Accidentally choosing a link building strategy that’s unethical or against Google’s guidelines might result in a short-term SEO boost, but in the long-term, you risk:
- Drastic decreases in traffic from Google algorithm updates
- Damaging how people perceive your brand
- A potential manual penalty from Google
In general, these risky types of strategies are often referred to as black hat or sometimes gray hat link building.
So, how do you mitigate these risks while still building the backlinks you need to improve your SEO?
That’s where white hat link building comes in.
In this article, we’ll go over:
- What is White Hat Link Building?
- White Hat Link Building vs. Black and Gray Hat Link Building
- 4 No-Brainer Reasons to Do White Hat Link Building
- 7 White Hat Link Building Techniques
- How to Find Trustworthy White Hat Link Building Services
What is White Hat Link Building?
White hat link building refers to the type of link building strategies that follow Google’s guidelines and do not try to manipulate its algorithm. Not only is it considered to be the ethical way of link building — it’s also the most valuable, especially long term.
Links can be a very valuable asset for a site that’s trying to rank on Google and increase its traffic.
White hat link building is the best way to get those links while avoiding penalization from Google or without hurting your brand.
Before delving into why white hat link building is the most effective way to build links, let’s take a look at the other 2 types of techniques: black and gray hat link building.
White Hat Link Building vs. Black and Gray Hat Link Building
Let’s start by talking about the opposite of white hat link building: black hat link building.
Black hat link building techniques break Google’s guidelines. They’re unethical methods to acquire backlinks to a site and attempt to make it rank higher and drive traffic.
Black hat link building techniques include:
- Expired domain redirect – buying an expired domain and redirecting it regardless of the relevance of the original domain.
- Private Blog Networks (PBNs) – a site or group of sites whose only purpose is to add links to other sites to try to manipulate their organic search rankings
- Paid links – buying a link to your site from another website goes against Google’s guidelines.
- Low-quality guest posts – creating content that adds no value to other sites (like duplicate or spun content).
Gray hat link building lies somewhere between white hat and black hat link building. It uses elements from both, but it isn’t very well-defined.
Though not explicitly unethical for some SEOs (depending who you ask), this type of link building isn’t conventional either. For example, buying links might be considered a black hat link building technique by some, while being a gray hat technique for others.
It’s important to note that gray hat link building plays with the ambiguity of Google’s guidelines – and often violates them – to build links to a site.
White hat link building strives to provide value to a site’s visitors, thus making it more user-friendly. This makes it an organic way of building links. On the other hand, the other 2 methods, especially black hat link building, don’t really provide much value from a user experience perspective.
Another difference between the 3 tactics is the amount of links you can get from each.
Black hat and gray hat link building can get you more links in less time, but they’re also more risky and often only have a short-term effect.
On the other hand, white hat techniques can earn you better, higher-quality links (and avoid penalization). And although at a slower rate, it can still be scalable.
A rule of thumb to remember is quality is much more important than quantity.
Here’s a table that summarizes the 3 types of link building:
4 No-Brainer Reasons to Do White Hat Link Building
At LinkPitch, we believe in only focusing on white hat link building strategies for 4 no-brainer reasons:
Reason #1: Avoid Google penalties
By adhering to Google’s guidelines, you ensure that Google won’t penalize your site (which can really hurt your site’s traffic).
Gray and black hat backlinks can give your site a short-term positive SEO effect, but you risk the possibility of getting caught and having your site’s SEO negatively impacted.
Reason #2: Improve brand credibility by providing value to other sites
Offering useful content through white hat link building tactics increases your site’s chances of being linked to from sites that are relevant to your niche because they see value in it.
This can also help build your credibility and your brand, which can potentially attract natural links in the future.
Reason #3: Earn high-quality links that improve your SEO
This goes in line with the previous point.
White hat link building can give you a more curated list of prospects, and with the right techniques, you can earn links from very relevant, high-quality sites.
Reason #4: It’s scalable
Getting fewer links doesn’t mean this method is not scalable.
White hat link building techniques can certainly produce a good amount of links — both consistently and with a long-term positive effect.
The other 2 approaches can’t guarantee this due to Google constantly modifying its algorithms to neutralize bad links.
7 White Hat Link Building Techniques
You can use various techniques to build links to your website WITHOUT breaking Google’s guidelines and risking a penalty. These are the 7 we recommend focusing on:
- Competitor Analysis + Outreach
This is one of the simplest techniques to execute.
If a site is already linking to your competitor, they’re likely open to linking to your site as well.
You can use Ahrefs or other SEO tools to look at the backlink profile of your competitors and identify potential sites that you can reach out to and ask for a link to your site. For example, if you’re in the project management software niche, you could look at Trello’s backlinks.
Use filters to find URLs that contain words like “best”, “top”, “resources”, or “software” to target resource pages and listicles. It’s more likely these websites will be willing to link out to your site as an additional item.
Here are some examples of listicles that you could potentially use to find prospects to reach out to. You could then introduce your project management software and pitch it as an additional resource:
Competitor analysis also lets you identify other strategies your competition uses to build links, which you might want to replicate.
To do this, you can take a look at the “Best by links” tab on Ahrefs. For example, here are some of the top pages for GoBankingRates:
The results show some studies and data on living expenses in different cities and states. If you’re in the finance space, conducting similar studies might be an effective approach you can try.
- Broken link search + Outreach
When done correctly, this is one of the most powerful, high-converting white hat techniques that you can use to earn new links.
Broken links affect user experience, and it’s in a site’s best interest to have as few outgoing broken links as possible. So, if you can offer a good replacement for a broken link, there’s a good chance you can build some high-quality links to your site.
The idea here is to:
- Search for broken links relevant to your niche
- Reach out to the sites that currently have that link
- Let them know that the link is broken
- Offer a resource of your own as a replacement
It’s a win-win situation, where most people are thankful for your help in pointing out a broken link (which makes them more likely to add a link to your site in return).
Though the process can be a bit time-consuming and complicated, using a scalable system like the one we mention in our broken link building guide can make this technique work for you in the long term.
- Unlinked Brand Mentions + Outreach
If you have an established brand that people already know and are talking about, you can pursue unlinked brand mention linking opportunities.
Unlinked brand mentions are references to your brand (whether it be the name of your company, your CEO, or a specific product of yours) that aren’t linked to your site.
Here’s an example of what an unlinked brand mention looks like in an article about how ChatGPT will transform marketing careers:
This is a high-converting technique because people are already aware of your brand — at least enough to have referenced it on their site — so you don’t really have to pitch anything. You can simply ask for a link.
If you’d like to learn more about this technique, we wrote a more detailed guide on how to do unlinked brand mention link building.
These platforms gather questions from journalists and writers who are looking for insights from subject matter experts on several topics. Then, once you sign up, you’ll have to write answers to their questions.
If your answers get selected, you’ll usually get a link to your site in return.
Here’s an example of a link we earned for one of our clients using Featured.com that was published in an article on Formstack’s website about how automation can improve employee engagement:
Reactive PR is a great tactic if your business is just starting out because it can get you high-quality links that only require your expertise on subjects in your niche.
The key to getting links with this strategy? Write creative, insightful, and unique answers to questions on topics you’re knowledgeable about.
But keep in mind: Time is of the essence — queries have tight deadlines, and you should try to answer them as fast as possible to maximize your chances of being selected.
- Guest Posting
Guest posting is the most popular white hat link building technique, with 64.9% of link builders using it.
To earn backlinks from guest posts, you’ll need to write high-quality content for another site and include a contextual link to a page on your website within the article.
Every site has its own guest posting guidelines that you need to follow. However, you can often choose what link to include in the article, which makes this a great tactic for building links to priority pages or pages that are harder to build links to.
Guest posting also offers you a chance to increase your brand exposure, build your reputation/credibility within your niche, and establish relationships with people in your industry.
A simple way to find guest posting opportunities is to run a Google search using relevant keywords in your niche and adding terms like “write for us” or “guest post.” Here’s an example:
You can also run a competitor analysis to identify sites your competition has written guest posts for and reach out to those same websites with a unique angle.
You can even curate a list of sites within your industry that don’t openly mention guest posting opportunities but that you think can benefit from your expertise about a subject and pitch them your idea.
This technique, however, needs to be executed carefully. You need to identify relevant, high-quality sites that are willing to post third-party content and pitch content ideas that you think would be valuable to their readers.
But you also need to be able to identify low-quality sites that offer guest posting opportunities and steer clear of them. Although it’s not always easy to tell them apart, there are some signs that can help you.
For example, if a site has a very obvious “Write For Us” or “Submit Guest Post” sign (usually in the navigation menu), or if they advertise their guest posting program (and charge a fee for submitting a guest post), you should evaluate it more carefully.
You should also watch out for sites that don’t have a specific niche but rather post articles on any topic (mimicking real news sites). Here’s an example of a site that has both red flags:
If you’re unsure about a site, you can also use Ahrefs to check other articles they’ve posted and look at the quality of the content, how they’re linking to other sites, and where their traffic is coming from.
For example, we once came across one such “news” website that had a significant amount of organic traffic, according to Ahrefs.
After taking a closer look at their top pages, we noticed that the pages that drive the most traffic were unrelated to international news.
- Linkable Assets
Linkable assets are any type of content on your site that could potentially add value to another site. It could be an infographic, case study, free tool, compilation of statistics on a specific topic, or a high-quality guide.
Here are 2 examples:
Working on building linkable assets can be combined with other techniques, such as competitor analysis or broken link building tactics. For example, you can re-create a free resource that has broken links and pitch your new and improved resource to all of the websites linking to the broken link.
The best part about linkable assets is that if you can make them rank on Google, they can generate links naturally.
- Brand Building
Link building can help you increase your brand visibility.
But you can also build more organic backlinks by building your brand — because the more people know about you, the likelier they’ll be to write about you or reference you in some way.
Although building your brand is more passive in terms of link building, any efforts that you make to increase your brand awareness and visibility can also be a great way to earn natural links.
This could be many different things…
- Establishing a strong social presence
- Podcasting or being guests on podcasts
- Sponsoring events
- Speaking at events
…the list could go on and on.
Bonus tip: Growing your brand can also create more unlinked brand mention opportunities to pursue.
How to Find Trustworthy White Hat Link Building Services
White hat link building is hard to execute properly. It takes time, research, planning, creativity, and knowing how to pitch. It also requires selecting the right techniques and having a system to run them consistently and efficiently.
For example, the techniques that work best for a company that has been around for a long time might not be the same as those for a company that’s only a few years old (and thus has less brand visibility).
It also largely depends on the industry. For example, sites in the education or job-seeking space might be easier to build links to than sites in real estate, finance, or insurance industries (these might require more creative approaches).
If you’re considering hiring white hat link building services from an agency to help you with your site, here are some of the things you should look for:
- They’re knowledgeable about what high-quality links are and have a wide array of white hat strategies they can use to get them.
- They’re aware of gray and black hat link building techniques, and they’re not part of their portfolio.
- They strive to earn links from relevant and real sites, more than just high metrics like DR or traffic.
- They’re open about their link building processes and strategies and set realistic expectations (be careful if they’re promising you the moon).
- They can show you examples of how their work has helped other businesses.
White Hat Link Building Can Boost Your SEO (and Give You an Edge Over Your Competition)
You need to build a healthy backlink profile by progressively acquiring new high-quality and relevant links to boost your page’s rankings and the organic traffic your site receives.
White hat link building is the best way to achieve this safely and at scale.
However, it’s not always easy to execute.
If you’d like to improve your SEO using white hat techniques but are unsure about how to execute them, we can help. You can take a look at this article, where we explain our link building methodology in more detail.
You can also schedule a free consultation using our contact page. We’ll be happy to help, whether that means working together or not.
Frequently Asked Questions About White Hat Backlink Building
Is link building allowed?
Link building (for the most part) is legal, but black hat link building techniques can go against Google’s guidelines or even involve illegal practices. If you stick to building high-quality links using white hat techniques, you’re in the clear.
Are there any risks associated with white hat link building?
Link building techniques that 100% adhere to Google’s guidelines have no risk of getting your site penalized. It may take more time to build links this way, and it’s possible that the positive results can only be seen after a couple of months of consistent link building, but the long-term, risk-free effects of white hat techniques are worth it.
How long does it take to see results from white hat link building?
This depends on several factors, but generally speaking, the positive results of white hat link building can be observed anywhere between 3 and 12 months after consistently building links to your site.