White Hat Link Building: How It’s Done

How well you rank for your desired keywords can have a massive impact on your traffic. And the closer you get to the top, the more likely you are to get a share of the clicks. (The stats in recent years vary widely, but ranking number 1 for your keyword is thought to get you anywhere from 20% to 33% click through rate).  Link building is still and important part of SEO and white hat link building is the only way to do right.

Now, on-page SEO and technical factors are part of the solution to getting to the top of your rankings. However, they are not the be all and end all of your online marketing.

And in fact, unless you’re competing for very low competition keywords, you will need to implement link building at some point. So read on to learn EXACTLY how you should be building links if you want to go down the white hat route.


Why you need link building

So I’ll assume you know the basics of SEO, doing on-page SEO, inserting your keywords in the right places to achieve optimal keyword and anchor text ratios, etc. These aspects are of course ranking factors themselves. They act as signals to Google indicating where you should be ranking. However, links are an extremely important factor as well (and seem to increasingly become more and more important). And the reason you need to build links are:

  1. They act almost like “votes” for your site. The more of these votes a search engine can see, the more likely they will reward you with higher placement in the rankings for your keywords. Which means MORE organic search traffic.
  2. Direct referral traffic. Not to be ignored! Even taking aside search engine rankings, when you have other quality websites linking to your site, there will be some click-through traffic from this. And you’ll continue to get traffic through that link for as long as it remains there.
  3. Brand awareness. This is especially important when you’re being linked to websites which are super-relevant to your industry or niche. It gets your brand name out there and in front of people.


What white hat link building is not

Now, when it comes to building links, there are some fundamentally different techniques. White hat link building (which I’ll focus on in this article) involves using manual outreach to find high quality, relevant websites and asking them for a link, to your site, which may be relevant to them or their audience.

We can argue about this all day, whether asking someone to link is white hat or not, but I would say this is about as white hat a link building method as you can get. The alternative would be to just wait for people to naturally link to you – which is not a technique at all.

Where grey hat or black hat link building differs, is that you are essentially not looking to get links with manual outreach. It normally involves building (or buying) links on website networks, which emulate a high quality website. Various techniques can be used to create these site networks, whether it’s a series of web 2.0 blogs, PBNs and they may even throw in some CTR manipulation.

The point is, that side of link building is more about creating the illusion that you’re getting links on relevant websites with real traffic. Yes, it probably does work to some extent. However, it carries certain risks as well, and as such, I don’t personally advocate it and don’t teach it.


The key to building great quality links

I’ll cut to the chase – white hat link building isn’t easy. If it was, everyone would be doing them. And there wouldn’t be much value attached to them.

However, the fact they are so revered means you must know it takes a lot of investment to get them – either in time or money.

Here are the things you need to focus on if you want to build great quality, white hat links for your site.


Content Content Content

Great content is going to be a key step to building links. And by great content, I mean actually making it useful for your audience and potential customers – not just in terms of making it useful for a search engine.

And it’s going to involve having to think about who your target audience is. What content would make their life easier? What interests them? Are there any pain points you can address?

Not every idea will be a hit, but along the way, you are going to have some great pieces, which your audience will love. The key is to keep refining this process and continue making more of the content your audience does like.

The way search engines are evolving, content will have to be made with this kind of focus. Making truly relevant content that users will engage with, is going to be the key going forward. Not just making content that has just the right keyword placement, or just the title tags. Yes those kinds of factors matter – but you can’t rely on those alone.

It might even be an idea to outsource the content creation to an expert or at least hire an experienced writer to help you. 

Now, once you’ve built all this great content, it doesn’t stop there obviously. You then need to leverage it, in order to build links.


Building Target Lists for Your Content

Now the next stage is to assess each piece of content you’ve made, and figure out who would be interested in them.

Depending on exactly what subject your content piece covers, you can then brainstorming keywords which either appear in your content piece naturally and lists of related keywords. Then plug these into Google, to show other webpages which also talk about this subject.

For example:

Hypothetically, say I created a piece which was “An ultimate guide to restoring comic books”, which I wanted to build direct links to (i.e. resource links).

I would create a list of keywords I felt could pull up relevant targets where it would make sense for me to be mentioned.

E.g. keywords like:

  • Restoring old comic books
  • Comic book restoration
  • Restore comic book
  • Pressing a comic book

That’s not to say ALL the keywords will be mentioned in my own piece, but there is contextual relevance in terms of the targets those search terms pull up. Next I would:

  • Pick out the targets which ARE relevant (bearing in mind you will get some irrelevant targets, Pinterest URLs, forum threads or whatever) and then record the info in a spreadsheet.
  • Then hunt around for the contact email for the best person to contact at each site. Normally this will be the author of the page you want to be linked to, the owner of the website or the site editor. You will either find it on the website in the about page, contact page, on their social medias. Or you can even use a tool like Hunter.io which scans the net looking for valid emails for that website.


Outreach For Links

So once you have the info recorded from the above section, the next stage is to pitch each person asking if they’d like to link to that piece of content.

Bear in mind the following key points:

  • You need to ensure the targets you’ve recorded ARE relevant to that piece, otherwise pitching them will be a waste of time.
  • There’s no ONE method to pitching. To get great results, it’s going to be about building a genuine and personal connection with whoever you’re pitching.
  • The more personalization in your initial email, and manual input, the better. Anything that is too obviously templated and automated will get a lower result rate, however, it’s still fine to use a basic skeleton for each email. Make sure it’s personalized with at least their name and/or site name. Mention something they’ve done/achieved/happening currently to get even more personalized.
  • And not everyone will link, however, the better your content and the more relevant your target list is to THAT content piece, the higher the percentage of people who will link.
  • You may not have control over the anchor text (which could be a good thing). The main thing is that the link looks natural, doesn’t disturb the flow of the article in which its placed and is contextually relevant.

This section may seem a bit airy-fairy, but this is deliberate. Nobody can really teach this section, you have to figure out your own natural style to pitching for links, develop your own templates and build your own relationships.


Wait hang on – what about Guest Posts?

Now alternatively, before you create enough of your own content, or to supplement this method, you could also pitch relevant websites to guest post (kind of like what I’ve done here!). This is slightly different, in that you want to figure out which sites you have overlapping audiences.

This allows you to build out fairly large target lists, a lot quicker. However, the reason I would not advocate to build an entire link profile on guest posts alone, is due to the amount of work involved. Since for every guest post opportunity, you will need to create a whole new article for one link. Whereas when building resource links, you could create one piece and build dozens of links to that piece.

This article is only touching the surface of white hat link building. There are so many more in-depth strategies, methods and even link building services to help build them. However, it gives you a good basic strategy and is more about getting you in the right mindset.

Yes, it does take effort. It’s going to take market research, knowing your audience and investing in content which would interest them. And not every piece you create will interest them! But its part and parcel of the content marketing game.

The key thing is to test, tweak and rinse and repeat. Until eventually, you have it dialed in, where you’re creating content for a loyal audience and building links (and relationships) while you’re at it.


About the Author

Amit Raj is the owner of a link building company based in the UK  – Amit Digital Marketing. He is on a personal mission to educate business owners everywhere on truly effective, white hat SEO which is to the point, actionable jargon-free advice. You can see some of his ranting on Youtube, Facebook, Instagram and probably anywhere else you turn!

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