What is white hat link building? It’s a way of earning links to your web pages from other websites. This form of link-building is an SEO technique used to increase authority and relevance. White hat link building is any method used to earn links within Google’s guidelines. These tactics lead to organic, high-quality links that are relevant to your content and the linking page’s content, whereas gray and black hat link-building use techniques that either skirt Google’s rules or violate the rules entirely.
Though it may be tempting to use gray or black-hat link-building, as these strategies often bring fast results, white-hat link-building techniques achieve more substantial outcomes that last longer. There’s another reason to avoid using unscrupulous link-building tactics — the consequences of doing so can be embarrassing and expensive. JCPenney discovered this when they employed an SEO firm that used linking schemes to get the company’s web pages to rank at or near the top of irrelevant searches. This was a clear sign that something wasn’t right. Google Penguin was the search engine algorithm update that led to the search engine measuring the quality of links, not just the number of them. This update is why spammy, low-quality backlinks may not be penalized.
How to Build White Hat Links
There are several proven white-hat link-building techniques, and each of these strategies falls within the rules set by Google. Even better, they allow you to organically increase your reach, develop authority, and build more traffic sources in addition to boosting your company’s SEO. The following strategies are among the most prevalent and proven effective. Most marketing teams are successful when they incorporate a number of these techniques together to earn high-value backlinks.
Businesses often share testimonials from satisfied customers or industry experts, which increases trust and create a sense of authority. You may have solicited testimonials for your website, but there’s also a significant benefit to providing testimonials for other companies. If you are satisfied with a product or service your business has used, contact the company and offer a written testimonial. If they accept and plan to publish your testimonial, request that your company’s name and a link to your website be included in the testimonial immediately following it. This will create a quality backlink.
A guest post is an article or blog post that you write to be published on another website. This might be an electronic publication relevant to your industry, a business blog, an online magazine popular with your audience, etc. The most significant factor is that you choose a site of high authority.
Look for popular sites that are respected in your niche and earn plenty of their shares and backlinks. What you are doing via this technique is relying on one site to pass its domain superiority onto yours via a backlink. When you approach someone about guest posting for their business, come to the table with a few topics in mind. Be prepared to explain how your content will connect with its audience and what value it will add. In return, ask them to allow you to include at least one backlink to your website.
It is standard to have such a link in the author’s bio, and you may also be able to include an in-article link to a relevant blog post or service page on your site. Putting your best work out there when you guest post on another blog is essential. Doing so will help guarantee that you are asked to write for other sites in the future. This doesn’t just mean you’ll earn more backlinks. Guest posting also enables you to develop what Google calls E.A.T. — Expertise, Authority, and Trust — another SEO ranking signal in addition to backlinks.
Incentivize Social Media Sharing
A social media share doesn’t count as a backlink itself, though it is a great way to get your content in front of as many people as possible, which is worthwhile for brand exposure alone. Additionally, the more social media shares you receive, the better the odds that someone will find your content worthy of linking. Engage with your social media followers. Encourage them to share your posts. Add social sharing buttons to your blog posts. You can even add an incentive to make sharing more enticing. For example, if followers share your blog post and tag your brand, you can enter them into a free giveaway.
Creating a Linkable Asset
A linkable asset is an article, blog post, case study, or other authoritative content that people link and share via their websites, blogs, or accounts across social media platforms. It will answer an important question or dive deeply into a relevant topic.
To create a linkable asset, start by identifying some topic areas where your expertise can truly shine. Consider the information that you are uniquely qualified to provide. Long-form content tends to perform better. Aim for at least 2,000 words, then focus on creating high-authority content. Use data, add infographics, embed videos, and employ other assets to make the content thorough and engaging. This will earn it the most social shares and backlinks.
You can take a passive or active approach to using linkable assets. A passive approach might work if you are already receiving a significant amount of engagement with your content. You will create the asset, publish it, and promote it through your social media channels. Then, you wait for the backlinks to come in. With an active approach, you take the initiative to reach out to other brands, content creators, and publishers to let them know what you’ve created. Prepare a short pitch to send over along with the link. Explain how the information you are providing ties in with that company’s content and target audience.
Leaving Blog Comments
This technique is interesting because it can be both a white hat and a black hat technique. When used as a white hat link-building service, commenting on a blog involves adding helpful, relevant remarks that include a link to something related to the topic and are valuable to the audience. Here are some of the best white-hat practices for leaving backlinks in blog comments: Follow all of the site guidelines about comments and promotional links. Disclose if a link is promotional, as well as your relationship with the site you are linking. Establish a presence as a community member or contributor before adding links. Your link should relate to the problem or pain point described in the post or article. If you aren’t sure if your comments and links are allowed, reach out to the webmaster, who will clarify what is and is not permitted.
Understanding White Hat Link Building
Any business trying to earn backlinks must know about various white hat link-building strategies. These are the techniques you want to deploy for meaningful, long-term success. At the same time, you also want to stay up-to-date on Google’s guidelines for backlinks and learn what black-and-gray hat link-building techniques are. This will help you avoid using these techniques, even inadvertently. Remember our JCPenney example from earlier? Chances are that the company thought they were dealing with a white hat link-building service. Had their marketing team been able to tell that the tactics they were using went against Google’s guidelines, they could have avoided public embarrassment.
Recognizing Gray and Black Hat Tactics
Gray hat link-building techniques are often ethically dubious. They aren’t necessarily deceitful or illegal, but they do push the envelope. If taken too far, they can lead to penalties and damages to your online reputation if links to your pages are seen as spammy or low value.
An example of a gray hat technique is purchasing expired domains with the purpose of pointing backlinks to your website. You buy a parked website with some history and domain authority, then change the content to link to your website. This tactic can quickly work to help you earn some link authority and is referred to as a P.B.N. (private blog network). However, manipulating SEO results like this generally creates only short-term effects and can cause the domain authority of the site you purchased to drop quickly. This may be a gray hat method if the site you buy is relevant to your industry, but it quickly becomes a black hat technique if it’s not.
Another instance of gray hat link building is using various techniques to create low-quality guest posts and publishing them to websites that don’t have any form of quality control in place. These sites allow anyone to post articles and links without editorial control. With black hat techniques, there’s no doubt they are unethical, and some tactics may even be illegal and explicitly violate Google’s guidelines. Fortunately, most are easy to avoid because they involve doing things that are widely considered “underhanded.” One common black hat technique is spamming the comment sections of articles and blog posts with irrelevant statements. Most of us have seen irrelevant comments about get-rich-quick schemes, shady investments, and questionable weight loss products. Black hat link builders may even offer a commission to people willing to spam their links. This tactic is most often used in places where comments are not moderated or where there are so many comments that the moderator may not notice a spam link.
How to Avoid Using Black and Gray Hat Techniques
For the most part, you can avoid using black-and-gray hat techniques simply by focusing on relevant, organic link-building; however, there are some other practices to keep in mind. First, be extremely cautious about paying for links. It’s one thing to work with an SEO company that will help you form a link-building strategy, but it is another to pay for links. The latter will almost always involve sketchy tactics. Enter into reciprocal linking arrangements with caution. The sites you work with should be relevant to yours, and so should the content links. Be wary of low-quality posts and sites linking your web pages. Finally, know where your pages are being linked to. You may be held responsible for spammy and other low-quality links. Google has methods to manually evaluate and penalize sites they think are using black or gray hat backlinking. Fortunately, there is a process for disavowing links and requesting a new evaluation.
Evaluating Your Current and Future Link Building
How can you be sure you are using link-building techniques that won’t lead to SEO penalties from Google? Start by using the white hat techniques listed above. Then, follow these common-sense guidelines. Backlinks should come from high-authority sites, be relevant, and a backlink should add value to the content and improve the user experience. Stick to these three practices, and your link-building strategies will likely be well within Google’s rules and policies.