3 Ethical Link Building Strategies for SEO and Marketing Professionals

Unless you are HubSpot or Ahrefs (or Search Engine Journal 😉) and naturally get millions of links, you should be looking to acquire links.

Google has made it clear that content and links are two of the main SEO factors.

Content without links limits your referral traffic and hinders ranking potential.

The only problem is that Google has strict guidelines in place regarding link building as well.

So how do you acquire review links from top websites without breaking Google’s “rules” and requirements?

How do you build links in an ethical way that positively impacts your website and your brand image?

Here are three ethical link building strategies that SEO and marketers can try.

1. Be a journalistic source of information

One of the most ethical sources of backlinks online is to be a journalistic source of information.

What does it mean?

Essentially: providing a quote, advice or information in exchange for mentioning your name, brand and website.

For example, this is something I did recently on a SaaS vacation marketing blog post:

Expert interviews, summaries or quotes are fantastic content marketing tools that can help improve the impact of content.

It is always interesting to collect several opinions from different sources on the same subject to understand the concepts and use the experience of several sources.

It creates fantastic user experiences while reading and researching new ideas.

For this reason, reporters, journalists, and writers are always on the lookout for people to contribute their content.

And when you’re trying to build ethical, book-compliant backlinks, that should be music to your ears.

So how do you do this effectively and scale your ethical link building?

How on earth do you reach out to content marketers and bloggers to get featured without being annoying or spammy?

My favorite tool is HARO, otherwise known as Help a Reporter Out. It is used by over 55,000 bloggers and journalists.

HARO is a website where writers can post their topic and the type of quote or advice they are looking for.

All you have to do is reply via email with your submission and wait for them to confirm.

The best part is this: the sources you are contributing to are not unknown, random or sketchy websites.

In fact, I’ve contributed HubSpot posts to Forbes using this:

HARO Ethical Link Building Tactics

With HARO, you can create a free account that will deliver daily media opportunities directly to your inbox.

Depending on which niches you want to focus on, you will potentially have hundreds of media opportunities each week to respond to.

With a long, curated list, you can choose the topics and posts that interest you the most and align with your brand goals.

The best of all?

It’s free.

Sure, it takes time to craft a valuable quote or piece of advice, but getting exposure on websites like Forbes is worth it.

So what are you waiting for? Go become a source of journalistic information and acquire powerful connections, ethically.

2. Link salvage: improve the value of existing content

Building broken links is nothing new.

You search for content that mentions your specific anchor text goals and hope the link is broken, allowing you to submit yours to replace it.

It may work, but on a large scale, it’s nothing short of a nightmare.

It could take you hundreds of articles to find a single potential link point, not to mention the low conversion rate you’ll actually have for placing a link.

This type of ethical link building is a needle in a haystack link building tactic. It’s one in a thousand.

Ditch the broken link building and start working on link recovery.

What is that?

Essentially, link salvage focuses on brand mentions (linked or unlinked).

For example, if someone writes an article and mentions your software tool but doesn’t link to you, that’s a great opportunity to:

  1. Thank them for the mention
  2. Ask them to add a link to one of your target pages that is relevant to the copy
  3. Connect with this site or writer for future collaboration

By using a tool like Ahrefs, you can locate them quickly. Launch Ahrefs and use the content exploration tool:

ahrefs for ethical link building

From there, enter your brand name in the search bar and hit enter.

Select a date range to target, focusing on the most recent content first.

Next, select “live only” links and a minimum domain rating range.

Remember: you want to focus on big wins here while eliminating spam.

Next, make sure to select “One page per domain” as well. Now you can export your list and have a full spreadsheet showing where and when your brand is mentioned.

From there, it’s up to you to research the site, the author, and raise awareness!

One of the biggest keys to link salvage is choosing the right link to feature.

Instead of just a link to the homepage, dig deeper into the topic of the article and find a landing page, feature page, etc., on your site that fits well.

Select your priority target pages and look for existing anchor text points that line up.

If you don’t currently have one, consider creating a new, more targeted and directly relevant landing page.

Link grabbing is about as ethical as it gets: you’re actually increasing the value a reader gets from a blog post by providing a link on that page where they can read more.

Without it, they are forced to spend several searches to find this page.

The real question is:

Does it work?

If done correctly, it absolutely works. I’ve run link grabbing with multiple clients and seen an average conversion rate of 25% to get links placed.

3. Guest Post to Build Bonds

Guest posting. Whether guest posting “works” or whether it should be done for links or not has been debated for a long time.

Almost six years ago now, Matt Cutts said“Okay, I’m calling it: If you’re using guest blogging as a way to get links in 2014, you should probably stop.”

But was he really talking about providing an exceptionally high-quality article to HubSpot and uniquely linking to valuable content on your own site?

Not at all.

In fact, he was referring to the opposite:

Rotate existing content and stuff it with links to quickly drive your domain’s rating and ranking.

This is clearly spam, creates no value for readers, and was intended to game the system.

On the other hand, high-quality signed content is still booming, and for good reason:

Blogs need better content more than ever, and hiring top-notch content marketers doesn’t come cheap.

That’s where you come in: providing value with a piece of content.

But don’t just submit your guest post and call it a day. Of course, you’ll probably get at least one signature link and generate referral traffic. But the purpose of this trick is not just to post guests.

It’s a fairly obvious tactic. Instead, take this opportunity and connect with your contact.

If it’s an editor, ask to become a regular contributor. Ask how you can provide more value to them.

Once you’ve established a connection, ask them if they need help with any ongoing content they’re doing for other websites.

Take the opportunity to help you by adding quotes, tips, statistics and helpful links to your own content.

Ditch guest posts on paid and spammy websites, and start focusing on natural guest post links on prominent sites, focusing primarily on editorial link building.


Link building is changing, fast.

It’s no longer about infographics, scouring the ends of the earth for broken links that might match your anchor text, or guest posting links.

Instead, it’s about finding ethical link building strategies that have one thing in common:

Improve value for people who read content and click on your links while avoiding penalties from Google.

Implement these three strategies to achieve this.

More resources:

Image credits

Featured Image: Pixabay
All screenshots taken by author, December 2019

Comments are closed.