White hat link building is the safest approach you can take to build links to your website. In fact, it’s the only approach that search engines approve.
If you use link-building methods that aren’t white hat — so-called grey hat or black hat methods — you risk getting a penalty from Google or another search engine.
That means your site could get significantly less traffic or even get entirely removed from the search results.
To avoid that scenario, you should know what white hat link building is and how to distinguish it from other link building approaches. We’ll walk you through everything in less than 15 minutes.
A fun fact: An average adult can read 238 words per minute. This guide has 2,820 words. So, it should take you only about 11 minutes to read it from start to finish. Give us that much of your time, and we promise you’ll master white hat link building.
White hat link building is one of three possible approaches to building links to a website. The other two are called black hat and grey hat.
All three approaches help sites build backlinks, and backlinks further help sites:
But there is one big difference between the three approaches.
Black hat and grey hat link building methods are considered unethical because they rely on spammy tactics to build links.
In contrast, white hat link building is considered ethical because it aims to build links organically, and not by using manipulative tactics.
That also makes it the safest link building approach, as it doesn’t subject sites to penalties. We’ll talk more about that later.
For now, just know that it’s not all that rosy — white hat link building has its downsides, too.
The biggest one is that it takes more time to show results than other approaches, especially when you’re building links on your own. White hat tactics don’t let you cut corners. You have to do the work, and there’s a lot of work to be done.
Although it isn’t easy, white hat link building does pay off. Let's discuss how you can benefit from it.
TL;DR: White hat link building aims to build links organically, rather than by manipulating the search engine algorithms. That makes it the most ethical and safe link building approach you can take.
To answer that, let's first define what white hat links are.
White hat (back)links are like high-quality referrals.
Referrals can help you build credibility and attract new customers to your physical store. White hat backlinks help you do the same for your online store.
In general, the more referrals you get, the better. Each time someone recommends you, your business will gain credibility.
But not all referrals are the same. Paid and rewarded referrals are less trustworthy than organic ones, which is why they don't work quite as well.
And it’s the same with backlinks.
Trustworthy links are worth more. So, the links you build using white hat methods will have more weight than black hat or grey hat links.
In other words, white hat backlinks are the most credible links you can have.
Here’s why that matters:
So, the credibility of your links matters because it influences your site’s search engine optimization (SEO). The higher the credibility, the better your results.
And since white hat backlinks are more credible than black hat or grey hat links, they can help you get better SEO results in the long run.
On top of that, white hat backlinks are 100% safe. They’re not subject to penalties, so you don’t have to worry about your site suddenly disappearing from Google one day.
TL;DR: White hat backlinks can boost a site’s credibility more than black hat or grey hat backlinks, which leads to better SEO results in the long run.
The easiest way to tell if a tactic is white hat, black hat, or grey hat is to check whether it violates or follows Google’s Webmaster guidelines:
So, what’s the difference between tactics that follow and tactics that violate Google’s guidelines?
It comes down to the intent:
Google prefers tactics that fall into the first category because they allow the search engine to better serve its users.
Now that you’ve nailed the theory, let’s get more concrete.
Here are some examples of white, black, and grey hat tactics.
White hat link building tactics:
Black hat link building tactics:
Grey hat link building tactics:
Keep in mind that the same tactic can be considered white hat, black hat, or grey hat, depending on the approach you take.
For example, broken link building can be considered black hat if you’re replacing broken links with links that don’t fit the context.
In a nutshell, grey hat and black hat tactics can lead to unnatural search results.
By manipulating the search engine algorithms, they can help sites get to the top of the SERPs even if they don’t deserve to be there.
For example, if you buy links from link farms, you can get a page with poor content to outrank a page with good content.
Obviously, Google wouldn’t like that — because its users would get irrelevant results.
That’s why the search engine wants you to stick to white hat methods and white hat methods only.
If you use black hat or grey hat tactics, you’re participating in so-called link schemes. And Google can punish your site for that.
The penalties range from mild to severe.
Some sites only see a drop in rankings, while extremely spammy sites get entirely removed from Google.
But neither scenario is good. That’s why you should avoid exposing yourself to penalties as much as you can.
With that said, most sites can get away with using grey hat tactics. Just make sure you’re not crossing the line and going black hat.
SEOs have developed numerous white hat link building tactics over the years. But some work better than others.
We’ll show you 5 tactics that have worked best for us.
We’ve personally used them to build over 10K links in the last 8 years, so we know you can make them work.
The safest white hat link building tactic is earning links naturally.
What that means is:
✖ You don’t buy links
✖ You don’t ask for links
✔ You attract links
In a nutshell, you create an asset that’s so valuable that other people naturally want to link to it.
For example, let’s say you created a quiz that helps people identify their ideal career with 99% accuracy.
Such a useful resource is almost bound to get links from all sorts of places: other people’s websites, forums, comments, social media… the sky is your limit.
From our experience, there are three assets that never fail to attract links:
Publish these assets on your website and see what happens. The results could be astonishing.
For example, consider how many links point to a unique report on content marketing:
So far, the page has attracted over 3,000 backlinks from 1,029 referring domains, which makes its backlink profile above average. That’s all thanks to the unique data on this page.
When we talk about outreach, we’re referring to:
Both methods can bring you great results. They’re just different.
Usually, getting backlinks from media outlets takes more time and effort than getting them from bloggers.
The reason is that most reporters and journalists get dozens of pitches every month, if not every day. Most bloggers don’t, so they’re likelier to accept your story.
But that doesn’t mean that getting backlinks from media outlets is impossible.
There are two ways to go about it:
Blogger outreach is done in pretty much the same way.
You just find a few blogs you like and pitch them your idea.
Use the following query string on Google to find suitable blogs faster:
Here’s an example of the results you can expect:
Broken link building is one of the most popular ways to get white hat backlinks. It’s cheap, effective, and lets you help other people while helping yourself.
It’s also pretty straightforward. All you have to do is find broken links and replace them with yours. That’s it.
But what are broken links?
A super-quick definition: broken links are links that lead to 404 pages.
These are pages that no longer exist or can’t be reached for some reason:
With this strategy, your goal is to find broken links within other people’s content (and then replace them with yours).
Here’s how to do that:
This strategy can work well because you’re not just asking webmasters for a favor. You’re helping them, too.
They probably don’t want to send their audience to 404 pages, so they’d want to replace broken links anyway.
But they won’t have to spend time identifying broken links and finding suitable replacements when you do all of that for them. So, you’ll be saving them a ton of time. The least they can do is give you a link in exchange!
Let’s start with a disclaimer.
Guest posting can be both white hat and black hat:
Obviously, there’s a fine line between white hat and black hat guest posts.
But, at its core, the difference comes down to your intent: are you publishing guest posts just to get links? Or to help others?
If you’re positive you fall into the #2 camp, let’s talk about how you can publish your content on other websites:
One quick warning: don’t pitch the same post to multiple websites at the same time.
If more websites accept your submission, you’ll have to reject some of them. That could hurt you in the long run, as the websites you reject may no longer want to accept your guest posts.
So, pitch to just one website at a time. Wait for a response for around 2 weeks. If you don’t get it by then, feel free to send your pitch to another website.
If someone has already mentioned you in their content but didn’t link to your website, it’s likely that they simply forgot to do so.
You can remind them and easily score a new link placement.
The first step is to find mentions of your brand online.
We suggest using media monitoring tools or Google Alerts for that purpose:
But you can also google your brand name and manually analyze the results:
You’ll probably still find many relevant mentions. It’s just that specialized tools can better filter the results and show you your most recent mentions — not just the ones with the best SEO.
We suggest you focus only on mentions coming from other websites and not social media. Links from social media have little to no effect on SEO, so getting them shouldn’t be your top priority.
We showed you the five techniques that worked best for us.
But there are others you can try, too:
Again, remember that your approach matters more than the tactics you use.
As long as you focus on improving user experience, you should be safe from penalties.
Here’s a quick checklist that will help you ensure you’re staying on Google’s good side.
White hat link building is the safest approach to boosting your site’s SEO. But it also takes the most time, effort, and expertise.
Simply put: if you want quality white hat backlinks, you can’t cut corners.
That’s why many site owners outsource the work to professional link building agencies.
If you’re looking to do the same, our agency can help. Here’s what you can expect when you work with us:
If you’re interested in working with us on your next link building campaign, schedule your free consultation. You’ll get access to our price list, so you can see exactly where we can place your links before you agree to work with us. No strings attached.
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