Most businesses today struggle with their link-building efforts due to the lack of knowledge and access to top-tier resources. Many business owners and marketers take the easy way out, often by paying for backlinks from questionable domains. This can have dire consequences for your business’s online reputation, so far as your website being blocklisted by search engines.
In this article, we will focus on link-building as a white hat SEO strategy and how you can boost your backlink profile and domain authority the ethical way. We will shed light on popular and effective white hat link-building techniques to help boost your online visibility and get you the direct and referral traffic you deserve.
What is white hat link-building?
White hat link-building is the process of acquiring high-quality backlinks to your domain without breaking the rules or guidelines set out by search engines.
It’s a valid SEO technique involving ethical, honest, and transparent practices, but it can be quite a labour- and resource-intensive process. Some examples of white hat link-building include content promotion, guest posting, and HARO.
The practices followed for white hat link-building align with the rules laid out by search engines such as Google Search Central‘s (formerly known as Webmasters) guidelines. They aim to provide relevant, helpful content that fulfills search intent and leads to a satisfactory user experience.
The difference between white hat, grey hat, and black hat link-building
In contrast to white hat methods, black hat link-building relies on shortcuts that may bring short-term benefits to your websites but can lead to you eventually being penalised by being ranked lower or entirely banned by search engines. They focus on rapidly boosting traffic to your website, whether or not it is of any value to your business or the readers.
Black hat link-building techniques include paying money to have links placed on other websites, using private blog networks, and cloaking.
Grey hat link-building teeters between white and black hat tactics. They may not explicitly be discouraged by search engines or SEO experts, but they are certainly not encouraged either. That’s because they’re one algorithm update away from toppling over into the black hat category.
Examples of grey hat techniques include getting backlinks from low-authority or spammy domains, creating low-quality, over-optimised content solely to get backlinks out of it without providing any value to the readers, and paying for positive reviews from fake customers.
Another unethical practice surprisingly involves conducting proper SEO outreach to get a link to an informational article. But here’s the twist. Since a lot of link-building partners don’t want to link to product pages, the linked article is later rewritten with a commercial tone, essentially turning it into a landing page. Other times, the webpage is deleted entirely, and a 301 redirect is implemented to a commercial page to which all the link juice gets transferred.
8 most effective white hat link-building techniques
Let’s talk about eight link-building techniques that are generally approved by SEO and marketing experts everywhere and bring fruitful results for businesses looking to boost their backlink profile and domain authority.
1. Content promotion
The first highly-recommended link-building strategy places the onus on producing fresh, unique, and high-quality content; publishing it on your website; and promoting it via ethical means (NOT paid ones!).
Content promotion can be conducted via various channels, such as other blogs and sites, social media, email, podcasts, newsletters, and verified product review platforms. Ahrefs, which is an SEO software company, achieved some fantastic results by using Quora for content promotion.
Before starting with content promotion, you need to create content that provides a unique perspective on topics that other industry experts would want to quote you on.
Thus, this strategy aims to establish your position as a credible source of expertise, whether in a particular topic, niche, or industry.
However, it isn’t always likely that your content will immediately or organically be noticed and recognised by other industry experts. Therefore, it’s okay to reach out to people who you think would be interested in what you have to say. Once you have shortlisted relevant platforms and publications that you think would want to promote your content, you reach out to them via a professional channel such as email.
This strategy works best for the following types of content.
- Primary data collected from on-field research
- First-hand experiences
- A fresh take on how-to guides or explainer content
- Compilations such as list posts
- Useful free tools or software; these can be your primary or secondary offerings. (This was one of the strategies we chose for our client Biteable. Check out our SEO case study to find out how we did it! 🎯)
2. Guest posts
Guest posts are articles or blog posts you write for and publish on third-party websites. Now, you must be thinking why anyone would do that when they can just publish it on their own website. Well, there are several benefits of guest posting.
Firstly, guest posting directly broadens your audience. By publishing content on websites other than yours, you unlock access to entirely new audiences that those third-party sites have built over time.
Secondly, it allows you to make connections and relationships with other key players in your industry, such as marketers and competitor businesses. Most importantly, you can establish yourself as an expert and cement your business’s position as a trusted authority in your industry.
With these significant upsides, the backlinks you could potentially gain from these partnerships are a bonus.
Check out this example of a guest post of mine that was published on G2, a popular P2P review platform.
The guest posting process involves tons of SEO outreach and follow-ups. Here’s how you do it.
The first step is looking for suitable platforms that accept write-ups from guest contributors. These can include any reputable websites which publish content related to your niche or industry so that your article reaches the right audience.
Next, find the right people to contact at these organisations, i.e., those who are responsible for the content that gets published. These can be site owners, administrators, marketing executives, or content managers. Reach out to your prospects via email or any other suitable channel, such as LinkedIn.
Now is the time to pitch your proposal, in which you should specify the topics you can or want to write on. You can also ask your prospects if they would like you to write on a subject they might not have covered in the past.
Your email copy should sound friendly yet professional, and you must come up with suitable subject lines that grab the recipients’ attention. Personalise your emails for maximum positive impact.
Once your partner approves a topic, you can start writing the article. Make sure you follow any guidelines the partner site provides, such as word limits, custom illustrations, or formatting instructions.
Some websites also define the maximum number of external links allowed within the article body. A good website will never guarantee publication and will thoroughly vet your write-up before final approval. Thus, it’s imperative to follow all the rules to maximise the chances of your article being chosen for publication.
The only downside of guest posting is that you must dedicate a lot of time and effort to creating fresh, original content for each article you submit to a partner website.
3. Brand mentions
A brand mention is when another website mentions your business by name, with or without linking it back to your website.
Unlinked brand mentions are an already primed opportunity for earning quick backlinks.
Using an SEO tool such as Semrush or Ahrefs, you can find out which websites have mentioned your business and get real-time alerts about any new mentions. All you have to do is reach out to the administrators or editors of these websites. It is good practice to first thank them for mentioning your brand. Then, ask them if they would consider linking your brand name to your business website.
4. List posts
List posts refer to articles written in a “Top X Fintech Apps” or “X Best Free Tools” format. These can be ranked or unranked lists of concepts, methods, apps, tools, or any other products and services.
If you are a business offering a specific product or service, you can easily get yourself listed, provided what you’re offering is something your potential partner sites deem worth mentioning to their readers and followers. When you ask to be featured in this type of list, you should stress how your business can add value to the partner and their audience by being included in their list post.
To succeed with list post white hat link-building strategy, it is imperative that you find highly relevant articles covering the same niche as yours so that the referral traffic you get from the post also includes a decent number of high-potential leads.
Some list posts also include proper reviews, pros and cons, and competitor comparisons, which helps clarify that it is not a paid post but an unbiased view of all the listed offerings, including yours. Thus, they can be extra helpful in building trust with new audiences.
5. Broken links
A broken link is a link that leads nowhere. If a browser attempts to open a broken link, it will give you a 404 error. There are many reasons why links can break, such as a domain expiring or a URL to a specific page being changed by the website owner.
Broken links are detrimental to both the website where they are published and the website that the link points to. Therefore, by approaching a business that has a broken link on its site, you’d basically be doing them a favour.
You can go two ways about broken link building.
In the first method, you prepare a list of prospective websites from whom you could gain valuable backlinks. Then, using online tools such as Semrush, scan these websites or specific webpages for broken links to third-party content. Next, reach out to the site owner and inform them about the broken links. Ask them to replace the broken link with a new one that works and fits the context.
The second method is to audit your backlink profile for lost links. These are backlinks you earned in the past but are now broken because, for example, the linked page was unpublished for some reason or its URL was changed without implementing a redirect. In this case, you can reach out to the sites where these lost links were featured and ask them to update them to new URLs.
HARO (Help A Reporter Out) is an online service for trusted journalists and verified online media outlets looking for feedback, information, or advice from either subject matter experts (SMEs) or the general public.
The platform allows information seekers to post their queries, which are sent out to subscribers thrice a day.
Experts or relevant people can choose which queries they’d like to respond to and email their answers to those who posted those queries.
As a source of original information or an expert in a particular domain, you can pick and choose queries you think you can answer. Reporters, journalists, writers, and bloggers need your help, and they ask for it regularly. Therefore, you must get back to them with only relevant, helpful information on which they can quote you. There is no room for fluff; you can’t answer queries just for the sake of answering them. It will waste your time and theirs.
Major online publications such as Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, and Reuters rely on this technique to obtain information directly from the source(s). Therefore, you can get a major boost in your brand’s visibility if your HARO response gets chosen to be featured. Not just that, but you can also gain some very high authority backlinks out of these collaborations.
7. Press releases
A press release is a statement that comes straight from a brand and is published on news, media, or PR submission websites. This statement can be an announcement about anything, from news about your company’s funding to the launch of a new product or service.
PR link-building is a tricky and oft-misused technique. A lot of businesses forget that the primary purpose of publishing press releases is to inform readers and consequently drive traffic, not to hoard link juice. So you have to be very smart to connect perfectly with the audience and not come off as scammy.
You should only go for a press release if you have something newsworthy to announce.
Keep the tone professional, and don’t oversell your brand. Choose your anchor texts and target URLs smartly such that the publishers see their value. Avoid overstuffing links, or else you will come off as spammy and overly promotional.
Write catchy, interesting headlines. And finally, make sure you release the statement on the right platforms with relevant audiences. Bulk-forwarding your press release to all sorts of outlets won’t get you very far.
A good way to establish enough authority to conduct PR link-building is to first create a press page for your website. It is sometimes titled ‘Press Centre’ or ‘Media & Resources’. This page will serve as a central location for all news, announcements, PR persons’ contacts, and other key information about your company, such as official logos and team images and bios.
There are multiple ways a press page can benefit you.
Firstly, any media person looking to learn more about your company will be able to do so via this page. Additionally, this page can serve as a great target for organic backlinks, as media persons can link to it as an authentic source of information when writing about your business. Most importantly, linking to this page on press releases you send out for link-building purposes will help media persons see your business as a trusted legal and commercial identity and lend the much-needed authority to your backlinks.
8. Content collaborations and interviews
This last strategy revolves around close collaboration with other authors, industry experts, thought leaders, and professionals in the field.
When you write a piece of content that requires expert knowledge or varied opinions, it’s good to reach out to relevant people and ask for their input on the topic.
Let them know that you will be quoting them on their contribution and adding a backlink to their profile, work, or any other relevant resource they would like you to utilise. You can even arrange short interviews to gather more in-depth information.
This will help you build new relationships with all sorts of industry professionals, many of whom are likely to return the favour by keeping you in mind for more content collaborations in the future, where you can contribute your insights to their work. Thus, this strategy holds great potential for your link-building efforts in the long term. Both parties can quote and cite each other’s work on their websites.
Why white hat link-building is crucial for your brand
We’ve discussed some of the topmost methods of white hat link-building, but why are they essential, and how do they help your business in the grand scheme of things?
There are five main goals of any marketing activity, and when done right, link-building can help you achieve them all.
1. Boost search engine rankings
This is where all SEO activities start off – it’s in the name! Search engine results are one of the biggest sources of relevant, organic traffic for all types of businesses. But you can’t get that traffic if your website doesn’t appear in the top search results.
Link-building boosts your brand’s domain authority and credibility, helping it rank higher on results pages of popular search engines such as Google and Bing.
2. Increase brand visibility
There are two main ways link-building helps increase your brand’s online visibility.
The first one is a direct result of ranking on higher positions in SERPs. The stronger your backlink profile, the higher you will rank.
The second source of increased visibility is all the backlinks you get from third-party websites. When you gain a backlink from a reputable source, readers who want to learn more about the topic will see your website since the referring domain has essentially cited it as a credible source in the form of a backlink.
3. Drive traffic to your website
The primary purpose of boosting your website in the SERPs and increasing your brand’s online identity, presence, and visibility is to drive traffic to your website. And not just any traffic, but traffic that is relevant and has the potential to convert into sales. That’s why it is crucial to adopt white hat link-building techniques instead of relying on grey or black hat shortcuts.
The higher you rank on SERPs, the higher the chances of users clicking on your website link. Additionally, when your website is linked back to by trusted third-party platforms, people eager to learn more will click on your link and come to your website.
4. Build new relationships
Link-building often involves running multiple outreach campaigns, which means you get to network and interact with people from all walks of life working in various business domains. When done right, these new relationships that you build can last a long time and open up numerous avenues for priceless collaborations and partnerships in the long run.
5. Establish authority and earn trust
With authoritative sites linking back to your website, people will see your site not only as a reliable source of information but also as a brand that can be trusted with its products or services.
Furthermore, it is important to build an approachable identity and become more visible by participating in various online communities, from blogs to forums. This will further cement a trustworthy image of your business.
Wrapping up: What is the best link-building approach?
There should now be no doubts about why white hat link-building is the best approach for your business. But even within that category, there are so many options. How do you choose the best strategy for your website?
As an experienced link-building agency, we have learned over the years how one approach that works well for one company doesn’t necessarily work for another. A holistic link-building strategy should involve multiple white hat techniques and make them work simultaneously and cohesively, like a well-oiled machine. And building links is not enough. You also need to keep a close eye on how your backlinks perform and whether or not they go on to help you achieve your goals.
To talk to our white hat link-building experts, drop us a line!