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Linkbuilding

White Hat Link-Building: Create Long-Lasting Site Authority

White Hat Link-Building: Create Long-Lasting Site Authority

Link-building is all about obtaining links from different websites to boost the ranking in Google searches. This is a crucial element of SEO planning. 92% of marketing professionals are convinced that it will continue to be a vital factor in Google’s algorithms for the next 5 years. 

Link-building is crucial for building website authority and organic growth. However, getting a high-quality link could be complex, so some experts may want to change the white hat link-building tactics to black hat ones. However, the latter are tricky and don’t bring benefits in a long-term perspective.

The article delves deeper into white hat link-building, explaining how it works and differs from black hat techniques. It also discloses the techniques that bring long-lasting results.

Let’s get started 🤘

The “white hat” term marks practices aligned with Google’s regulations. So, white hat link-building means getting backlinks that comply with search engine guidelines.

This method follows the initial goals of link-building and SEO, which are organic traffic increase, lead generation, reaching brand awareness, etc. However, it all should be done ethically and include honest communication with people you reach out to and your existing co-marketing partners’ networks.

White hat link-building anticipates such activities as:

  • Constant work on offering high-quality and unique content
  • Broadening the partners’ network within one niche for further collaboration on relevant mentions
  • Creating a positive brand image on the web

Backlinks gained due to the implementation of white hat link-building techniques are equal to natural mentions on websites. These links stay in the right place, bring value to the content consumer, improve the credibility of the website, and sometimes even convert leads.

Techniques used within white hat link-building usually require time for implementation and delivering results. So, some people are willing to fall into easier ways of getting links, which often contradict Google search regulations. Experts call it black and gray hat link-building tactics.

Let’s check out their differences.

As I’ve already mentioned, white hat link-building tactics follow the rules and are ethical. They aim to build a domain as an authoritative and accessible content source for users.

Black hat link-building is obtaining backlinks using methods that intentionally violate search engine regulations. This strategy expects manipulation of Google’s algorithms to receive mentions quickly and without significant effort.

An example of black hat link-building may serve PBN, a private blog network created to bypass search engine algorithms and create unnatural link insertions. Similar to it are link farms, which generate backlinks to each other. They both strictly violate Google’s guidelines and relate to unfair tactics.

Gray hat link-building stands in the middle between white and black hat ones. It doesn’t manipulate or evade search engine algorithms, but it doesn’t directly follow defined regulations. However, due to updates in Google’s algorithms or guidelines, gray hat techniques often fall into the black hat category.

The clearest example here is buying links from shady news-like websites. Google probably will not recognize such a link as unnatural. Still, its algorithms often don’t consider such mentions for website authority calculations. Of course, these links are not exactly illegal, but they may harm your SEO content if you do it too often or improperly.

I’ve created a comparison table to clearly show the differences between the three link-building strategies mentioned above.

White hat link-buildingBlack hat link-buildingGray hat link-building
FocusImprovement of website content to gain long-lasting outcomesUsage of Google algorithms weaknesses to gain unfair advantageGaining easy backlinks, even if the methods are not completely ethical
Main valuesWebsite authority
User experience
High rank in search
Traffic increase
Increase rank in search and traffic without significant damage to authority
Key techniquesPublish high-quality content on your website
Add linkable assets and infographics
Contribute content to authoritative websites
Launch targeted cold outreach
Work with broken links and unlinked mentions
Using private blogs for building links
Spam comments with links
Unnatural links insertion
Link schemes
Keyword stuffing
Redirecting through inactive domains
Posting duplicate content
Buying links
Fake or spamming product reviews
Paid link insertion in native advertising
Paid citation or listicle
Google’s guidelinesFollowedNon-followedManipulation with guidelines interpretation
Search engine manipulationNoYesMost of the time
Time required to get resultsFrom one to a couple of monthsFrom a few weeks to a few monthsFrom a few weeks to several months

Link-building strategies comparison table

So, from the table above, you can see that white hat link-building foresees long-lasting strategies focused on content improvement and building a positive brand reputation. Its implementation will require some time, but in the end, you receive long-lasting results and guarantees for domain authority in Google search.

Here’s an example of a company that increased its organic traffic using white hat link-building techniques—a reliable landline phone service provider, Community Phone.

The performance graph on Ahrefs shows the progress of the Community Phone website before and after the start of the white hat link-building program:

Link-building performance graph for Community Phone

Image Source: Ahrefs

So, as you may see from a graph, white hat link-building is a long-game commitment, but the results are definitely worth the effort!

At the same time, black and gray hat link-buildings are unreliable and violate search engine policies. After a year of implementation (or even in a few months), your website can receive penalties from search engines. Let’s dive deep into this point more.

Why white hat is worth it: the consequences of black & gray hat link-building techniques 

As an organic growth agency founder, I’m against using black and gray hat link-building techniques since they are often spammy and tricky. They provide quick results but can significantly damage the authority and image of the website.

The most severe consequences of ‌black and gray hat link-building are:

  • Search engine penalties. Manual actions against ‌‌websites that fail an algorithm inspection. So, if you use techniques that omit Google’s regulations, you’ll probably receive a penalty. Also, if you’re trying to manipulate the algorithm, the search engine can recognize it in a while since it constantly improves operations.

Because of the penalty, your website can face a ranking drop or even exclusion from search results. In the end, you have wasted time and effort, and the recovery can last months or even years once you prove your website’s reliability.

  • Bad audience experience. Focusing on gaining the links without improving the content and the website costs you a reputation among visitors. The audience isn’t prone to coming back to ‌pages that bring no value, are unfriendly to users, or have much spammy content. Instead of artificially inflating your website’s authority through shady link-building tactics, invest in creating valuable content and building genuine relationships with other websites. 
  • Lost reputation and conversions. The consequences mentioned above lead to the most significant one. You lose your potential customers and income. Getting your audience back will cost you tremendous effort and much more money and time than white hat link-building tactics.


If you’re considering engaging in shady link-building strategies, take a moment to reflect on your long-term objectives. If you focus on long-lasting website functioning, lead generation, sales increase, and so on, forget about black or gray hat link-building tactics. It’s a waste of money, time, and reputation.

How to: building white hat link-building techniques

White hat link-building offers a great variety of techniques to reach the constant growth of organic traffic, domain authority, and high conversion rate. Of course, it doesn’t mean you should solely rely on link-building instead of hiring an SEO agency. Look at the key tactics that bring the most significant results in a long-term perspective.

  1. Publish high-quality content on your website

Think of your website content as the foundation for building backlinks. When you craft it well, you naturally attract mentions and links from others. The articles you publish should be of high quality, valuable to readers, and engaging. This way, people will want to link to them from their websites and social media networks. You may think that it’s not so important if you have, for example, just a small online store—but it still is. Apart from selling, most popular platforms are also tailored for blogging. You can get some inspiration from these Shopify blog examples. So, discover possibilities for improving your content operations to make the information you share more valuable and qualitative.

Include internal links to your content to help Google’s algorithm map your website better and decrease the bounce rate. You can also add mentions to respective domains in your niche to attract their attention and‌ get mentions in return.

Additionally, you should create linkable assets that present your content in a more readable and attractive way so it will drive more organic mentions. Usually, people are more likely to link to such content types as:

  • Guides and tutorials
  • How-to articles (a good example is here)
  • Free online tools and calculators
  • Listicles
  • Tool comparisons/alternatives
  • Exclusive expert research and studies

One of the great examples of linkable assets is infographics, which 53% of marketers use within their white hat link-building strategy. In crafted infographics, you can include different data types and make them simple, clear, and readable.

There are several ways to structure information, ranging from traditional graphs to displaying text and numbers on a global map (see example below). Some authors also use creative concepts from popular games (e.g., Minecraft) and movies (e.g., Harry Potter). Unusual ideas work well if they match your concept and are acceptable to your audience.

Infographic map example

 Image Source: Freepik

Another linkable asset that brings organic mentions is a calculator or other online tool directly embedded in the website. It should be helpful for visitors and relevant to the website’s niche. For instance, moz.com offers free checking of domain authority, keyword and link explorers, and other options, which SEO specialists value.

Free domain authority checker from moz.com

Image Source: MOZ

You can discover more about website content types and ideas on how to represent it in the article Bottom of the Funnel Content: Turning Words Into Revenue.

  1. Contribute content to authoritative websites

Writing a guest post for another website in your niche is an excellent option for white hat link-building. Editors typically allow adding a couple of links in the article or author bio, which will help to increase traffic. You can also describe yourself as an expert from a specific company and build brand awareness (see example below).

Example of author bio from HubSpot's blog featuring Alex Birkett

Image Source: HubSpot

To find a website for a contribution, you can start by pitching those with whom you have collaborated previously and have established some contacts. Another way is to search for using Google, Ahrefs, or Semrush tools.

However, before contributing to the website, you have to check the following criteria:

  • Website niche
  • If you share the same values
  • Existing content quality
  • Domain authority
  • Organic traffic
  • Spam score of the website

Delivering an article to websites that use a black or gray hat link-building can negatively affect your website’s authority on the web. So, make sure that your chosen one is reliable and that your collaboration won’t damage your reputation. Usually, such sites have a “templated” design, spikes in organic traffic (or just poor traffic stats), and high spam scores.

  1. Launch targeted cold outreach

To gain new backlinks, you can launch an outreach campaign and ask others to add your link to the website. It works not only on a one-time basis. It’s a chance to start multiple long-lasting partnerships.

However, now, link-builders face difficulties in getting replies and inserting links. According to statistics, only 7% of cold outreach emails get replies. It’s caused by similar requests (aka templated outreach copies) and the fact that some requestors offer links on low-quality websites.

Don’t forget to mention the value you will deliver to the prospective partner. To get a better experience, add a visual element to your message, experiment with subject lines, and launch constant A/B tests with copies. Your email’s response rate is likely to be higher as the content will stand out from other emails and catch the attention of your prospects. That’s why you should creatively craft your outreach message and ensure it’s compelling.

Besides, writing a personalized message always leads to a better connection between you and the site you want a link from. Better connection equals better relationships and partnerships, which are at the core of white hat link-building. You can combine the visual element and the personalization to maximize it. How? By creating a personalized GIF that will attract more leads. Like this one:

Personalized GIF from one of my email campaigns

Let’s look at the statistics of open and response rates without and with the GIF added to the message. 

Email Outreach Statistics Before GIF Usage

Email Outreach Statistics Before GIF Usage

Email Outreach Statistics After GIF Usage

Adding a personalized visual element positively impacts outreach campaigns. It increases responses and the chances of successful link collaboration. So, don’t forget to test if your creative ideas improve your key performance indicators (KPIs).

  1. Work with broken links and unlinked mentions

Broken links and unlinked mentions are another white hat link-building tactic. Instead of building new links or finding the proper content for mentions, you work with already existing ones.

Broken links lead to webpages that aren’t available anymore, and users see a 404 error message. The page may be reorganized or moved. So, you can reach the editor, inform them about the issue, and ask them to fix the link. Yes, it may sound like an outdated tactic, but with the proper outreach approach, it still works!

Unlinked mentions are mentions of your brand name on the website without linking to it. They increase brand awareness but don’t bring you traffic. So, reach out to the website with such mentions and ask to add the link to your domain.
To work with broken links and unlinked mentions, use your off-site SEO tool, such as Ahrefs. It helps to define the list of websites you need to work with, and you can proceed with outreach to their editors.

Example of unlinked mentions results from Ahrefs

Image Source: Ahrefs

  1. Analyze your competitors

Learning about competitors’ experiences is one of the key roads to the success of your business, including in the link-building niche. Discover which white hat approaches your opponents use to reach a high rank in Google searches.

Here are the main points to check:

  • The content they publish to attract backlinks
  • Websites that provide backlinks
  • Feature snippets
  • Keywords they are targeted at
  • Competitors’ mentions in listicles, how-to guides, etc.

Moreover, some tools allow you to perform gap analysis and discover how to improve the results. For instance, you can use the Ahrefs Competitors Analysis tool: enter your domain and opponents’ domains and click the “Compare” button. Then, you’ll be able to see the Content Gap report and proceed with a detailed analysis.

Ahrefs Competitors Analysis tool

Image Source: Ahrefs

Do not neglect the competitors’ analysis exercise; it will bring valuable insights. You will discover the main dos and don’ts for your niche link-building and save money and time spent on ineffective strategies.

  1. Digital PR

Build brand awareness and new backlinks by establishing contact with journalists. They often need support with information and experts’ opinions on the topic. So, you can provide some within your niche and competence. And if they cite you or add some valuable statistical information, they will probably mention your website as a data source in their article.

To find the media representative looking for the data, track pitches on platforms like HARO or Qwoted. Very often, journalists from world-class media—such as The New York Times, TIME, and The Wall Street Journal—use the mentioned websites.

  1. Expand the link-building partnership network

Link-building very often also depends on the connections you have. While implementing all the mentioned techniques, don’t forget to work on relationships between you and link-building partners.

For instance, once you establish communication with other link-builders and see that there is even more space for collaboration—don’t miss the chance. Use it immediately! Like if you’ve reached out to the website to fix a broken link and got friendly and collaborative replies. As a second step, you can offer an article contribution, allowing you to proceed with collaboration and reach more engagement on this website.

To find more collaborators, use social channels. LinkedIn and Slack Communities are some of the keys to a link-building niche. Some people also try Facebook, but the engagement is significantly lower. Joining such groups also increases brand visibility, gets new partners, and sources of new mentions.

The pitfall within such communities is that not all participants may use white hat link-building techniques. So, you should be attentive to details to reveal malicious backlink providers instantly.

  1. Use white hat link-building services

Link-building requires significant efforts and investments. If you don’t have the resources to execute it on your own, outsource it to specialized agencies. They can get your website up and running faster than you could do it yourself.

In the graph below, you can see the three-month results the generative AI platform Vondy got after outsourcing link-building:

Do not neglect the competitors’ analysis exercise; it will bring valuable insights. You will discover the main dos and don'ts for your niche link-building and save money and time spent on ineffective strategies.

Digital PR
Build brand awareness and new backlinks by establishing contact with journalists. They often need support with information and experts’ opinions on the topic. So, you can provide some within your niche and competence. And if they cite you or add some valuable statistical information, they will probably mention your website as a data source in their article.

To find the media representative looking for the data, track pitches on platforms like HARO or Qwoted. Very often, journalists from world-class media—such as The New York Times, TIME, and The Wall Street Journal—use the mentioned websites.

Expand the link-building partnership network
Link-building very often also depends on the connections you have. While implementing all the mentioned techniques, don’t forget to work on relationships between you and link-building partners.

For instance, once you establish communication with other link-builders and see that there is even more space for collaboration—don’t miss the chance. Use it immediately! Like if you’ve reached out to the website to fix a broken link and got friendly and collaborative replies. As a second step, you can offer an article contribution, allowing you to proceed with collaboration and reach more engagement on this website.

To find more collaborators, use social channels. LinkedIn and Slack Communities are some of the keys to a link-building niche. Some people also try Facebook, but the engagement is significantly lower. Joining such groups also increases brand visibility, gets new partners, and sources of new mentions.

The pitfall within such communities is that not all participants may use white hat link-building techniques. So, you should be attentive to details to reveal malicious backlink providers instantly.

Use white hat link-building services
Link-building requires significant efforts and investments. If you don’t have the resources to execute it on your own, outsource it to specialized agencies. They can get your website up and running faster than you could do it yourself.

Statistics on Vondy's Backlink Profile

Image Source: Ahrefs

Vondy’s organic traffic, referring domains, and DR all saw significant increases after using white hat link-building services. Specifically, there was a rise from 130 to 5.8K in organic traffic, from 250 to 416 in referring domains, and from 21 to 52 in DR. Now their stats look like this:

Statistics on Vondy's website authority

Image Source: Ahrefs

So, white hat link-building offers a wide range of techniques. You will only require time, patience, and human resources for its implementation.

Conclusion

White hat link-building is a strategy for ethically gaining backlinks and following Google search regulations. It offers various techniques, such as crafting high-quality content, adding linkable assets, guest posting, fixing broken links, linking unlinked mentions, outreach, and so on.

The mentioned techniques require time for implementation, and the results will be noticeable after a few months. However, white hat link-building avoids the risks alternative approaches have. Black and gray hat link-buildings anticipate a high risk of a manual penalty since search engines are constantly updating their algorithms. As a result, penalties can cause a loss of effort, time, money, and domain authority. You will need a year or even years to fix the situation.

So, I suggest you stay on the safe side and use white hat link-building techniques only. If your company is struggling with this, consider looking for an outsourcing agency like Omniscient, which specializes in sustainable, reputable SEO and link-building for organic growth.

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Author bio:

Andriy Zapisotskyi is the founder of GrowthMate. It’s an SEO marketing agency that helps small and mid-size brands grow in SERP and generate more revenue. Andriy loves to mentor startups and network with people. Running is his hobby, and he enjoys discovering new places. Connect with Andriy on Linkedin.

Cassandra Rosas

Cass is the Head of SEO Outreach and Link-Building at Omniscient Digital, she loves writing about topics such as Search Engine Optimization (SEO), content operations, e-commerce, and social media marketing. In her spare time she likes listening to music, doing oil painting and watching SciFi movies.