White hat link building strategies are essential to increasing your website ranking on search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing. Google updates its ranking algorithm 500-600 times a year, but link building remains a constant factor in elevating your brand awareness through higher organic rankings.
White hat link building is acquiring links to your site to increase website authority and improve your organic search traffic, leads, and sales. Learn the best white strategies we use here at Earned Media that you could consider implementing in your SEO campaign.
What is white hat link building?
White hat link building is a method of acquiring links to your website without engaging in practices that search engines ban. This process involves using natural link acquisition methods such as guest posting, PR, and content marketing to acquire backlinks from high-quality websites.
What is the difference between white and black hat link building?
Here are some key differences between white hat link building and black hat link building:
|White hat link building||Black hat link building|
|Approved by search engines.||Highly disapproved by search engines and is considered to be link spam.|
|Outcomes are positive in the long-term, and the chances of penalty are low.||Outcomes are positive in the short term, but in the long term, a website using these tactics could be subject to a Google penalty, negatively impacting a site’s web traffic.|
|Techniques include building links via PR promotion, high-quality guest posting, content improvement, and broken link building.||Techniques include building links via private blog networks (PBNs), low-quality guest posts, low-quality web directories, blog comment spam, and buying links from site owners.|
Why is white hat link building important?
Here are the reasons why link building is vital for your brand:
- Website owners legally enjoy higher SERP rankings without adopting malpractices or dishonest tactics and risking the company’s goodwill.
- White hat SEO strategies reap more ROI than investment and benefit your website with long-term results.
- Creating quality content using the proper techniques consistently portrays your business in good light, helps retain customers for a long time, and improves the user experience.
- The search engines love your website, and there is less risk of Google penalties.
- White hat links attract natural anchor text, which helps keep your overall link profile natural.
- White hat authority links supercharge your SEO and give you the best results. You enjoy higher organic rankings that are stable.
Effective white hat link building strategies
To get the most out of your search engine optimisation, you should know the best link building strategies to maximise your ROI and online visibility. Here are some of the top link building strategies that every business should follow:
1. Guest posts
Guest posting, also known as guest blogging, is a marketing practice that includes writing and publishing content on other websites to promote your brand.
Here are the benefits of guest blogging:
- It helps to expand your network since you reach out to businesses in your niche.
- You build trusted white hat links that help to improve your website’s organic search positioning.
- It increases brand credibility and awareness.
- You also attract relevant traffic to your website that might convert to improve your ROI.
How to start guest posting?
This is the first step to guest posting, as you must be clear about your goals. The key goals for your guest post should be to increase your authority, drive traffic to your website, and make people aware of your product and services.
Step 1: Find guest blogging opportunities
Once you are clear on what to accomplish, the next step is to find relevant sites that have the potential to reach maximum audiences.
Here is a list of search strings that you can use to find the best guest posting opportunities in your niche:
- Your keyword + “guest post”
- Your keyword + “write for us”
- Your keyword + “become a contributor”
You can also reverse engineer your competitor’s backlinks by targeting sites that they’ve got links on in the past by using backlink-checking tools like Ahrefs or Semrush.
Step 2: Quality checking sites
Let’s say, for example, that you have outsourced some of the research work to a virtual assistant (VA), and they’ve compiled a potential list of sites to contact. Then the next step is to quality-check the sites. You can do this by:
Uploading a list of website URLs into Ahrefs, then clicking on “More” then “Batch Analysis” in the menu to find out metrics like domain rating (DR) and the amount of organic traffic a website gets (OT). You’ll need to set parameters on this to filter out anything that is low-quality.
Run a spam score (SS) check using Moz or the free tool Website SEO Checker to disqualify spammy sites. You may want to consider blacklisting any site with a spam score greater than 1% (there are some exceptions to this, which are explained in greater detail here).
Use advanced Google Search Operators to disqualify sites. I recommend performing a casino check. You can enter a website’s name into Google and add “casino” with quotation marks.
For example, site:example.com “casino” — hands down, this is one of the best ways to check the quality of a site because it helps link builders quickly weed out low-quality paid sites. If any site contains casino links, it’s either a paid site or a private blog network (PBN).
Step 3: Find contact information
If a website does not contain an email to contact on a write for us page, you can use email-finding tools like Hunter or Voila Norbert to find the person’s email.
If it’s a large company, I’d recommend searching for it on LinkedIn. Then find the right person to contact. When doing this, it is much easier to search for people that work for a specific company with job roles — for example, a head of content, marketing, editor, or head of SEO.
Step 3: Send an email
The job of the email should be to capture an email recipient’s attention in a non-spammy, genuine way and to get a positive response.
Here are the steps to make the perfect pitch:
- Read the terms and conditions for submission and abide by them.
- Keep your proposal short and brief.
- Add some writing samples (or anything that adds credibility, e.g., guest lecturing at a university).
- Read a few articles on their website to get an idea of tone, writing style, formatting, imagery, and content length.
- Provide a small handful of topics with a short description for each of them.
Here is a sample email for guest post outreach:
I’d love to become a contributor to [website name]. Here are some great ideas for your blog that I have brainstormed:
To get an idea of my style of writing, I am sharing some examples of content that I’ve published:
[Blog post link 1]
[Blog post link 2]
[Blog post link 3]
Let me know if you are interested – and I’ll share my draft with you for your review.
Related: Creating engaging outreach emails
If you’re good at keyword research and have access to SEO tools like Semrush and Ahrefs, you could also consider finding a long-tail keyword that the site you’re pitching does not target. Ideally, the magic recipe with this is finding a long tail keyword with a low keyword difficulty (KD) that has a high search volume.
If you have expertise in a particular area, mention this in your pitch, and provide proof. That’s because, with Google’s recent core algorithm updates (E-A-T and the Helpful Content Update), Google is showing brands that it is now prioritising content that is helpful to readers but also shows expertise, authority, and trust.
Be sure to ignore any sites that respond with things like, “It will cost XYZ to publish your guest post.” That’s because it goes against Google’s anti-spam guidelines, indicating that a particular website is low-quality.
Step 4: Write your guest post
Once a site shows interest in your pitch, it’s time to start writing your guest post. Make sure to write an article that attracts a large audience and increases your brand awareness.
Here are things to remember while writing your post:
- Follow guest posting guidelines carefully.
- Write unique and helpful content.
- Consider the target blog’s core audience.
- Include your website links naturally within the content.
- Be precise with grammar and spelling, and use grammar-checking software like Grammarly or Hemmingway.
- Make it exciting and engaging with images and screenshots.
Once all the requirements are met, and you have written the content, you can then submit it to the site and remember to follow up for review and final publishing.
To save time, you could also consider hiring a content agency or freelance writers to help write the content. If you do this, we strongly recommend you thoroughly proofread and add your expertise to the article after receiving the content.
Step 5: Promote the content
When your content has been reviewed and published successfully, you should respond to the comments from time to time. To get the most out of your guest post, you should promote your content on your social media handles to increase the chances of acquiring indirect links to your website.
2. Use the byline technique
The byline link building technique is a term we coined at Earned Media. It is a valuable link building strategy that allows link builders and SEO experts to find opportunities for guest posting, which are essentially not promoted on the standard write for us page. Instead, it will help you uncover hidden link building opportunities on high-quality sites.
The practice includes searching for basic details of a writer, such as a name or a bio from a highly reputed publisher, and searching it on a search engine to find all the places where the author has contributed.
Here is how the byline technique works:
First, visit a large publication’s website in your niche. In this example, I’ll use Social Media Examiner.
Then, either uses the homepage feed or choose a category from the options related to a niche you want to build links. I’ll use the home page and find a contributor in this example.
From the home page, I found Anna Sonnenberg, who runs Sonnenberg Media.
Copy the author’s byline (bio) from their description and paste this into Google Search like this.
The search results will show a list of places a writer has contributed to, providing link builders with ample ideas of new places to pitch.
Using the byline technique is helpful as it eliminates the chances of encountering low-quality and spammy sites disguised as paid guest posts.
Related: What Is The Byline Technique?
3. HARO link building
HARO stands for Help A Reporter Out. It is a platform that allows journalists and PR professionals to interact and help each other out by providing quotes from small to large blogs and news sites.
By responding to HARO requests, PR professionals and SEOs can acquire digital PR links through reputable journalists and trusted media publications.
How to get started with HARO?
Sign up on HARO. Fill out the essential details, such as your name and email address. Choose the category in which you can confidently share expertise and insights.
After selecting the category (or categories) you want to contribute to, you will start receiving emails from HARO three times a day containing requests from reporters and journalists asking for comments on a particular topic.
Start responding to the requests you feel confident to share your expertise by pitching journalists. Then monitor the requests daily, and try to respond fast.
HARO helps reporters get exposure in the media industry and helps brands get better online visibility, improved audience reach, and increased organic traffic to their websites.
How to reverse engineer HARO link building?
Nowadays, especially in the SaaS space, it is becoming common for brands at large companies to collaborate with several non-competing brands on guest posting to acquire external links from reputable sites. That’s because it’s more scalable.
A friend of mine devised a creative approach to HARO link building by using his contributor profile as a source (I.e. journalist) and then setting up HARO requests that lead to a Google Form. Then, he hits up PR professionals and link builders to collaborate on link building and pay it forward.
Are there any alternatives to HARO?
Sure. In the U.S., Qwoted is gaining popularity as a trusted source for reporters and bloggers. Similarly, in Australia, SourceBottle focuses primarily on Australian media but also has expanded its reach to be a global platform.
Sometimes, from a link building perspective, it can be better to test the waters with new and upcoming competitors to HARO because those platforms are not saturated with users — meaning that you’ll have fewer people competing with you to respond to quote requests.
4. Convert unlinked brand mentions into backlinks
Non-linked brand mentions (also called link reclamation) are published pieces of content that contain references to a brand that do not have a backlink. This means that there could be plenty of unclaimed link opportunities for your brand, especially if they are:
- Referencing specific images (aka, image link building).
- A brand name (I.e., home page links).
- Data from a unique survey or statistic (I.e. a linkable asset).
Define your keywords
The keywords connected to your brand must be predefined. It should include your company name, all the products, web address, or the founder’s name.
For example, in the case of Atlassian, the following keywords would be relevant:
- Trello (which was acquired by Atlassian).
- Unique data or images from Atlassian or any companies that Atlassian has acquired.
How to find unlinked brand mentions?
It is highly tedious and time-consuming to detect all the mentions manually. Thankfully, there are several tools that you can use to find unlinked brand mentions in real time. Some top tools are Brand24, RankTank, BuzzSumo, Brand Mentions, and Ahrefs.
Upon entering the defined keywords, these tools will help you get a list of social media posts, news articles, videos, reviews, forums, newsletters, and podcasts containing your brand’s unlinked mentions.
How to get started with link reclamation?
Step 1: Contact the author or website
Look out and reach out to the authors who mention your brand in their content. You can find the authors on leading social media platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram..
Step 2: Create a compelling pitch
Take your time to create a customised and effective outreach proposal to convince the author to link to your website.
Step 3: Set alerts for future mentions
To get notified of future unlinked mentions, you can use tools like Google Alerts. This tool will notify you whenever someone mentions your brand because that might be an opportunity for acquiring a natural backlink.
5. Use the estimated traffic value (ETV) method
The estimated traffic value method is a white hat link building technique that we came up with and use at Earned Media which refers to targeting web pages with high traffic value. These links are super powerful as they:
- Rank on the front page of Google Search for a short-tail or long-tail keyword.
- Have a ton of high-quality referring domains (RDs), which pass on heaps of link juice.
- These pages will often have a significant amount of search volume and, in some cases, could be upwards of 50,000 monthly searches.
- Depending on your niche, these links can also help solidify a ranking’s position — I.e., making it virtually impossible for competitors to beat this type of link.
This method uses the Ahrefs estimated value function to find the most valuable pages of a particular website to get link inserts (also called niche edits).
How to use the ETV method for building big links?
Log in to Ahrefs and navigate to Site Explorer. Enter the URL of the desired website and click on the orange button. The page will show all the website details, as shown below, using an example of Shopify.
Now click on the traffic value in the far right-hand corner, showing a detailed breakdown of all the top traffic-driving pages and the monthly traffic value data.
You can also search for the page’s position in Ahrefs by adding a keyword. Then Ahrefs will display the top page that ranks.
Next, reach out to the site and see if you can get a link inserted onto a specific page. Just be aware that the bigger the ask that you are asking for — you could be required to help them out with something equally as big or hard to achieve.
These are (and I cannot understate this) the best links to get. That’s because they usually rank for semantic keywords for a page you want to help rank — but they also provide a ton of link juice.
In some cases, in Australia, I’ve seen one of these links move a page that was on page 10 of Google Search to page 1 in a relatively short period.
TLDR; One of these links is worth 10 to 20+ really good links.
What pages should I use the ETV method to target specifically?
It will come down to your link building campaign goals. Still, you could use the ETV method to acquire testimonials on product or service pages or get links added to high-performing blog content with a high estimated traffic value.
6. Get links from business listing directories
A business listing directory is a digital list of all the brands of a particular market, niche, category, or location.
How to get started with business directory link building?
Listing your company on business listing directories increases your reach and online visibility. Getting links from directories is super easy.
Step 1: Select the relevant directory
Relevance is one of the critical parameters of search engines to rank a website. It’s essential to choose the correct directory appropriate for your business niche to increase your chances of boosting your organic rankings.
Step 2: Check the domain authority (DA) or domain rating (DR)
While deciding between two directories falling in your business category, always consider one with higher domain authority which can be calculated easily using tools like Moz, Ahrefs, and Semrush.
Step 3: Evaluate the directory features
Many business listings provide additional features besides allowing you to put in your brand name, address, phone, and website. The additional features include reviews, product descriptions, images, and ratings.
The top directories in Australia
There are many directories in Australia, and here are some that you could consider submitting your company to:
- Yellow Pages.
- True Local.
- Word Of Mouth.
7. Write testimonials
You can write testimonials for other companies and, in return, get a backlink to your website. Companies are always looking for good testimonials because they increase trust with users.
How to get started with testimonial link building?
- Create a list of all the relevant websites: Prepare a list of software your company uses.
- Collect their contact information: Research who is the best person to contact. In most cases, it could be the head of growth or the founder/CEO.
- Create a unique proposal for your testimonial: Explain how your testimonial or review can add value to their business.
- Write a unique and informative testimonial: Your testimonial should be trustworthy and reliable.
- Send your testimonial: Send the testimonial to the business and politely hint for a backlink.
Testimonials are an excellent way of building strong backlinks to improve your website’s authority and brand awareness. Not every testimonial will result in an earned link to your site, but some will.
8. Publish epic content
Epic content is so engaging and unique that it keeps the readers occupied and encourages them to share and link to it. It is beneficial, inspiring, and eye-catching.
Consistent and unique content drives high traffic, increases brand awareness, and generates quality leads. Look for reliable and trustworthy data sources to collect your data. Alternatively, conduct a survey to get the data if none exists.
Consider interviewing influencers or industry experts to let them share their unique personal experiences — this helps from an E-A-T perspective and adds value to people reading your blog.
Shutterstock’s creative trends is an excellent example of epic content which resulted in 683 links from 283 domain.
9. Get featured on a podcast
Podcast outreach is the process of reaching out to different podcasts to get featured as a guest.
Appearing on a podcast is an interactive way to get broad audience exposure and backlinks.
To get yourself featured on a podcast show, you must prepare an appealing pitch to give the podcast host a reason why they should interview you.
How to get started with podcast outreach?
Manually finding all the podcasts is a challenging task. There are automatic tools available to find podcasts in your industry.
Step 1: Analyse the content and results
Before reaching out to a particular podcast, conduct in-depth research on their niche and what kind of content they produce.
Postaga’s content analyser helps you evaluate the content of a particular website to make your pitching more personalised.
There are also several link building tools that you can alternatively use which do similar things, like Respona, which the software has a dedicated podcast outreach targeting function.
Step 2: Find contact information
You can use Postaga’s contact finder to find the contact information of key people associated with the podcast. It provides you with social media handles like Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, professional handles like LinkedIn, and emails to pitch them easily.
Step 3: Send a personalised pitch
After analysing the content and podcast style of the host, you need to send an appealing proposal to get yourself featured on their podcast. Postaga also helps you prepare unique customised pitches to attract influencers who get you on their podcasts.
Appearing on industry podcasts is a great way to improve your link building, as the episodes will contain your brand link and reach large masses, thereby increasing your audience reach and search engine rankings.
10. Digital PR outreach
Digital PR or online press releases can increase your brand awareness. You can earn links from top media publications with the right digital PR strategies.
Publish data-driven research as they are more likely to get covered by media publications. Here is an example of a data-driven research study on the American SkI Index by GoKoala.
Leverage the power of newsjacking. For example, Dunkin Donuts made the best use of the opportunity when #thedress went viral.
Viewers of the image were confused about whether the dress depicted was coloured black and blue or white and gold. Just then, Dunkin Donuts came up with a newsworthy tweet:
11. Listicle mentions
Consumers tend to compare different companies before making a purchase. Consumers will scour the web to look for products or services related to something they are considering buying.
How to get started with listicles?
Including a brand in a listicle could result in pretty good backlinks and referral traffic — which may result in sales from these pieces of content. Here’s how to get started.
Step 1: Use “best” searches
To get your product and service listed in listicle articles, you’ll need to use Google Search Operators. Let’s say, for example, that you are an SEO agency, then you might search for something like this:
Or you could search for things related to different service offering, for example:
Or in the eCommerce space, then it could be things like this if you sell dresses:
Step 2: Make a list of all the relevant articles
There are two ways to go about this:
- Manual: I.e. checking each article individually.
- Use SEO software: Use a tool like Ahrefs to do the initial hard-lifting work.
To make a list of all relevant articles, head on to Content Explorer in Ahrefs and enter a keyword, for example, “best link building agencies,” then, Ahrefs will display a list of potential targets that you can then export into a CSV file.
Then after you want to go through the list manually and eliminate anything that has a low DR (e.g., eliminate anything with a DR lower than 30). Plus, after running some quality checks on the sites to check out the site quality.
Step 3: Create a unique pitch
Once you finish your final list, you need to create a unique and innovative pitch to the author stating why they should list your brand in their article. Keep it short and straightforward.
Interestingly enough, a lot of SaaS companies usually will throw in something extra — for example, offer free credits to try out their product
This link building technique will help you build relevant links but also act as social proof to convert more customers.
12. Build free tools
Creating free tools, such as calculators and template makers, is an effective method to build white hat backlinks. Doing something like this requires a bit of creativity and research as it is often solving a problem and quite often a developer.
For example, Higher Visibility’s SERP Snippet Optimiser allows anyone to check free how their title and meta description will appear in Google Search for free. This is quite handy if you want to check if the title length for an article will fit into Google’s recommended char limit (character limit).
So for this article that I’m writing now, the initial working title we had in mind was “12 Best White Hat Link Building Strategies To Inspire Your Next Campaign.”
But because Higher Visibility shows that some text will be cut off in Google Search, we should slightly shorten the title length. If you look at the tile section on the right, it shows that the title exceeds the recommended title length.
After testing, we decided to change this article to this instead — 12 Best Link Building Strategies To Inspire Your Next Campaign.
This free tool by Higher Visibility (which was initially called SEO Mofo) has approximately 2,800 unique referring domains, with the page alone generating around 9,300 in monthly organic search traffic. That is not bad for a free tool.
At Earned Media, we’re creating an internal tool that we may later roll out as a free tool. While our tool is still in its early stages, requiring more functionality. We have a working prototype that currently works and saves us a lot of time.
Using white hat link-building techniques to earn backlinks increases a brand’s organic search rankings and reach and helps companies grow over the long term.
Quality link building is something that many companies and SEO agencies struggle with. That’s because it’s quite a time-consuming process, but it also requires expertise and experience — which can take several years to develop.
Founder of Earned Media. Nick specialises in SEO and he has been working in the industry for over 12 years. He is a recurring digital marketing expert guest on Kochie’s Business Builders on Channel 7 network TV. Nick is a member of the Entrepreneur Leadership Network and regularly contributes to many top business publications. Nick has also guest lectured on SEO and content marketing at the University of Technology Sydney.