If you made it this far in our 8 part series on systematic and strategic blogging, it has probably dawned on you that the overarching principle regarding the techniques, strategies and systems that we’ve described and advised you to follow all revolve around one core principle – quality. Quality is, admittedly, a subjective term. “Quality” for a single individual may be viewed as high quality by one person and low quality by another. A great blog post for one person may completely be worthless for another. In the interest of objectivity, as well as making the term more definite for this guide, we define “quality” as knowing your target audience and giving them what they need. With this perspective, quality can be described by a particular target audience that you aim to reach. Defined this way, quality loses a lot of its subjectivity and becomes more tightly focused.
Focus on Ethics in Blogging
Another principle we follow in this guide series is to have bloggers put themselves in the shoes of their blogs’ readers. Compassion, empathy, and respect go a long way in helping you sculpt content that truly addresses the needs of your target audience. Just as these principle help you produce great content that your target audience would appreciate, these principles should also guide you in terms of your backlink building campaigns. By devoting a lot of attention to creating quality content on other websites so that those site would link back to you do not only play a beneficial role in increasing the quantity of useful content on the internet, you also foster relationships that would serve your blog in the long run. These relationships will not only benefit you financially but it will also be helpful in reaching your overarching goal–to meet the needs of your target audience. In this final installment, we are going to apply these principles in defining ethical backlink building using three powerful backlink sources: Social Bookmarking, Social Networks and Guest Blog Posts.
Ethical Social Bookmarking
Social bookmarking websites differ widely but their most common denominator is that they allow their users to store their bookmark and link preferences on their site. These social bookmarking sites only differ how these links are shared and/or presented. Regardless, social bookmarking sites allow people to share links and sites that they find interesting. They employ a variety of means where visitors of that social bookmark site can discover great and interesting sites that were shared by others with the same interests. Normally, these sites use tags, search queries and / or categories for people to discover links and contents that they may be interested in. Since social bookmarks provide value in either driving direct traffic to websites and / or allowing users to create backlinks for SEO purposes, they have been, understandably, under a lot of threats for spammers. Many unethical backlink builders would use social bookmarks just to create tons of backlinks to really dubious sites. Social bookmarking sites do not really deserve to be treated to this way because it could create an association between these sites and really unsavory sites like pornography, shady and bogus products, counterfeit pharmaceuticals, copyright infringed material, you name it. At the same time, an addition threat that backlink spammers create is allowing minors (people under the age of 18) to easily view shady or dubious websites since these sites are open.
Social Bookmark Anti-spam Backlash
Due to these factors, many social bookmark sites have been clamping down. The first reaction of many social bookmark sites is to put “no-follow” tags on their links. This act pretty much vaporized the SEO value of many social bookmark sites for backlink building. This has dramatically reduced the level of spam but there are still spammers who build entries in social bookmark sites regardless of the “no follow” tag because they are trying to poach direct traffic. This has promoted a second wave of backlash—keyword blocking. This is not a perfectly good solution either because while the most common objectionable keywords are easy to target and blog, many of these niches have sub niches with innocent sounding names, particular brands or other elements that allow them to get under the keyword-based spam protection systems.
The take away from this sorry experience of spammers destroying a valuable backlink and traffic source is the importance of participating as a responsible member of social bookmark sites. Indeed, things got so bad because many spammers not only spammed link for their own purposes but they also sold their social bookmarking software to other spammers. There are many pieces of software sold in the internet which specialize in spamming social bookmark sites and some are actually sophisticated because they can mimic commonly used proxys, differing IP addresses and really give the impression that the link building pattern is “natural”.
Ethical Social Bookmarking Best Practices
Thankfully, there are still some social bookmarks that remain “do follow”. Many have gone the “redirect URL” route so that you do not get the direct link even if it is “do follow”. Others have gone completely “no follow”. But for those that do remain “do follow”, you must treat them like scarce resources and use these sites the way they are intended to be used. That is the bottom line of ethical social bookmarking. Use these sites like a responsible site community member.
This means that when you are part of the site, you participate in the community, and contribute quality links. It does not mean that once you have a blog post, it is already considered good content and you spam it had on the social bookmark sites. That’s not how to do it. Use some editorial discretion with your own blog to find your “most recommended” blog posts and sparingly create topics for them. Participate in community discussions and if the social bookmark has comment sections, don’t hesitate to share constructive comments about the link collection of other bookmarkers. Report spam and make sure that you do your share in keeping the social bookmark website clean and full of useful materials. Do your role as a responsible blogger in helping the site bring out its best potential. The bottom line is that you must hold yourself to a higher standard and once you do this, it gives you the right to hold others to a higher standard. When everybody keeps each other accountable, the overall quality of the content of the social bookmarking site increases, everybody wins – the marketers and promoters, the website’s owners and most importantly, the majority of its users who are not website or blog owners. You have to always focus on solid value and quality.
Ethical Social Network Marketing
When Twitter first became popular, there was a veritable gold rush among online marketers. These people hatched up all sorts of ebooks, software programs and membership websites, all purporting to help any regular Joe “become a millionaire overnight” using Twitter or Facebook. Obviously, this is just another digital version of the old snake oil scam. You’ve probably come across these scam listings when doing Goggle searches for work-at-home programs or freelance jobs. These ads come in different forms and are worded in different ways. Regardless, they all share one commone characteristic—they ask you to pay for ebooks or “secret” software and they all claim to help you become an instant internet guru. The pitch boils down to: You just need to spend some money and you will be able to avail thousands of Twitter and Facebook traffic with little to no effort. But in reality, these comeons actually just prey on people’s ignorance on how social networks work.
The Real Story of How Social Networks Work
Put simply, social networks like Twitter and Facebook work solely on credibility. If you are credible, it means you have authority with your friends. They would click your link, visit the sites you share or follow. In essence, if they find you credible, they will listen to you. This is the principle that many scammers and marketers miss. It is not a question of you having thousands of Twitter followers, what actually matters is connection that your followers have with you. How do you become credible? Simple. You have to earn people’s trust by behaving in a responsible manner. This means that you share quality content that you can vouch for if you come across a link that you truly believe in or feel strongly about, share it and you will see quickly find the information you share credible. The more retweets you have, the more shares your wall post have, the higher credibility is with your follower or friend list. On the other hand, if you just share anything you come across, or worst, share promotional links, your credibility goes down. People would ignore you or they might even block you.
A little respect and care goes a long way
Think of Twitter and Facebook in the same terms as you would behave when talking to a bunch of your friends. The same way you would be careful with your choice of words or the info you choose to share, you would apply the same level of discretion when sharing content on you Twitter feed or your Facebook wall. Each and every word can be a judgment for or against you. By posting, you are actually branding yourself, your product, your credibility, your authority and your influence. You are your biggest brand. You would not want your brand to be associated with penis enlargement pills, fake breast enlargement creams or a whole host of other objectionable products or services. It is your call. However, your brand is your most valuable asset so you should never waste it. If you build a great brand and you push your blog posts on your Facebook wall, many people would definitely find interest. They might share it with other people as well.
Watch the Explosive power of Retweets carefully
The same goes with Twitter retweets. As we have mentioned before here at ereviewguide.com, retweets have set the Arab world on fire because of Twitter and Facebook’s role in the Arab spring. Twitter is especially powerful because you don’t really need to have a huge following for your voice to be heard. How? Let’s assume that you only have ten followers. You tweeted a powerful and significant content, either a link or a short but powerful message. One of your followers, who also have ten followers, was moved by your message that he retweeted it. One of their followers who happened to be very influential has hundreds or thousands of followers also found your tweet meaningful and retweeted it to his own followers as well. You see where this is going? Eventually, this small connection keep tapping into larger and larger networks and all of a sudden, a voice which people have never heard before – your voice, starts a revolution. It is happening in the Middle East and all over the world. You should know how to use your Twitter and Facebook influence wisely. Think of it as currency which you only have so much that you can spend. Spend it wisely in a way that it can become an asset. Invest your time and effort in finding and sharing high quality content from your blog. If you feel that your blog post is not of high quality, don’t post it. You always have to put your best foot forward. If you think that it is not really good, then do not share it. it may bring negative results along the way.
Make your blog readers your social marketing partners
Every person reading your blog is a potential marketing partner. How? if you give them the tools and they link your blog post, they just need to use these tools and conveniently share your content with their circle of influence at either Twitter or Facebook. Don’t waste this opportunity. There are many WordPress plug-ins available that allow you to put social network icons on your blog posts. When somebody clicks these links, they can log into their own social network account and share your content.
Set realistic expectations
Don’t get your hopes up too high: the mere fact that you have these links, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they would immediately share. That is the reason why every blog post you make must have quality. Please read our guide on how to create attention-grabbing and high impact blog post quality based on keywords. Read that guide to quickly get the attention of your readers and hopefully it would impress them that they would want to share them. In reality, the cheapest form of advertising is word of mouth. But then word of mouth is also expensive that you have to earn it through high quality content. High quality content can only come about if you put in time, effort and brain power to give your readers what they are expecting.
Ethical Guest Post Strategies
As we’ve discussed in the previous guide, guest post involve a swap between a blog owner and another blog owner who wants a backlink. The blog owner would get free content in the form of a unique blog post. In exchange, he will allow the author of that blog post to put links in the post. This result in a win – win situation. The blog owner might be very busy and don’t have much to update his own blog and guest post gives him free content. The writer of the guest post also benefits because not only will the blog post have links to the website he is targeting. There is also a chance where the readers would click on that link and visit the target site.
Focus on creating a Win Win Situation
The secret to this arrangement, as well as successful ethical guest posting is to focus on the third winner of this win-win situation – the reader. If you are looking to solicit guest post from blogs that page that are thematically and categorically related to your blog and publish “do follow” links on this post, you should always take the time to study the target audience of the blog you guest post on. You have to get a feel as to what kind of content they are looking for and understand what type of writing style they respond to most favorably. Thankfully, most of these information can be easily obtained by emailing or by looking at the level comment participation in regards to certain blog post. Once you have this information, you should then inform the blog owner you appreciation of what their readers need and share any suggestions you have. You should not start the conversation by making a deal, that is a non-starter. You should give emphasis on what the faithful readers could get. This will help you establish the reputation of being a credible guest post partner instead of a random backlink builder just out to get quick backlinks. Just as importantly, it also clues in the blog owner to the very real possibility that you have the capability to produce quality blog post knowing that you took the time to study his website and his readers’ reactions as well.
Finding Quality Guest Post Partners
If you own a blog and you’ve been running it for some time, you’ve probably come across spam emails from somebody offering to do a guest post. More likely than not, you quickly click the spam or delete button. That is rightfully so. Spam is not the right way to obtain guest post partners. Think of it this way. If you use scummy methods to contact a partner for your guest post, what does this tell the receiver regarding your scruples? It shows that you are willing to stoop very low just to get what you want. This is exactly the wrong kind of message to send.
Use proper channels to find guest blog partners
You have to use the right avenues of communication for you to be viewed as a legitimate and ethical guest post contributor. Search for blog directories, blog webmaster forums and blogger / yahoogroups and try to join their community. Remember not to put you very first post as a solicitation. Get a feel for these communities and establish trust and credibility among your fellow participants. Check the topics and if you see someone asking questions about topics you are knowledgeable of, don’t hesitate to extend help and share your knowledge. By doing these things, you can establish a solid reputation of being a useful and helpful member of the community.
Avoid looking “too eager”
After you’ve built a good standing in the community, you can now look into specific portions of the forum, blogger directory or other blogger resource that deal with your particular niche or category. If not, look for areas that are geared specifically towards guests posts. When posting your offer, make sure that you communicate clearly that your primary goal is to produce quality content for their users. You may have to leave clues and hints regarding your motivations by dropping some statistics or background information about the target audience you are trying to reach. You have to let them see that you are not just someone who is out for some quick and dirty backlinks. Nobody wants to work with someone like that, so never give the impression that you are that kind of person. You should always position your messages based on what the end users want and how you can help meet the needs of their readers. Another key tip is to leave as many ways to contact you as possible. Don’t just leave your email, yahoo messenger account or Skype username. Post many options on how they can reach you.
Transparency Goes A Long Way
Most importantly, show that you have clean hands. This means that you did not come in with any hidden agenda. As much as possible, you have to be transparent and tell them your reasons for building backlinks. If you are building backlinks for your website, describe to them your website and include the URL of your website. If possible, list the URL of specific blog post that you are particularly proud of. Do this so that they can have an idea on the writing idea you can offer. Finally, you have to be patient. It takes time to establish credibility through these ethical channels. More often than not, your offer would be ignore for quite a long time. That’s exactly how it goes. Don’t get impatient and try doing schemes for your offer to be noticed. This diminishes the value of your brand and your credibility. The key is to let your actions and behavior vouch for you. You just have to continue participating in the community and eventually, they will come to you.
The Bottom Line
Ethical backlink building for social bookmarks, social networks and guest posts revolve around quality content. Quality content is not just the content that you share with potential partners and promoters, but also the level of integrity you display when trying to find partners. There are many resources available online where bloggers can network with their fellow bloggers for guest posts. There are many social bookmarks that allow users to share links that they find valuable. We also already know about the value of Twitter and Facebook. Regardless, you have to use these three resources carefully because your brand – your self, is at stake. If you put yourself out as a scammer just out to get quick backlinks, you will quickly get what’s coming to you. However, if you use these resources the way they were intended to be used and conduct yourself as a responsible member of the community and a credible contributor of content, your efforts will be greatly rewarded. It may not come immediately, but it will definitely come, eventually. Once again, “slow and steady quality” triumphs over “quick and dirty” everytime.
This concludes our blogging series of articles, if you would want to go back and start reading from the beginning: