Since 2009, Google has been living up to its authority as the number one information resource on the internet. With up to 8.5 billion searches a day, the search engine has incorporated itself into everyone’s daily routine as the go-to with an answer to everything. For businesses that want to place themselves out there for their clients, it undoubtedly presents the most powerful way to market. The road to doing so, however, isn’t as simple.

Although unnoticeable by the user’s eye, Google consistently keeps up with the ever-changing market dynamics by implementing core algorithm ranking updates. Following the most recent one in October 2023, it has become clear for businesses that getting to the top of a search ranking requires aligning with Google’s vision of a quality search result. And that entails not just the necessary quality content – but also authoritative resources that broaden your scope. This is where white hat link-building comes in.

In today’s guide, we’ll dive deep into what we believe white hat link building to be – getting links on quality, relevant sites, and the risk potential.

In the world of search engine optimization, links have always been, and for the foreseeable future, continue to be an important ranking factor. After all, it is backlinks that search engines rely heavily on to index the websites appearing first on a search. 

The decision to build links for your website is vital in putting your products/services on the map. A link from a high-quality and relevant site will communicate to the search engine what your website, or content is all about. 

Even the most precious gem won’t acquire a buyer if it isn’t showcased in the jeweler’s shop. Similarly, not having enough links, or a lack of authoritative links will inevitably make it harder for you to rank.

Yes, it may be possible to rank in some niches, or to rank for some keywords without the use of links – but as soon as you get to a moderately competitive niche, you will need to use link building at some point. 

White hat link building is about building backlinks via strategies that are completely organic methods, are compliant with all of Google’s guidelines, and is deemed so safe, it is unlikely to lead to little (if any) risk of a penalty. 

If you hit the right mark with your content (i.e. it’s optimized for humans as well as search engines) you are bound to get a few natural links from someone in your industry who finds your content so qualitative that they reference it in their articles. Mind you, this is the best-case scenario, and the only scenario Google technically recognizes. While it is effortless and effective, it involves sitting around and waiting for things to happen. That – is never advisable, and while its good to have some assets that can passively earn links (we’ll cover some techniques you can use to do this in another article), you will want to speed that natural process up a bit. 

White hat link building – at least the way The Links Guy likes to do it – means taking the liberty to speed up the process of sharing your hard-earned published content with other reputable sources and increasing your visibility, without threatening your credibility towards the search engines. So far (and our clients can vouch for this), this has demonstrated exceptional long-term results in the future.

It goes without saying that the term ‘white hat’ is a fluid concept and leaves much space for misinterpretation. It is important that we address these misconceptions and set the record straight so that your platform’s integrity remains intact throughout your link-building journey. 

What Does “White Hat” Mean?

This is where the controversy kicks in. Sticking by the book (or by Google’s Webmaster Guidelines/Search Essentials) may not leave you much room to maneuver.  Google’s guidelines state that any attempt we take intended to interfere with a site’s rankings can put us in jeopardy of being considered part of a link scheme or unnatural link building. In that respect, we shouldn’t actively build any backlinks at all!

what is link spam

Through TLG’s way of doing things, we’ve found the golden middle of “white hat” link building. We use ethical methods to acquire relevant links, on good quality sites, where we have carefully vetted every target. 

The question many people have is “is buying links white hat?” It may or may not be depending on your own definition of the term, but according to Google’s guidelines, anything that involves exchanging money/goods/services for links is against the rules. Even link exchanges are listed. 

Google's guidelines on buying links and backlink exchanges

We believe the important question you should be asking is if you are building impactful links, that are on sites with real traffic and relevant content. If you can say yes to those questions, then you’re on the right track to success, without jeopardizing your site. 

Good things come with time. It is without a doubt that white hat techniques, although more demanding in effort and time, are far superior in terms of user trust and SEO. By complying with search engine guidelines, you ensure a long-term boost in your rankings and avoid the risk of possible penalties or devaluing of your link profile. 

But not just that.

Solid white hat link building strategies have quality content and relevance as core requirements. In order to be able to send a pitch to a well-renowned large editorial, you first must have something valuable to offer to them. In most cases, when you pitch content to sites that truly have a relevant audience, the content will do the job for you. 

When you do end up getting the link, you don’t just get the SEO benefit, but you can also benefit from the brand awareness, potential referral traffic, and even the ability to spread your thought leadership message. 

We believe “white hat” link building is also about intention. If you can create content or assets that truly add value to the websites, or web pages you’re being linked to, this contributes to the general mission of search engines (and the wider internet) to provide users with the best information possible. 

On the other side of the spectrum stands black hat link building. Generally involving the implementation of blatant tactics to manipulate rankings such as blatant link schemes or private blog networks (PBNs), black hat seo techniques are an almost sure road towards instability and constant fear of penalization.

black hat vs white hat link building

Taking the significant risk of blatant search engine guideline violation is not worth it. The only beneficial output will be a short-lived reward, one that might not even reflect that highly on rankings. No matter how many links you’ve scored in a short amount of time, search engines have made it clear in their guidelines that they value quality over quantity. A number of low-quality links won’t go unnoticed. Even if they don’t notice at first, they’ll only get devalued later. 

Major risk of penalty, loss of organic traffic, and even potential permanent removal from search engine results (i.e. manual penalty) –  black hat seo tactics can leave a trail of disaster along the way. 

Another term you may hear discussed is “gray hat link building”. If we again stick to the strict definitions of the terms for white hat and black hat link building, then we have this middle ground area. Link building that isn’t blatantly spammy and manipulative – but it doesn’t quite follow Google’s guidelines either. 

gray hat link building

Exchanging payment, goods or services may fall within this (if the link is not tagged with rel=sponsored or rel=nofollow). However, so can link exchanges, or anything which is an organized ‘scheme’ designed to build links at scale. 

Even sites engaging in scholarship link building have been known to be penalized. This is not in of itself a “black hat” technique, but some sites abused this technique, to the point where Google devalued sites that were doing this excessively. 

The reality is, it is hard to distinguish the line between white hat and gray hat, and it’s unlikely Google will actually take action against a site doing anything which seems a bit “gray”.  

Especially since the Panda update, it’s unlikely that Google will manually penalize a site which is in the ‘gray’ area – however, a site engaging in blatant black hat SEO is definitely at risk.

Now that we’ve established the correct approach to the art of building links, it is time to talk business.

Much like art, there are countless ways one can get creative when building links. While it is exciting to be a part of an ever-changing industry where one must simply not be afraid of transformation, search engine optimization and its progressing algorithm updates can also catch you off guard. Many times, constant efforts to perfect one single technique will eventually damage the entirety of your strategy. Not because that technique isn’t worthy anymore, but because to remain relevant, it must be accompanied by emerging new tactics that leave their mark.

We have compiled a list of our favorite tricks at TLG that keep us one step ahead of the game.  When carefully placed together, these strategies create a significant buzz around your brand, one which will surely reach and affect search engines as well.

Unlinked brand mention, 404 link reclamation, media PR/Outreach, resource page, guest posting, etc. are all considered ‘white hat’  techniques – let’s dive into those techniques and how they work.

Guest Posting

Guest posting is one of the most popular backlink building building tactics out there. Not only does it allow you to contribute and author an article of substance to legitimate websites or blogs, but it also gets you a relevant and quality link. It could be within an author bio section (as shown below), or within the body of the article as a linked resource.

White hat link building strategy: author bio

A well-written article in alignment with your brand’s mission and tone, placed in the right spot, is a powerful way of building relevant links. The general etiquette is that once you agree on a guest article topic, you have the liberty to add a link as credit for yourself/your website. You’ll generally have reasonable freedom to link to anything you like and use any anchor text, however, this is dependent on the editorial process of that site. 

For example: some editors may not allow commercial/product pages to be linked to within an article, or they may not allow exact match keywords to be used as anchors. Aggressive use of keyword anchors is probably not recommended anyway for SEO best practices, but it’s best to be clear with the editor what their editorial guidelines are. 

Note: it’s best not to confuse this with black hat guest posting. There are guest blogging services out there that will publish made-to-order posts on low-quality link farms, set up only for the purpose of selling links. While the page and the context may be relevant, it’ll be a low-quality site and you won’t get the benefits that come with truly “white hat” guest posting. 

Unlinked Brand Mentions

Unlinked brand mentions are an easy and white-hat way of getting some easy links. It’s often overlooked but definitely recommended if you’re a relatively well-known brand, and have already secured some mentions in websites. This often happens if a company has a lot of press mentions, but those articles haven’t inserted a backlink in the article. 

If your brand or its products have been mentioned, this should be one of the first tactics you use to get some low-hanging fruit, especially as you may already have an established relationship with the journalist or editor. 

Rest assured, it worked for us.

A general rule of thumb to remember here is that giant social publishers such as LadBible and other high-tier media have editorial rules and strategies in place that they strictly adhere to. When reaching out to such platforms it is important to address and keep in mind the editorial processes that make up their daily work routines, as it can be solely up to the editors to decide whether or not to include your link. When you ensure you provide solid reasoning behind why credit is deserved by your brand and you can convey that effectively enough, the possibilities of getting ahead of such editorial guidelines and getting the link are high.  

The story is different for smaller-tier publications. While it can be significantly easier to maneuver through their editorial guidelines, there’s also a chain of command to go through. Most of the time, the writer or journalist won’t have access to make administrative changes on the site, which is why directly contacting the editor might be a necessary standard procedure to implement for such cases.

Link Reclamation

Much like unlinked brand mentions, link reclamation is another ‘white hat’ link building method that at the same time, helps improve user experience on other site’s. 

In a nutshell – the process involves tracking your website’s backlinks that might have been lost due to various reasons and recovering them via outreach. 

Tracking such links can be quite technical considering that the most common reasons why these links are lost in the first place include spammy links (i.e. the linking site got de-indexed by Google), HTTP errors where the page hosting the link is removed or redirected to another page, linking to a 404/non-existent page or even gradual PageRank decay.  That is why, for effective tracking, Google Analytics and other SEO tools such as Ahrefs and Semrush where your backlink history is visible are much needed. 

For example here is the Broken Backlinks feature in Ahrefs, which lets you find all your broken links in a snapshot:

Find broken backlinks using Ahrefs

The reason why link reclamation is considered a good practice is that it regains valuable links with newly established trust. Fixing such links allows you to practice good SEO health by maintaining your website’s backlink profile as well as the target’s, and also repairs previously-harmed relationships with high-quality brands. The fact that you’ve already been mentioned once means that the website owner has already found your content helpful and worthy of being included on their site. By pointing it out to them, you amend the foundation for long-term relationships with the said website and get that much-needed link equity back. 

This is of course, subject to quality assessment. A lot of lost backlinks will not be worth the chase –  more so if those links are gained through questionable  methods. As such, during the early stages of implementing the link reclamation strategy, it is vital that you identify the reason why that link was lost in the first place. This allows you to filter through the links that will do more harm than good and provides you with a clear list of who you need to contact.

You can also lose links in other ways for example:

  • A company could fold and the website goes offline. Not much you can do here, but if the domain expired and is up for sale, or the previous owner is trying to sell the website, you could try offering to buy it and try to establish a niche blog out of it and insert your link back in, once it goes online. 
  • They implement a new policy to rel=nofollow all outbound links, and then it changes from a dofollow to a nofollow. 
  • A competitor/third party asks to have your link removed and replaced with theirs. Scary but this does happen in the industry, and that’s why it’s important to work with a reputable, ethical company like TLG which doesn’t allow any conflicts of interest and does not have a policy of removing links after a campaign finishes. 

Broken Link Building

Similar but not identical to link reclamation, the broken link building strategy targets 404 broken links on a relevant website. The logic of this technique resides in the idea that it is in the website owner’s interest to identify and fix links in their site that lead to 404 network errors, and then conveniently replace them with your brand’s active and relevant pages. 

Step 1: Find those broken links

The process first involves identifying niche-relevant websites that have broken links. SEO tools like Ahrefs and Semrush have features where you can scan a website for broken links, and you can see if any are relevant to your content. 

finding broken backlinks

Now for best effect, you’d want to sort these into batches. Once you have identified a page that is a 404/dead page – that article could then have even more broken links from other sites. For example, let’s take that okra one from above. 

diving deep to find more broken links

The second one is a link farm anyway, but you get the general idea. 

Step 2: Reach out with a replacement

Once you’ve identified some niche-relevant links, the next step is outreach. 

The way this works is quite similar to completing puzzles. An uncompleted puzzle is no better than a wrongly fitted puzzle piece. Similarly, an editor would contemplate keeping a broken link rather than include a link that does not fit within their content, or even worse, will fix the link but not link to you! As such, when implementing the broken link method in your link-building strategies, keeping a lookout for relevance is crucial to its success.

So a few things you want to keep in mind:

  • Look carefully at the replacement link you will be suggesting – does it align with the broken resource that used to exist, or (better yet) is it an improvement? You can check it using Wayback Machine. 
  • Be straightforward. You found the broken link, and you just need to be clear on the anchor text, and the dead URL it links to, so they know right away which one you’re talking about. 
  • Show them your resource, and explain why it is a valid replacement. There’s no obligation for them to replace it with yours, but if you have a compelling reason, then share that. 

Good user experience is one aspect Google looks at, and especially after the latest Google algorithm updates, there is unmatched value to helpful and accurate content. With this in mind, you are doing the website you’ve targeted a favor by improving its content. It just so happens you get a backlink out of it as well!

Media & PR Outreach

Building digital authority is also about building relationships with high authority, distinguished websites like media. Journalists, influencers, and other media outlets relevant to your industry hold the utmost power in increasing brand awareness and potentially, directly connecting you to potential customers. 

Through free platforms like HARO (Help A Reporter Out) and Qwoted you’re connected to a network of journalists and influencers who constantly look for valuable content. To get mentioned in large media, is no small task, however. Journalists and editors, especially in top-tier media outlets like Forbes, New York Times, and FastCompany are bombarded with cold emails all the time. So if you’re sending sound bites to journalists for upcoming articles, it has to be both highly relevant and compelling enough to be worthy of being included. You’ll generally also get a link beside your soundbite as well. We’ll discuss this reactive PR outreach a little later. 

Now, outside of these reactive PR platforms, you can also just directly approach journalists, who are covering certain beats relevant to your industry. Again, you will need to have something compelling enough, that they want to open your email and run the story. Sales pitches won’t work here, and it’s about having something timely and newsworthy. There is a highly creative process to this, and not every story you have will be a hit, so this may become time-consuming. But the reward will be worth it. 

Brand authenticity, features in top-tier publications, and better rankings are everything that comes along when such tactics are implemented properly, causing a major positive impact on your site’s authority. 

Coverage and links in media also help build your brand’s credibility over time, and aside from just the link equity you’ll get, it’s ideal for brand awareness and can potentially drive a lot of referral traffic, with the right coverage. 

It’s also a firm favorite of John Mueller from Google who said he likes a lot of digital PR campaigns. 

John Mueller's take on digital PR backlinks

Note: he does say “some of the things I see”, which I believe is a reference to digital PR that is irrelevant, and only for the purpose of securing links. Regardless though, doing PR campaigns is probably one of the safest white hat strategies out there, albeit a very resource-intensive, and cost-intensive activity. 

Resource Page

The essence of a resource page is to provide a curated list of niche-specific topics or businesses with external links to the respective sources. 

This tactic may not be relevant, depending on the niche you’re in, but if it is something you can leverage, it’s definitely one to have in your arsenal. 

At TLG we’ve leveraged this tactic a lot, and have successfully secured links on resource pages belonging to schools, universities, government institutions, nonprofits, and libraries (to name a few). Your value proposition is really important here, and the resource you share with them needs to be highly relevant to their page. Informative articles or homepage links are probably most likely with resource pages, and it’s unlikely you would get a commercial link from a tactic like this. 

Here’s an example of an addiction resource that we shared with a major UK university. Nothing groundbreaking about the pitch, but what was important was that we gave some background to our company, why we had the credibility to share that content, and how it was relevant to them. This resulted in a very relevant DA 74 link from the university. 

HARO & Reactive PR

In 2008, what initially started as a Facebook group, greatly revolutionized into a communication tool where journalists and industry experts could freely interact and collaborate. The HARO (Help A Reporter Out) platform has a track record of serving as the perfect middleman between journalists who actively seek out sources and industry experts who seek out press coverage. 

The idea here is that these journalists have upcoming articles, and they need help from sources, to provide information and soundbites that will help them construct those news articles. If you send a query that is just what they were looking for, they’ll include it and might link back to you with a do-follow link as well. 

Here’s an example of how a HARO link may look. 

Example of a HARO link

Now, notice that we said  ‘might’ – since when dealing with such high-authority publications and editorials, nothing is a given. Many media outlets prefer to use a ‘no-follow’ tag  This is most likely a blanket rule they follow across the publication. Arguably though, even a nofollow tag, or a brand mention, may have some impact on your SEO – and even without that, you’ll benefit from the brand awareness, and prestige of being mentioned in media! 

Using Images For Linkbuilding

A huge part of a website’s content is images. That’s something we should consider in overall SEO strategy anyway, as it contributes to overall user experience. It may even be one factor to consider in the “Helpful Content” side of things. So things like having an aesthetic header image, or original photography that describes products or statistics, will make an immaculate first impression for the reader and will serve as an engagement tool. 

This high demand for images creates an ideal opportunity for link builders, one that is not often talked about. Many businesses showcase authentic pictures of their product/services on their website. Instead of keeping them only on your website, this particular  technique is about posting these images on platforms such as Creative Commons or Flickr for potential publishers who want to elaborate on a topic of your niche to use. 

Using images for white hat link building

To an editor of a medium publication who has spent the last 30 minutes searching for a quality and not overused picture, your unique image is the light at the end of the tunnel. To you, it is a qualitative link earned by credit, as that said editor will usually link to the original photographer/brand.

To demonstrate this, let’s say you own a restaurant and create photos of certain dishes/food groups and you decide to listen to us and publish them on these platforms for the wider internet to use. Since you are the owner of said images, you deserve credit whenever they are used. 

In cases where someone hasn’t linked, a reverse image search will show you whoever has used the photos  – and you can always reach out and ask for it, especially if it’s a highly relevant site. 

Of course, the luxury of brand-owned images doesn’t apply to all industries. However, this shouldn’t discourage brands from incorporating this white hat technique. Even if you are a service provider or something very niche –  a phone-taken photograph of your daily operations could be extremely useful to an editor, or content writer related to your niche who simply has exhausted the amount of niche-relevant stock photos available. 

This is why this technique is a convenient and affordable way to acquire links, without the need for fancy equipment or professional photographers. The real value is its relevance to someone else’s article, and a mere iPhone camera can get the job done.

Skyscraper Technique

Among favorites at The Links Guy, the skyscraper link building technique has helped us with clients that have a load of content they need to build links to. 

Why and how it works – we’ve got you covered.

Step 1 – Identify the Content You Can Leverage

An obvious starting point with the skyscraper technique, is having a valuable resource of some sort, that will be well received during the outreach process. This is fundamental to the success of this tactic so choose your asset carefully. 

Now you’re either going to have something existing that’s valuable enough to start with, or you can analyze your competitors, find a content gap – and then create a piece which is much better. The definition of “better” is fairly open here, but it could just be much more comprehensive, display the info in a much more appealing and easily digestible format, or be backed by interesting data or studies. Whatever method you take, get that content to be as exceptional as you can make. 

Whatever the topic of that piece, it has to be something that has broad enough appeal, or caters to a large enough pool of targets, that you can feasibly use something like the skyscraper technique, since this is a tactic that is conducive to scale. 

There’s no point for example, TLG writing about “A Guide to Link Building for DRaaS Solutions” and attempting to do the skyscraper approach, when there is practically no one writing about that, and a very limited appeal to that hyper-specific topic. 

One way to insure yourself against that issue is to look at the existing SERP landscape for that topic and determine the likelihood of getting a decent amount of links. Ahrefs Content Explorer feature will help here. 

Here’s an example of us checking with “best local SEO tool” 

Checking the keyword "best local seo tool" in Ahrefs using content explorer

We can set the referring domains to 50+, look only for live links, and only English results (this tends to cut out a lot of link spam and old data), and we can see plenty of results of pages that have 50+ referring domains. 

We only see about 19 pages, but we can see quite a few articles there that match the topic, so it’s reasonable to expect there is enough appetite for this topic out there – and we also have enough we can use as research to inform the content piece we’re creating (if we haven’t already made it). 

If you’re getting in the region of 100+ results, that’s even better and gives you more confidence that you are onto something with wide enough appeal. 

Step 2 – Prospecting those Skyscraper Targets

So the very essence of skyscraping is finding other prospective target websites – be it bloggers, businesses, or editorial sites – that have already linked to similar resources before. 

Naturally, this eliminates the element of doubt and gives you a scalable number of potential linking websites, depending on the keyword or topic you are targeting. 

So there are many different ways of doing this (which we’ll describe in more detail in another article. But one of the main methods used, is to find competitors who have discussed the same topic, or something similar – export those results, and that is your batch of link targets. 

So, sticking with the “best local seo tools” example, it would work like this:

  • Find the top pages for keywords like “best local seo tools”, “top local SEO tools” or variations of these. 
  • Pull up the backlink profile of each of those results and export them. For best results, filter out junk links, syndicated/scraper links, and other unneeded data by using filters as shown below. 
  • Repeat the process for all the pages, and then compile it into one spreadsheet/Google Sheet, and remove duplicates. 

Then hey presto, you have a clean list of link targets, which are aligned with your content piece, and are sites you know have linked to a similar resource. 

Step 3 – Targeted Skyscraper Outreach

The last step to a successful skyscraper link building campaign is truly personalized outreach emails. 

The mistake companies often make and where things perhaps veer off into a “spray and pray” approach, is when they are not looking at the relevance of the page they’re reaching out to, and how it aligns with their content piece. They also use a generic template and blast it out to the entire list. This will degrade your results, as the email may go unnoticed, ignored, or just annoy people who just feel you’ve not reached out to them with something relevant. Yes, you can still get some links with a generic template, if that target just saw perfect alignment there. But your % success rate will be low, especially in moderately competitive industries where those targets are receiving a lot of emails. 

Here are a few tips on how to maximize your results with your outreach:

  • Hook them with a catchy/intriguing subject line. This maximizes your chances of getting it open. 
  • Personalization and rapport. When they open that email, you need to keep them reading. The best way to do that is to treat this as a one-to-one human interaction. What did you notice about their article/them/company mission that is relevant here? Start there and it’ll grab their attention. 
  • Segue into your value proposition. Explain why your content is valuable in this situation, and why it’ll enhance their article further or help their audience. Also, an opportunity to share other ways you can help them. Perhaps you can share it with your thousands of social media followers to drive more traffic to it, or you can make an infographic for them, or something else. 

When we do this more targeted “modified skyscraper” approach, as we call it at TLG, we find the success rate a little higher. Even in cases where they don’t want to insert an article in an existing piece, they appreciate us reaching out, and it could even lead to something else, like being able to write a guest post for them. In this example below, we actually proposed “refreshing” their article for them, as we noticed some of the advice being a bit outdated, and they were happy for us to do that. The advantage of this is we can then incorporate our link, and add the right context to make it look natural. 

Maximizing results with email outreach

Mini Skyscraper Case Study
Here’s an example of a client who had a fairly broad article, which we knew was perfect for the skyscraper approach. However, we knew the competition was going to be stiff because of this. 
We are competing with the goliaths of their niche, and so, since we couldn’t compete on overall authority, we had to close the link gap at least, at the page level. 
In a 2 year period, we consistently built links to the page, as you can see from the growth in referring domains. This even includes a link from a university and a college finance organization. 
Taking out scraper links, nofollow links etc – the page at time of writing, has 82 links pointing at it. 

The number of keywords which we improved over that time (despite the difficulty level of the keywords as shown here) helps illustrate the impact this had. 

This shows the traffic growth of a 3 month period in 2023, vs the previous year as per Google Search Console. Very marked growth, and the volume of links required to drive this – meant that the skyscraper technique was instrumental in making it happen. 

Local Link-bait Strategy

Many small business owners rely on geography to do their marketing for them. They place their business locations in an area where there isn’t much competition (ideally) and rely on the locals and residents to spread the word about what they sell or do. You can achieve the same thing online as well. 

This tactic works well if you serve a specific region, or perhaps several regions, and you want to create content aimed at those local audiences. 

For example, if you’re a local restaurant that wants to have more local guests, a blog piece consisting of the “top 10 best burgers in town” could be one recommendation. 

The idea here is to attract some curiosity from locals about products/services in the area. An article like this can also earn links from other websites and blogs that are nearby that also want to chip into the digitally connected local community you’re trying to build. 

You could even leverage an asset like that once it’s created, and proactively reach out to other local businesses or regional news outlets. 

Other types of local link-bait assets you can make include:

  • A guide to local {niche} hotspots
  • A searchable map of local attractions
  • A local events calendar
  • Local stats page of {industry}

You are always gonna be as good as your content is. 

This is a golden rule among SEO professionals, one that continues to prove its legitimacy with every new search engine algorithm update. Content will prove your expertise, equip you with industry credibility, and will give you a distinctive identity in the digital community. Link-worthy content is the foundation upon which ‘white hat’ link building was built and it is indubitably the answer to a successful online presence. 

Your website is the designated place for you to showcase your hard work in the best way possible. So not just showing the work you’ve done and what services you provide – , but also utilizing your business’ experience to provide industry insights and expertise tips. Ultimately, that is the sweet spot search engines like Google are looking for.

Take Google’s E.E.A.T. guidelines for example, which forms the base of how Google evaluates the quality of content. E.E.A.T. stands for Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness. How this fits into content quality evaluation is simple: 

  • Your content must contain unique insights. Rephrasing what’s already on the web has already been done countless times for any given topic by AI generated content. So Google’s Helpful Content guidance has set new information as a crucial component when determining quality content.
  • Your content must be written by experts in the field or people with niche-relevant backgrounds;
  • Your content’s authors and their expertise must be verified throughout the content to stand as a resource;
  • Your content must demonstrate credibility by being supported by other high-authority sources and respected brands.

When building your website, keeping these requirements in mind will create irresistible content that gets you high-authority links with much less effort. 

Helpful content can take many forms, but it could be:

  • Original research or industry-relevant data studies. 
  • Industry white papers. 
  • Free calculators or software.
  • In-depth articles covering very specific topics. 

There is no definitive type of content that works for everyone, but what works best, can depend on your business and the needs, and nuances of the audience you’re serving. 

When it comes to ‘white hat’ link building – there isn’t a cheat code. Any business, whether small or big, must put in the work to see results. And they must be very patient.

What we can say without a flicker of doubt is that ‘white hat’ link building is based on credibility and honorary efforts to ultimately help the search engine’s user experience. No matter what tactic you use, at its very core, it’s about purposeful outreach,and the intention to contribute or add value. At TLG, we take pride in perfecting the art of ‘white hat’ link building, where we can finalize critical and truly influential links that are not beneficial to our clients and their business revenue, in the long term. 

A good marketer knows that to truly see the success of these campaigns, a space for interchangeability is needed. One simply will not work without the other, and vice versa. For example, the broken link method or skyscraper technique will become inefficient if you’re not putting the required effort into your website’s content. While if you’re doing some PR/Media outreach, you need something that’s truly compelling and/or newsworthy if you want to stand a chance of getting coverage and links from journalists. 

It is important to note that SEO professionals and business owners must work together to build space for adaptability and transformation within a brand’s marketing scope, especially SEO. A brand that stands the test of time isn’t afraid to challenge its boundaries, invest in a strong foundation, and the way it markets its services/products. Similarly, with building links, only a mixed combination of our recommended techniques with constant monitoring of search engine trends (but not losing sight of the basics of good content with good old-fashioned outreach or relationship building) will be successful in keeping your business among the first pages of SERP. 

At TLG, that’s what we do best.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I Buy Links for White Hat Link Building?

We alluded to this earlier, but if we take a purist definition of the term white hat link building, then technically, the direct exchange of money for a link, is not white hat. 

However, it becomes a gray area as according to those same guidelines –  exchanging any “product or services” for links is technically against Google’s guidelines. 

Even if no cash is exchanged, even providing a data piece/data-driven story/guest piece, is a service (of sorts). 

Even in the case of digital PR, many journalists for instance, are KPI’d to write x number of stories, or get x number of views per month- and this material provided is a resource that the publication or journalist uses to help them get there – resources that would otherwise cost considerable time or money

A looser definition of the word however, would be that if you do not exchange any money for a backlink, then it is a “white hat link”. Any of the techniques mentioned before, can lead to you earning free links. 

But, it’s important to be realistic about how link building actually works. The act of exchanging an item (be it money, resources, services, products) for link/coverage, is in of itself, not likely to cause a site to be penalized or to be devalued. 

It is building low quality, spammy links, or using black hat methods, that will cause penalty or devaluation. 

What Are Some Effective White Hat Link Building Tools and Resources?

If you’re trying to build white hat links, it is likely you’ll need some tools to do content ideation, outreach and data scraping for prospecting. So a few tools and resources you’ll find handy include:

  • Pitchbox. A really cool SaaS solution if you’re looking to conduct link building outreach. It even has some built in prospecting features as well.
  • Semrush, Majestic or Ahrefs. These types of SEO tools are essential for deep backlink analysis of competitors, content gap analysis (which you’ll need for guest post ideation), or for things like skyscraper technique prospecting. 
  • BuzzSumo. A favorite for doing content research, this can find out what others are writing about, and articles or stories that are popular – not only in terms of backlinks, but also social shares. Helpful if you’re trying to come up with PR-worthy angles and are trying to gauge newsworthiness. 
  • Search Engine Roundtable. Not a link building centric website, but its a good unbiased website if you want to keep your finger on the pulse of whats happening in the world of search engines and SEO. 

Despite the abundance of tools that are out there however, no tool is going to do the heavy lifting for you. And especially when it comes to white hat link building. 

To use these tools effectively, and have campaigns which actually do lead to results, is going to take the right strategy and team behind it. 

Is Guest Posting a White Hat Technique?

Guest posting as a technique, can be white hat. 

It did at some point have a bad reputation and thats mainly as a result of Matt Cutts making a statement about guest blogging being “dead”

The reality is, guest posting as a technique still works, but it has been latched onto by low quality providers, who provide guest posts on low quality sites. 

Sites that are purely setup for the purpose of selling guest posts, and have zero to little traffic, low quality content and full of spammy links – are most likely “dead” and not white hat. 

This is what you need to avoid, and you need to do guest posting in a way where you are securing well-written guest articles, on relevant websites. This is a creative approach, as it requires a lot of brainstorming for content ideas, building tight niche-relevant prospecting lists and very custom outreach. But, it is a very effective tactic when done correctly.