Editorial Links: What They Are, Why They Matter and How to Build Them

What are editorial links and how can you build some?
Published on 
April 24, 2024
Updated on 
April 24, 2024

Link builders and SEOs usually talk about building backlinks. That is to say, the act of going out and, in essence, asking people to link back to your site. 

That’s not to say there is anything wrong with this.

Done strategically and with a strong understanding of what Google does and does not like, this is how some of your best links will be built.  Tactics like guest posts, skyscraper, broken link building, etc., are powerful link building methods.

At the end of the day, however, what you are ultimately after when it comes to backlinks are editorial links.

These are links given freely to your website and content by other sites because they find your products, services and insight useful. 

Google loves editorial links because they indicate authority and trust. They are the pinnacle of white hat link building

This means, of course, they are usually the hardest to come by. Not only do you have to create the kind of online presence, website, company and content that is going to make people want to link to you organically, but you typically need to be around for a while before you are picked up and shown to people by Google. 

What are editorial links, exactly?

In short, an editorial link is the best kind of link you can get. 

They are links that people include in their content or on their website when it adds value and are often found on places like news sites, opinion pieces, or long-form blog pieces with strong E-A-T practices. 

Here’s an example of an editorial link. 

This is an article about workplace friends published by Forbes back in 2021.

Notice the hyperlinked anchor text “water cooler?” If you click on that it takes you to this page. 

The writer of the Forbes article, in doing their research for the piece, came upon this article from Strategy-Business, decided that it added important context or information to what they were writing, and included a link to it for their readers. 

This is how editorial links work. Site A likes what Site B has to say about something and, completely of its own volition, includes a link to site B. 

There are no outreach or relationship building or link administration fees involved here. 

This is what search engines like to see. 

Link building tactics like guest blogging, niche edits and HARO are your bread and butter–the kind of link building services we at dofollow provide to our clients–but anyone with a website or business online is, ultimately, always hopeful that they will receive most of their backlinks in the form of editorial links. 

There are basically three prerequisites for editorial links. You need to have:

  • Excellent content
  • An audience
  • Some luck

You need great content because, of course, people are not going to link to mediocre content. This might include new research, free tools, unique opinions, interesting stories or new data. 

You need an audience to get editorial links because people can only link back to your stuff if they can see it. Ranking well on Google and/or having a lot of people follow you on social media are both big helps here. 

You also need some luck to acquire editorial links. When it comes down to it, you don’t control what someone will link to and when. What you find interesting or link worthy might not appear the same to someone else. 

There are, however, things you can do to increase the odds that you will land more editorial links. 

This includes doing things like sending out press releases to writers and journalists or answering journalist and writer queries and questions. 

We’ll delve further into these strategies in the following sections. 

Link building vs editorial links

Links you acquire or build are those you get when you reach out to a writer or website and ask for a backlink. 

The primary difference between acquired and editorial links is that the former are often added to content not because they add so much value, but because there is some kind of a transaction behind the link. 

Often, when you receive an editorial link, you are unaware that you have gotten it until you perform a backlink audit, or perhaps you have set up something like Google Alerts that let you know when your website or brand has been mentioned or linked to somewhere on the web. 

The most common link building strategies for acquiring links are: 

  • Guest posts
  • Broken link building
  • Niche edits

Guest posts involve reaching out to a site owner and asking him or her to host original content (written by you) on their site, which will feature a link back to your site. 

Broken link building involves finding hyperlinked URLs in a site’s content that no longer work (i.e., they take you to a page that doesn’t exist) and informing them, suggesting your content as an alternative. 

Niche edits are where you reach out to websites and ask them to include a link to your site in content that already exists. 

The benefits of editorial links

Good quality link building can make a big difference in your ranking and organic traffic. 

A backlink from one website to another is usually interpreted as a vote of confidence in the destination page’s quality and authority. 

There is a wide range of inbound links, both editorial links and built ones, that can boost search engine visibility and traffic. 

Editorial links, however, come with certain benefits that acquired links just don’t. 

Below are some of the most important benefits of editorial links. 

They often come from the web’s biggest and most trusted named

The vast majority of the time, the web’s biggest sites are usually out of reach for most link builders. 

You are not going to reach out to the Wall Street Journal and ask for a guest post or a niche edit. 

A lot of big industry blogs–whether independent or run by a company like HubSpot–are also going to have high editorial standards that preclude typical link building tactics. 

The only way to land links in places with high editorial standards is via editorial link building. 

There’s a lower risk of a Google penalty with editorial links

Over the years, continuous updates to the Google algorithm have made the search engine progressively better at spotting spammy and black hat link building techniques. 

Links that Google views as attempts to manipulate rankings will almost certainly (eventually) be found out by the search behemoth and either neutralized or if it is an egregious enough case of rank manipulation, penalized. 

Try to manipulate the search engine for long enough and aggressively enough and you might find yourself on the receiving end of a manual action penalty.

“Unnatural links”--meaning, links that were not built with value or user experience in mind. 

These are the kinds of links you might get from link farms

or through spammy blog comment and directory links. 

Editorial links, on the other hand, tend to correlate much more closely with quality. 

A website, especially a reputable website that doesn’t want to lose readers to the competition for things like bad external linking policy, is usually going to only give out editorial backlinks to sites it trusts and believes in. 

The New York Times is not going to send its online readers to a spammy, low-quality website when it's trying to back up or make a point in one of its articles.

If Google sees that you are getting natural, contextually relevant links to pages throughout your site from trustworthy, authoritative websites, you are well on your way to building a healthy, sustainable, powerful backlink profile. 

Better for brand building

Editorial links are also great for brand building. 

When you get a link from a reputable publication, you become associated with that publication. These links are a great way to build trust when people visit your site. 

This is why you often see a “featured in” section on the homepage of a lot of sites. They want you to know that the BBC or The Economist or TechCrunch, or whoever else has seen fiit to refer to their work. 

Slightly different, but this is a graphic we have on our website that features the logos of some of the big websites that we build links to for our clients. 

These are all major websites and companies, and our clients, no doubt, are proud to let their customers and visitors know that they have been mentioned or linked to in such outlets. 

The other reason that editorial links are great for your brand is that most websites with strong editorial standards when it comes to backlinks and SEO tend to have big audiences. 

That means exposure for you, as well as referral traffic. 

Editorial links are scalable

Some editorial link building methods can be scaled very effectively. 

It might take a while to compile the kind of content that gets you that first editorial link but when you do, the links can start to snowball. 

If you put together a report that utilizes new data in a unique way or create a tool that really helps people, it could end up being covered by other websites that find it interesting or useful. 

Say you publish a long-form blog post that provides a unique take on a new technological development in your industry. 

You post it to your social channels (your Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook, etc.) and one of your readers happen to be the webmaster or editor-in-chief of a well-respected blog in your industry. 

They think their readers would find your piece useful, and so they reference it in an upcoming article they have planned. 

That article starts trending, and not only is the piece picked up by a bunch of other influencers and writers in the space, but the link to your content is now visible to a lot more important eyes in your industry. 

More articles mentioning and referencing your unique content are published, and so on. 

That one well-placed and (let’s face it) lucky editorial link can end up building you a ton of high quality editorial backlinks. 

How to execute editorial link building

Here are a few common strategies for attracting high quality editorial links. 

Publishing original research and statistics

Typically, if you want to generate editorial links, you need to create link worthy content. 

This is a broad concept, but two things that tend to consistently attract editorial links are original research and statistics. 

Take a look at the below statistics/research-related article search results for “dog ownership stats”

If you were to publish an article covering something related to dog ownership statistics and it appeared in the top several results on the search engine results page, you would probably find you start to attract links. 

The more editorial backlinks you get, the more you will solidify your search engine ranking, the more high quality links you will attract. 

Unfortunately, it can be hard to make it up there in the SERP because you are competing with high authority websites. 

An alternative

Instead of simply publishing and waiting (and hoping) for those editorial links to come pouring in, you could take a more proactive approach and promote the content. 

You might consider: 

  • Posting your statistics/research in any online groups of which you are a member
  • Promoting your new content using Google ads
  • Posting your survey in relevant online communities
  • Let websites that already rank for the search terms you are targeting know you have something valuable to share/add to their existing content. 

PR backlinks

Another common editorial link building method is to engage in what is know as digital PR. 

This is where you send out press releases and carry out targeted promotional campaigns online to let the world (ideally influencers and writers in your niche or industry) know you have something interesting to share. 

There are basically three ways to go about doing this: 

  • Release a new product or service and then let people know about it
  • Do something newsworthy (e.g., something charitable)
  • Create unique, high quality content that exists nowhere else. 

All easier said than done, of course, but these are really the only way to generate editorial links through your press releases. 

Something needs to be noteworthy for anyone to take note. 

Become a source for bloggers and journalists

One of the best ways to do editorial link building is to use the service HARO (help a reporter out). 

We’ve been building HARO links for years, and we’ve put together a pretty comprehensive guide to it. Check it out here

The way HARO works is, you sign up for the free service provided by parent company Cision

It’s a simple form that anyone can fill out. 

Then, just complete the email verification process, and you are ready to go. 

Essentially, the way HARO works is Cision puts together hundreds of journalist and blogger queries from across the web each day and sends them out as an email to subscribers (you). 

They arrive three times each day (no service on American holidays) at 5:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. EST. 

Then, based on your experience and expertise, you can answer these queries. 

The queries are broken down by subject matter–business, tech, government, travel, lifestyle, healthcare, education, etc.

Depending on your industry and level of expertise, there will be more or fewer opportunities for you to get editorial links using HARO. 

Additionally, you should stick to the relevant requests. Don’t offer your two cents to online publications that have nothing to do with your niche or industry. 

But when you pitch a journalist or blogger and they like what you have to say, HARO can be one of the best ways to build organic inbound links from local publications and big organizations. 

Unlinked mentions 

Unlined mentions can be a great link building strategy for people who get a lot of unlinked brand mentions. 

This is where your company name is mentioned in a publication, but no backlink is provided. 

The publication saw fit to mention your company name but, for whatever reason (there are a variety of common ones), you didn’t get that juicy dofollow editorial link. 

Here’s an unlinked mention we got from a popular job aggregator called Builtin

Notice where the “” text is highlighted, there is no accompanying link. 

In the end, we were told that they don’t usually provide backlinks in their content, which is fair and we didn’t press the issue any further. 

It is still a good source of brand recognition and potential referral web traffic for us–which you can’t complain about. 

Other times when you find these unlinked mention opportunities, though, all it can take is a short, polite email requesting a backlink to go along with the mention and you’ve landed yourself a fantastic editorial link–even from high authority sites. 

Sometimes website owners and writers meant to include a link but forgot, or perhaps it simply didn’t occur to them. 

The bottom line is that search engines love editorial links

Nothing beats an editorial backlink when it comes to trust and authority (and, therefore, SEO value). 

The fact that another website saw fit to link to yours without any prompting tells search engines that you are a credible source of information. 

These are the kinds of authoritative websites that companies like Google want to show to their users, which is why a high number of editorial links are usually accompanied by an eventual rise in the search rankings. 

It is also why building solid evergreen content is an important part of search engine optimization (the part you can game or manipulate). 

At the end of the day, strong content that attracts links from authoritative sites, combined with strategic link building aimed at link diversity, is what will build you the kind of backlink profile that results in higher rankings and more organic traffic. 

Get in touch with dofollow today to find out more about our performance-based, transparent, user-centric link building and let’s chat about how we can help build you a strategic backlink profile that will rocket you up the SERP. 

Why Trust Us On SEO

Eric Carrell & Sebastian Schaffer have been working in SEO for over a decade, building their own projects - understanding and testing SEO strategy, along with building hundreds of white hat links per month for our projects. They take their learnings and experience and apply them to the strategy that drives our link building strategy for our clients.

Eric & Seb have always believed in quality over quantity, doing things the right way so we future proof our client’s websites against future Google updates and the evolving industry of search.

While Seb handles the company strategy around culture, processes and structure, Eric is constantly working to improve our service offering, customer experience, and following the industry in parallel with Google’s Quality Guidelines so that we are always one step ahead of our competition and aligned with what Google wants to see for your site to rank higher.

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