How to Earn Links and Exposure on Autopilot [Examples]
When it comes to spreading the word online search is still the most significant way to get exposure for most websites. By search I mean mostly Google.
“Google … is absolutely, unquestionably a monopoly in web search.”Rand Fishkin of SparkToro
You can also search social media like Twitter or Pinterest but they are still way too small to compete with Google by the numbers. They are “nice to have”.
You need to get the exposure from social media at the start but it’s only the search traffic that will keep your business alive in the long run.
Link Building is Still a Thing in 2020
In short an editorial link – that is one added by a journalist or editor – not a comment link from the
- New York Times
is better than a link from my blog which is better than a link from an obscure homepage that has been last updated in the late nineties.
Whether you like it or not you still have to get other people to link to your site, even in 2020. The Web actually consists of links – hence the hypertext transfer protocol or http. Without links your site is not part of the Web.
In the early days what most people did was link building. They would insert links to themselves on other websites. I still see articles sharing lists of “blog commenting” sites.
Many people still assume that you have to manually build links.
Although link building has changed in nature many of us call it earning links or simply outreach in order to differentiate from the old days of scavenging for ways to sneak in a link back to yourself.
Just Create Great Content and Get Links?
These days you create outstanding content and then people link more or less voluntarily to you.
Of course you can help speed up the process by telling people who are able to link that they can link to you – that’s outreach.
This can work for small sites in non-competitive niches. Sometimes it even works for larger ones but it’s tedious and of course not the only option. You can also earn links effortlessly without asking for every single link!
Are Autopilot Link Building Techniques Unethical?
There are still many ways to build links on autopilot by “gaming the system”. For example black hat hackers use malware to insert links on third party websites. I don’t. That’s unethical.
Today I want to show you how I built links (almost) on autopilot in the last 20 years. Yes, that’s how long I’m using the Web as a professional website creator and optimizer.
There are by now quite a few autopilot link earning techniques that work/ed for me in the past. That’s why I decided to compile a list of them.
These are not just “might work” examples. You can actually look them up in the backlink profiles of the sites I mention.
Just view the actual links by using the tools of your choice. Here are some suggestions:
Full disclosure: I have worked for SEMrush in the past thus I might be biased toward them. I’m also an affiliate.
What are the actual techniques to earn links on autopilot then? Please see below:
This is the single most powerful and easiest technique to earn links and exposure. How do I know? It worked for me for years.
While I worked my ass off for my blogs to get some exposure the effortless mirroring of content resulted in more links and exposure while I forgot about it. These links were also more authoritative on top that. Impossible? Then listen up. This is a true story.
In 2007 I was a regular user and contributor on a German social news site. The site was not particularly popular as successful social media in Germany were virtually unknown at that time. Nonetheless you could get some exposure when appearing on the frontpage. You just needed enough votes.
Most people were frantically trying to fake engagement to get there. I loathed that and mainly tried to use the site as a normal user would – instead of abusing it for self-promotion.
One day a student submitted a very insightful animation explaining the pitfalls of a surveillance society and how lack of privacy leads to conformism thus killing innovation.
It became popular organically but after half a day or so the site went offline – the student had placed the resource heavy animation on his college Web space.
The author quickly ran out of bandwidth and the site threw an error. I was very disappointed. Privacy was one of my favorite topics back then already and I wanted it back live.
Thus I encouraged the community to set up mirrors of that animation. We got almost a dozen of them. Mine was among the first but many others followed. Within another day the animation was all over the place.
To make it as easily findable as possible I created a subdomain for it on onreact.com – I called it panopti.com.onreact.com after it’s ambiguous title Panopti.com
I had a lot of unused server bandwidth on my Web space, despite my blogs, so that I wanted to donate a bit of it for a good cause. After a few days I completely forgot about the animation. The student was thankful. I was happy that the animation was online. End of story. Not really!
Yet while I was sleeping and going about my daily tasks – blogging every day – creating content for myself and clients – often for ridiculous rates – the animation made the rounds on the German-speaking Web spreading like wildfire.
As I didn’t read the news in Germany – I was not interested in them – and didn’t even set up analytics on that particular subdomain the animation went viral before the term was even coined and I was unaware of it.
Long story short dozens if not hundreds of blogs linked to it followed by most major news publications.
Even the largest German news site (and most popular Internet destination) – Spiegel.de – also linked to it. They even embedded the animation on their own site in order not to crash my servers. I only noticed years later.
When I finally checked like in 2010 or something the subdomain had a domain authority of 62 while my until then very successful blogs had both 60 and 61. Even today the subdomain has a domain authority of 44 and still has lots of high profile links to the actual animation:
So here I was – feeling very disconcerted. I could have done nothing and just waited to see the links coming in but instead I spent years on daily content creation and popularization.
In case you don’t believe me you can still look that subdomain up. Let me explain what happened then though. In 2015 my Web hosting account got hacked so that I had to remove all my rarely updated site.
All index.html had been inserted with malware. Thus I deleted most of the projects that were still online due to lack of time (I had to work for money actually while at it).
As the animation was built in Flash though and the index page just redirected there it was still available. Yet many links led to the subdomain itself not the animation. Many of them got removed ever since yet the subdomain has still a domain authority of 40 after being offline for 5 years.
You could of course argue that it was a separate site and the content die not match my other topics (think blogging, social media or search) and I was only hosting it. That’s true.
Yet I could have done something like Spiegel.de – I could have embedded the animation into my arts, design and politics blog. That one was not offtopic. In that context I could have gained a lot of attention for my publication as a whole.
I wasted the exposure when it comes to personal benefits. I’m too much of an altruist probably. Yet who knows, maybe then fewer people would link to it. What’s undeniable is that no other project of mine has ever got so much exposure and links even though I get plenty on my blogs etc.
Using a Creative Commons License
Creative Commons is nothing new. Their heydays are probably over by now yet it’s still an excellent way to get exposure for your work and yes, links obviously. Unlike the common way to promote content you get it on autopilot though. You don’t have to reach out to people etc. How do I know?
When Google penalized my blog a few years ago I was simply too busy to review all my content, prune and update it. Instead I chose to get rid of Google search entirely and try to get exposure by other means. Social media was still growing rapidly back then so I wanted to break free from my dependency on Google traffic.
My logic went something like this: when I’m not on Google anymore I don’t have to care about their petty penalties, duplicate content issues and other unwritten rules.
I could republish my content by simply giving it away under a Creative Commons license. Another issue that was already common back then were scrapers that copied my content without permission.
I simply started using a Creative Commons license for my blog that required a link back to it on republication. You can republish my content as long as you credit me with a link. In this example below I get several links. They even link to my social media accounts.
At that moment my blog wasn’t really popular anymore. I mostly wrote for clients and did not have much time to blog on my own one. Remember I won the UK search award for “best SEO blog” for a client during the same year my own blog got penalized).
Even though the lack of new content, the penalty and my Google noindex policy of blocking their search spiders limited my reach significantly I still got some publication to republish my work. Some people manually republished posts of mine while others simply grabbed every single post that went live automatically.
To this day I get links from such reblogs and they are not using “nofollow”. Unlike mere scrapers they actually credit me properly.
On top of that I have internal links coded absolutely – that is with the whole address including http – so that internal links turn into additional backlinks from third party websites. Even scrapers let those links intact most of the time!
“ROI Overload” is a good example of a site that republished my content. The screen shot above is taken from it. I even get more than one link per post that gets republished.
Adding a “Link This” Button
This is not my advice. It’s based on what Google’s John Mu said a few years ago. Not that John was the first to “invent” that technique. It has been used from the early days of the Web even before the social media craze.
Nonetheless John Mu declared a few years ago that a “link to this” – I’d rather call it “link this” for the sake of simplicity – button is a way to get people to link to your website content.
Of course this is not something that will work with a complete empty site or on that is utterly unattractive or not trustworthy. On the other hand a link this button can greatly simplify the process of copy and pasting a link to your site and adding it somewhere else on the Web.
Strangely enough there are still not that many “link this” buttons you can easily use.
Of curse you can code on yourself. That’s not hard when you know what yo do but even I’m too lazy for that despite my years as a fronted Web developer 20 years ago.
Social sharing tools sometimes offer “link this” buttons along with a feature allowing visitors to share your link by mail. AddToAny I use here on the blog does. I’m referring to a mere copy and paste feature for links though. You simply allow people to copy your link on click of the button.
It’s difficult to know how many people actually link to you using such a button but you can track button clicks of course using Google Analytics or Matomo for example. When you can code a button script yourself you are probably able to add tracking as well.
One thing is for sure: when you only offer social media sharing buttons people will mostly share there. When you give them the option to actually link to your site then the probability of earning a link grows given everything else is fine on your site.
In recent years I haven’t cared a lot about sharing on social media. It’s simply not worth it as much as it used to be. Even when you get shares you have to compete for attention with a myriad of other publications and updates by other people. Getting lots of traffic from social media is an exception.
A link in contrast to mere social media shares can result in continuous traffic over years.
It’s especially beneficial when a page that links to you fares well in search result itself. I received traffic from links I got a decade ago. This is also what I mean by exposure. Even when you don’t rank yourself – people who rank on Google can provide a steady trickle of visitors to your site by linking to you.
Adding Links to Copy and Paste Text
While using a “link this” button still requires quite an effort and determination to actually insert that link on a website simply copy and pasting is way easier.
Whether the copied quote ends up in an instant message, email or on a website is secondary. The important part is that most of online sharing and thus also linking happens in this “dark social” realm.
There has been a tool that automated the copy and paste linking process but it has gone defunct by now.
It’s obvious that most people won’t delete that link but even be pretty happy not to have to copy and paste twice – once the text and once the address.
I have tested some WordPress plugins that include similar features – it’s like “click to tweet” but without the click – yet none have worked as expected. One even broken my admin area. So there’s plenty of room to create a tool that can do it and earn links by simply sharing it with the world.
Flaunting Your Failures
On the Web everybody is on bragging mode 24/7. Just look at the Instagram fakeality. Everybody is cool, rich, sexy and travels the world. Only you are stuck at home or at work and boring as hell. Bullshit.
Everybody deals with failures all the time. Most of us are so embarrassed by them that they won’t even admit something bad happened to them.
Of course you can use the glass half full metaphor and obstacles are opportunities but ignoring mishaps altogether and never mentioning them results in a warped reality nobody truly believes anyway.
All those Instagram influencers have pimples too! They are just using Photoshop!
Why am I telling you this? Well, showing your failures makes you more human. Also everybody is so starved for genuine depictions of reality that once you admit defeat and show how things went wrong everybody will flock there and spread the word.
It’s ironic that my most popular posts of all time was a list of “10 Mistakes of a Decade of SEO Practice“. This post went viral for months and people kept on sharing it even though it was full of typos. I didn’t have a proper editor to fix them. They moved the article to a new address so you can’t look up the metrics anymore but believe me. It had more than 5000 shares.
Now add to it something that others can learn from to actually be able to omit thee mistakes you have made and they will link to you. For example I have just recently linked a post on how LinkedIn text ads are infamous for generating zero engagement or conversions.
We had experienced the LinkedIn text ads disaster ourselves at my last client. I wish I had known that post earlier on and at least could have told them that it’s not just us or that LinkedIn sucks in general. It’s just their text ads are poorly performing. It’s nothing personal to be ashamed of!
So what is the actual example beyond the post I mentioned above. Well I got penalized on this blog years ago and instead of tediously trying to fix every single post (I had 500 of them) I went on the offensive and declared to ban Google search on my blog.
Of course I shot myself in the foot by doing this because obviously I didn’t rank at all on Google anymore but I got some decent amount of exposure and even links due to intriguing some people.
This was before Google was widely known as a privacy nightmare. Nonetheless I further capitalized on tit by telling people to “Ungoogle Themselves“.
You may want to employ less drastic measures. For example earlier on when one of my client sites – has been penalized by Google I readily admitted it and explained what the lessons of that tragedy were. This brought my my most important authority link in recent years – from the BBC.
Now you might argue that I still had to create the content – write it actually. Yet probably just making a screenshot of the unnatural links penalty would have been enough and offering it a Creative Commons image.
I have written about Google penalties numerous times and I needed such a screen shot each and every time – even way before I got penalized myself.
By admitting that your own site has been affected and not removing the actual address from the image would have ensured that people who would reuse it later on would be aware of the source and would have to link to you. “FAIL” images of all kind are going viral all the time.
Why not own your failures and get due credit?
Some of those failures are already made up just for the sheer popularity. Who cares, as long as they’re funny? Even in case you don’t get the credit you get the exposure. So you may want to sneak in your brand or product into your actual footage or image.
Helping People on Your Favorite Social Network
Let’s be honest. I do like wasting my time on social media. That is I don’t really waste it as I enjoy it and get inspired that way. Additionally the time I spend actively helping people on social networks like Twitter often ends up leading to links.
When people ask questions on Twitter they often crowdsource opinions for their next post – at least in marketing circles.
Yet even average people or publishers often ask questions online and then simply credit you as the source.
Some of them will merely mention your name or social media handle yet other will directly link to you and your site. Ideally you have a write up on what you actually say so that they can directly link to it. At the end of 2019 I got quoted in Search Engine Journal article on common SEO struggles that way.
Sometimes I answer questions that way directly. Strangers ask the same questions over and over so I just track the questions using Tweetdeck (you can automate searches on it) and then respond with a link to the resource that actually helps people who need an answer.
Earning Links on Autopilot is Not Enough
This post could end here, unless of course you suggest more autopilot ways to earn links in the comment section. I might add them to the actual post and credit you! A word of caution though. Earning links on autopilot is not enough.
As a great content creator who is earning links effortlessly you won’t really succeed with these techniques when one crucial ingredient is missing: the business model. For example I’m not an outstanding business person. I’m more the creative type of guy who is
- creating content
- earning links
- spreading the word
Do you have a business model that works? Do you want to get the links and exposure? Contact me!
I’m open to business – for the first time in more than a year. Yeah I’m taking in new clients after spending a year at a global company.
Why me? I’m not a an entrepreneur who lets other work for him. I do everything myself. No interns and low paid outsourcing. Get your blogging, social media and search work done by an actual professional with 20 years of experience.