If you spend any bit of time consuming SEO blogs, you’re bound to read about different ‘hats’ at some point, such as building white-hat links.
White hat this, black hat that, but what does the color of your hat have to do with ranking on Google?
Well, the whole white-hat/black-hat dynamic was adopted from early American Western movies, where the hero wore a white hat, and the villain wore a black hat.
In the SEO world, the color of the hat you wear represents whether you adhere to Google’s Webmaster Guidelines or not when optimizing your content.
For example, ‘white-hat’ practices include creating excellent content that provides value to your audience, using keywords appropriately without spamming them, and naturally acquiring backlinks due to the strength of your web pages.
These all follow Google’s guidelines, and they align with their goals as a search engine – which is to provide users with valuable, trusted content.
If you don’t follow the rules and use frowned-upon tactics like buying backlinks in bulk, spamming keywords, and cloaking, your spiffy white hat will turn black.
When it comes to link-building, choosing to pursue white-hat links will benefit you in the long run.
That’s because they’re cost-effective, virtually risk-free, and can help you build long-lasting relationships.
Stay tuned to learn how to build white-hat links for your website.
White-Hat Links vs. Black-Hat Links: What’s the Difference?
Google’s guidelines make it clear that they don’t tolerate link spam of any kind, which they classify as any action that manipulates links pointing to your site or links coming from your site.
Here’s an overview of the types of ‘link schemes’ Google penalizes websites for:
- Text advertisement links that don’t use sponsored nofollow tags
- Buying links
- Offering goods or services in exchange for links
- Excessive link exchanges (trading links exclusively with another website in bulk)
- Low-quality bookmark site or directory links
- Forum comments with backlinks in the signature
- Hidden backlinks contained in widgets distributed across multiple websites
- Sitewide links that appear in footers and website templates
Taking part in any of these link-building tactics will earn you a black hat, respectively.
Why is that?
It’s because these techniques are an attempt to game the system instead of working with it.
In other words, black-hat link tactics rely on trickery instead of gaining backlinks based on the merit of their content.
Google takes this very seriously because it’s their reputation on the line.
If they were to let every black hat tactic fly, their search results would be chock full of irrelevant, low-quality results that wouldn’t satisfy their users’ intent.
That’s why they use SpamBrain, their AI-powered algorithm that hunts down spammy websites and links.
White-hat link builders, on the other hand, use the quality of their content to acquire links, which is what Google wants.
While strictly using white-hat tactics is a bit difficult and time-consuming, it is possible – and can yield many benefits.
Are White-Hat Links Worth the Trouble?
The reason many SEOs give into the dark side and use black-hat techniques is how hard it can be to build links without violating any guidelines.
Even the most talented link builders tend to use a mix of white, gray, and black-hat techniques out of necessity for this reason.
Yet, white-hat links are undoubtedly the safest and most powerful type of links you can acquire, and they’re the most likely to withstand new Google algorithm updates.
For instance, the Link Spam Update that occurred in December 2022 negated the impact paid backlinks had on SEO profiles, and the effects were drastic on websites that had bought lots of links.
Backlink profiles consisting entirely of white-hat links, on the other hand, were completely unaffected.
In addition to being practically update-proof, white-hat links also provide the following benefits:
- Cost-effective. Black-hat link tactics tend to involve shelling out cash for links, which is expensive and definitely adds up over time. Since there’s no paying for links in white-hat link-building, it tends to be more affordable.
- Improve your reputation. White-hat tactics like guest posting and being a resource for reporters involve creating valuable content that’ll help establish your brand as a thought leader.
- Build relationships. Writing guest posts, targeting link insertions, and engaging in broken link building are all ways to form long-lasting relationships with other website owners – which will lead to acquiring more high-authority links in the future.
As you can see, white-hat links provide lots of benefits and involve virtually zero risks.
How You Can Start Building White-Hat Links
Are you ready to don a white hat and save your website from costly penalties?
Then you’ll need a reliable bag of tricks to use if you want to see better SERP rankings.
While it’s true that white-hat link-building techniques can take some time, once they get going, they tend to keep on giving.
Here’s a look at the most effective ways to build white-hat links.
Create content that generates shares
Let’s begin by looking at the link-building tactic that Google values the most, creating high-value content that other websites want to share.
This makes Google happy because you’re acquiring backlinks the 100% natural way. Not only did you not have to offer website owners any money to link to your content, you didn’t even have to send them an outreach email.
An example would be creating a fun infographic that provides relevant statistics for your industry.
Bloggers are always looking for statistics and visually-engaging infographics to share in their posts, so by creating one, you’ll be doing them a huge favor. As a result, they’ll link to your content without you having to lift a finger, and you’ll start raking in backlinks like mad.
Pro tip: Certain types of content generate more backlinks than others. Research shows that ‘why’ posts, ‘what’ posts, and infographics are the most heavily linked to types of content online – followed shortly by how-to posts, videos, and listicles.
Resource pages, ultimate guides, and free tools also generate lots of shares and backlinks, especially if you go into lots of detail.
That’s especially true for long-form content, which gets an average of 77.2% more links than short-form pieces.
So if you want to maximize your sharing power, aim for at least 2,000 words for your blog posts and articles.
Another benefit of creating linkable assets is that they will keep generating links for you over time, especially if the topics are evergreen.
Write guest posts on related websites
Another classic white-hat link-building tactic is to write guest blogs on other websites in your industry.
This involves sending outreach emails to website owners, but you aren’t offering money or products/services in exchange for a link.
Instead, you’re requesting to write a guest blog post on their website to provide value to their audience. For this reason, guest posting is not considered a link scheme.
The challenge comes in finding websites in your niche that accept guest posts and then getting one of those websites to allow you to write one.
The site owner benefits because you’re providing them with a piece of content they don’t have to create, and you benefit via a backlink on their site that points to yours.
Using search operators to find guest post opportunities
There are a few ways you can hunt down websites that accept guest posts, and using Google search operators is one of the most popular.
What are search operators?
They’re special phrases you type into Google to receive unique search results. The most popular search operator for guest posts looks something like this:
Industry/niche keyword + “guest post”
It’s crucial to use the ‘+’ sign and quotation marks for the search operator to work properly.
However, you shouldn’t stick with just one, as you probably won’t find many guest post spots that way. Here are some more suggestions:
- Keyword + “guest blog”
- Keyword + “guest blogger”
- Keyword + “guest column”
- Keyword + “guest article”
- Keyword + “guest author”
- Keyword + “write for me”
- Keyword + “write for us”
- Keyword + “become a contributor”
- Keyword + “contribute to this site”
Plugging these into Google should provide a viable list of websites that you can contribute guest posts to, but sometimes it takes a little experimenting with the search operators to find the best opportunities.
We recommend compiling the most promising guest post opportunities into a spreadsheet to make the outreach process easier.
Analyzing competitor backlink profiles to find guest posts
If you’re burned out on using search operators, you can also analyze competitor backlink profiles to discover where they’re writing guest posts.
Take to Google and type in your most important keywords, then run the top #5 results through our free Backlink Checker tool.
From there, dig through their link profiles to find guest blogs, and then add those websites to your list of guest post opportunities.
Running a domain authority check on each website
Before you start reaching out to each website owner to request a guest post, confirm that they have a strong domain authority score.
Domain authority (DA) is an SEO metric developed by Moz that predicts the likelihood of a website ranking high on the SERPs.
While it’s a third-party metric (not officially created by Google or any other search engine), it’s a reliable judge of the ranking strength of a domain.
A domain authority score is a number from 1 – 100, with 1 being the weakest and 100 being the strongest.
If you write a guest post for a website that has very poor domain authority, the backlink placement won’t do your SERP rankings much good.
Ideally, you only want to obtain backlinks from trusted websites that have high domain authority scores.
DA scores above 40 are considered high authority, so look out for those whenever they pop up.
Ahrefs has an excellent free Website Authority Checker tool that will let you know the DA score for any website, so be sure to use it when vetting guest post spots.
Broken link building
This white-hat tactic will provide you with a backlink while doing the internet a great service by removing a busted link.
Broken links pop up on websites all the time, usually when a site owner moves or deletes a page without updating the hyperlink.
Broken links on your website are a no-no that you should always fix. However, broken links on other websites in your niche present golden link-building opportunities.
Let’s say that a website in your niche has a link to a blog post that’s broken. Not only that, but it just so happens that you have a blog covering the same topic on your website, which would be the perfect replacement.
By sending an outreach email to the site owner, you can offer to fix the broken link by linking to your blog instead.
This technique tends to work because broken links are bad for SEO, and offering a replacement link provides a quick fix. That’ll save the site owner the time and hassle of creating a new piece of content to fix the link.
It doesn’t always work, as sometimes the site owner may have moved the post without updating the link, meaning they don’t need anything from you.
However, you should still add it to your white-hat link-building repertoire – as it doesn’t violate any guidelines.
Ahrefs saves the day again, as they have a free Broken Link Checker that will find broken links on any URL that you enter into it.
Unlinked brand mentions
The last white-hat link-building tactic we’ll look at is unlinked brand mentions. This is where you find instances where other websites mentioned your brand but failed to provide a backlink – hence the name.
It’s a great technique because it targets websites that have already mentioned your brand, meaning that they’re genuinely interested in what you do.
Ahrefs’ Content Explorer has a nifty feature where you can enter your brand name in quotes, choose ‘In Content’ from the drop-down menu, and then select the unlinked filter.
This will display all your unlinked brand mentions, so get ready to start sending outreach emails.
Concluding Thoughts: White-Hat Links
If you don’t want Google to penalize your content, then it’s best to be like John Wayne and always wear a white hat.
You can build a strong backlink profile that raises zero suspicion by creating valuable content, fixing broken links, and adding backlinks to your existing brand mentions.
Do you need expert link-building services for your website?
Then don’t wait to check out our Link Outreach and Link Insertions Services from The HOTH. Our link-building techniques are squeaky clean, and we’ve helped countless clients dominate the SERPs in their industry, so don’t wait to get in touch now.