On affiliate marketing message boards, when there’s talk about traffic generation people focus more on building up as much traffic as possible in the shortest possible time they can manage. While there’s nothing wrong with this type of thinking per se, usually, it is in these times that concepts like ethics tend to get pushed aside. The focus is, of course, primarily on the amount of money to be made.

As you probably already know, if you’ve tried your hand at online marketing in any way, shape, or form, the amount of money you earn is dictated in large part by how much traffic you generate. Of course, this is not automatic. Just because you are able to drive tons of traffic doesn’t necessarily mean you will be making lots of money out of it. You have to drive the right amount of traffic. With that said, traffic generation is crucial to making any kind of income online.

Sadly, in our rush to pull traffic from the internet, all sorts of ethical considerations are forgotten. I’m sorry to be the one to report this to you, but if you set ethics aside, eventually it will come back to haunt you. The way you choose to drive traffic might end up harming whatever brand you succeed in building online as you progress further. To put it simply, you don’t want to be put in a position where you put in all this time, effort, and energy only to see all your work go up in smoke. If you want to build a sustainable online business—and that is what online marketing precisely is—you need to focus on ethically increasing traffic to your website.

The good news is that ethics and effective traffic generation are not in contradiction with each other; they are not mutually exclusive. You can pursue both. Before we begin, let’s get down to definitions.

What is ethical traffic?

You probably have heard this subtitle mentioned on online forums a lot, usually when you tell people that you’re looking for traffic. What happens is that when people are questioned regarding their ethics, the first thing that they would say is that, “What is ethical traffic anyway?” Their underlying assumption is that it is purely subjective. It can be comparable to the words “love” or “beauty,” it’s all in the eyes of the beholder. While there is some truth to that, there is also an objective reality to ethical traffic.

You will come across all sorts of people giving you all sorts of excuses regarding why they do what they do, as far as traffic generation goes. These people have no qualms about bending the rules or taking shortcuts. Well, to cut through all of that, you just need to ask yourself this: “Would you like it done to you?” This usually shuts down the discussion. If you don’t like something done to you, then it’s not a good idea to do it to others.

If you owned Facebook, for example, would you like to do what some unethical marketers do? You probably wouldn’t want to be at the receiving end of that. Another question you should ask is whether it produces a win-win situation. Keep in mind that this is a triple win. The source of the traffic must win as well as the visitor from that traffic source. Of course, it’s easy to understand how you would win, but you need to be clear as to how those two other people will win.

If the answer to the questions above are all affirmative, then the method that you are dealing with is probably ethical. Of course, you also have to make sure that you are in compliance with the terms of service of the particular website that you are using for traffic.

The Four Hallmarks of Ethical Traffic

If you’re still unclear as to what ethical traffic is, let’s be as specific as possible. This should only be used as a framework, of course, since there are other components that can come in. The traffic source’s term of service is a good place to start. However, you should not stop there. Here are the four hallmarks of ethical traffic.

First, it produces a win-win situation. I’ve already discussed this hallmark in the previous posts.

Second, there is no harm or fraud involved. I’m telling you right now, if you are looking to milk money out of people that they wouldn’t normally give you, then you are harming them.

Third, there is no deception. You might be thinking, well, deception and fraud, aren’t they the same? No. You can be running a non-fraud driven operation, but there’s still deception involved. Why? Your agenda is hidden. Therefore, you must be completely transparent.

Finally, the fourth hallmark of ethical traffic is that it’s predicated on building a relationship. In other words, it’s all about trading value for value. If the reader of the content feels that you are adding value to his or her life, then they reward you by clicking on your link. It’s about voluntary exchange; trading value for value.

Keep these four hallmarks of ethical traffic in mind and you will never get into trouble with penalties or bad branding down the road. With these four hallmarks as guide, here are three powerful ways you can drive a fully ethical traffic.

Guest Blogging

Guest blogging involves writing original content that you will publish only on one blog. You won’t submit that guest post in any other blog. This method creates a win-win situation.

First, since you are custom-targeting this blog post for that particular blog you are submitting to, there’s a high likelihood that the reader will win. Why? It’s highly targeted information and it’s highly relevant to the traffic that the blog normally discusses.

Second, the owner or administrator of the blog wins because they get free content. Let’s face it, content is quite expensive, this is one of the most expensive parts of a blogging business.

The third winner, of course, is you. Why? You get targeted traffic. If you are selling baby shoes and you do guest blogging on baby shoe blogs, chances are quite good that most of the traffic that you’ll be getting are people interested in baby shoes.

Social Media Page Contributions

Whenever you are commenting on a Facebook group, you stand to get potential traffic. Now, a lot of people screw this up. They think that they just need to join the right Facebook groups, post links to their ads, and they’re good to go. Absolutely wrong. That’s highly unethical and produces very little value.

You have to share content. This is the content on your blog, or some other website you control. It should not just be any other content, this content has to be tightly related with the topics the Facebook group you’re marketing on typically discusses. In short, you are contributing materials that further the conversation and the value of the Facebook groups you are participating in. If you do this properly, you generate ethical traffic that adds value to the lives of all people involved.

Forum Contributions

Forum contribution is just a fancy way of saying forum posting. Again, just like with Facebook groups, a lot of people abuse this. The good news is you can avoid acting like a spammer.

First, you need to cherry pick the conversations you choose to engage in. These conversations must be tightly related to whatever it is that you are promoting. Second, your post must be highly relevant. In other words, you have to share knowledge or information that adds value to people’s lives. If you do this properly, when you add your link to your post, your link is no longer seen as an advertisement. Instead, your link is seen as a resource that adds value to whatever it is that you have said in your post.

Ethical Practices Can Lead to Greater Profits

The bottom line is if you drive ethical traffic, you are focusing on generating value on both sides of the equation. It’s very easy to see how you can win through your marketing activities. It’s too easy to forget about why the other party, namely your visitors, should also win. By always keeping them part of the equation, you are increasing the likelihood that you will generate quite a bit of value with your traffic and everybody wins.