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White hat link building is oxymoron

Building authority for the average budget conscious small biz is a curious thing as you’re trying to juggle two very different approaches:

1 – The purist, uber-ethical, as-google-intended-it approach where the client’s brand is just SO awesome and/or the content is SO great and/or the PR team is just SO creative that the internet is compelled to link to <insert blog post/article/infographic/brand> here.

2 – The realist approach where we acknowledge that there is only so interesting a blog post about a clogged toilet can be, and small businesses typically have small budgets.

At Adster, we have both types of clients – the absolute link magnets, regularly showing up in the press, referenced by influential local / national bloggers…the kind that make our lives easy.

Then there’s the other kind…

“Hey modest client, we scoured the web and were able to track down the leading authority on clogged toilets. We convinced him to ghost write this riveting post on clogged toilets that is funny, topical, and one of a kind. We then built this amazing, interactive feature for the post that animates all the different toilet parts when you hover your mouse over them. Finally, we made it super SEO friendly, posted it, and pitched it to every publication and clogged toilet influencer we could find an email address for.”

While this is truly the dream of any dyed-in-the-wool link builder, it also represents about 75% of this client’s annual SEO budget. What’s more, we’re not absolutely certain that the above will actually gain the client any links. Is this a responsible use of the bulk of a small businesses’ online marketing budget?

So over here back in the real world…

You’ve all got a little dirt on you

Look, I don’t care who you are, where you’re from, what you did (how ‘ethical’ you think you’re doing it) – if you’re paying a company to do your SEO or doing it yourself and part of that SEO includes tactics to manipulate (read: improve) Google search results via links – you’re probably violating Google’s TOS.

It’s this simple:

“Any links intended to manipulate PageRank or a site’s ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme and a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.”


Whitehat link building building is Oxymoron.

Look: I pass no judgement here. I live in the real world where ensuring key citations are in place and understanding what constitutes the *right* paid link makes a difference. I also happen to run a business, and there are many Forsters to feed.

Understanding the balance between these things and what the word ‘may’ means (as in may be considered part of a link scheme) is my livelihood.

Adster’s 5 Paths to SEO Redemption

I share our approach to link building here understanding that some who read this will not agree with these approaches, and may have differing opinions on the relative value, effort, and ‘ethics’ inherent to each.

Additionally, these tactics often shift and change, and the balance between all approaches vary greatly depending on the client, niche, and budget. Accordingly, we break it down as:

  • Value: how much value is this link likely to provide to the client?
  • Effort: how much time is required by our team (which is subsequently billed to the client)
  • Success: what is the likelihood of actually getting the damned link(s)?
  • Friendly: based on our interpretation of ‘manipulating pagerank’, how friendly is this approach?

One the above is understood, it’s time to get to it!

Strategy 1 – The REALLY important business directories:

primary business directories

These may change from time to time, but these are generally considered the ‘mandatory’ and most important business directory type websites for most Edmonton / Canadian businesses. As you can see by the value/effort/friendly scale, these are the ones everybody needs, and thus our approach is that of ‘get at all costs’.

Strategy 2 – The SORTA important business directories:

generic business directories

These are a mix of Citations and links that apply to most businesses in Canada but may have more of a ‘niche’ or industry specific flavor. The value that these sorts of directories provide varies. Accordingly, our effort here is managed carefully.

Strategy 3 – People WE know:

smart link building

Here, we’re looking to leverage pre-existing relationships we have with a variety of different folks which minimizes outreach time. This may include pitching our client’s content or ‘buzz worthy’ doings to local bloggers and influencers, news editors, site owners, and even our own clients that may run complementary business models. Note the ratio of effort to success here!

Strategy 4: People we DON’T know

niche link building

The tough stuff! Here we’re performing manual research and engaging in customized outreach just for you. We might be looking at your competitors (locally or globally), your industry, and beyond. This is by far the most time consuming type of authority building, and while similar to strategy 3, note the inverse relationship of effort/success.

Strategy 5: People YOU know

networking link building

Here, we are looking for ‘quick-win’ opportunities that may exist right under our client’s noses. We have a series of questions and processes to determine any if there may be opportunities within their own networks, vendors/supplies they work with, hobbies, interests…you name it.

Build links like a business

From here, we’ve got some fancy spreadsheets and tools for charting our progress, reporting to clients, and measuring success along the way.

In the end, I believe we take a business-like approach to link building where the the following equation reigns supreme:

Great linking building = Value / Effort / Success / Google Friendliness

Interesting in building authority to your small business? Like my equation?

Let’s chat!