this article is something that you would normally write about. Also, choose influencers who are authorities on the topic you’re writing about, and not just those who are likely to link back to your content.
When you’re doing the actual writing, aside from ensuring that it’s high-quality and link-worthy, include as many details about the influencers you’re featuring as possible. Be sincere in your flattery, from your article itself to the email informing them that they’ve been featured.
Some examples of content you can use for ego bait include expert roundups, one-on-one interviews, and resource lists.
This is a good way to get high-quality links and traffic from new audiences, but don’t expect too many links using this tactic. Ego bait targets a limited number of bloggers, plus there’s no guarantee they’ll even link to your content.
A broken link is one that is not working properly. It usually goes to a web page or post that has been taken down or moved to another server.
Over time, previously useful resources on the internet disappear into the void from many causes. Either the company who owns the site goes out of business, or a blogger just quits blogging, or the website wasn’t maintained.
Whatever the reason, the internet is full of these broken links. Often, these broken links exist on high-profile, high-quality pages.
Broken link building is a practice based on helping webmasters and bloggers by providing first-rate replacements for broken links. You can either use your existing content or create content especially for replacing a particular broken link.
This approach is unique in that yes, you ask them for a link, but that link was already provided to someone else; they don’t have to go out of their way to link to you.
Plus, this benefits them because you don’t want broken links or actually, broken anything on your site. Instead of them having to find suitable replacements for those broken links, you’ve provided that for them.
The basic steps in this process are as follows:
Bonus tip: Keep track of the URLs of the broken links you’ve corrected. You can then find other blogs that have these links, and you can offer your replacement content to those blogs.
Link reclamation involves fixing links pointing to your site that are no longer existing or reclaiming mentions of your blog that don’t give you any SEO value.
The first substrategy is like broken link building, only instead of looking for broken links on other blogs, you look for broken links in YOUR blog. You then look for blogs and pages that linked to those broken links and either fix the links so they’re not broken anymore, redirect the links to another one of your blog posts, or ask the site owner to change the links.
The latter substrategy is more of looking for blogs that mention you, your blog, or your content that don’t link back to you. Often, a simple email to the author or site owner is enough for them to link back to you.
Short answer: it depends.
Long answer: There are just so many factors that can affect how long it takes for your link building campaign to be successful.
Some of these factors include the following:
Because these factors vary widely among different bloggers, it’s difficult to predict how long a link building campaign will take before there are any observable results. It can take weeks, months, even up to a year. The only thing for certain is that you won’t see results immediately.
It’s reasonable to expect an increase in traffic after constantly tweaking and improving your blog content, usability, and on-page SEO, aside from link building and other off-page SEO activities. Given time and consistency, all these efforts combined can lead to an increase in traffic and search rankings.
To summarize, here’s how to plan a link building campaign:
Here are some basic ethical link building tactics:
Ethical link building is not a myth, as some cynical marketers declare. Ethical link building takes a great deal of time and effort to be successful, but it does work. Here are some more things to remember to increase your chances for success.
The most important asset you have for link building is great content.
Relevant, valuable, interesting content is effective in itself. People naturally link to content that they relate to. Plus, high-quality content is easier to pitch to other bloggers, who won’t hesitate to associate their name with content that’s valuable to them and to their readers.
You can’t get high-quality links with mediocre content.
When you’re doing ethical link building, there are no guarantees. You can create the most awesome content, research your target audience and target bloggers thoroughly, word your pitch emails perfectly, and still not be able to get a single link out of it.
The number of links you get per link building tactic shouldn’t be your sole measure of success. Instead, consider all the other things you’ve learned; the skills you’ve gathered, the relationships you’ve forged, and the value you’ve provided.
All of those contribute to your overall success as a blogger, not just your links. That’s why ethical link building is effective; you might not get the links today, but you create opportunities and improve your site so that you’re likely to get the links and the traffic tomorrow.
Links aren’t built in a vacuum; it shouldn’t be isolated from all your other blogging activities.
Have you started ethical link building for your site? Which techniques did you use? Was this article helpful? Sound out in the comments below!
JoAnne is your average, everyday, sane stay-at-home mom who believes in the power of the internet to make dreams come true. She has an insatiable appetite for chocolate, as well as all things internet marketing. She keeps up with the latest trends in blogging, affiliate marketing, e-commerce, and more.