The key to any effective SEO strategy is to marry both onsite optimization with external backlinks. Both have proven time and again to be the backbone of Google’s complex algorithm. So, ignoring one of these pieces won’t get your site too far up on page one, if at all. What exactly is white hat link building, and how does one achieve it? We will answer these questions by the end of the article, plus offer some tips on strategies that have worked well for us. For more information regarding onsite SEO, refer to our OnPage SEO Tutorial here.
What is White Hat Link Building?
In the world of SEO, there are black hat techniques and there are white hat techniques. Black hat tries to game the system and find the loopholes. White hat usually plays by the rules.
For instance, black hatters may insert their links into irrelevant content, try to hide it by using white text on a white background, or use computer generated content that includes poor grammar or nonsensical phrases. Basically, they are only concerned with how search engines will perceive them, and not with how actual humans perceive them.
Although black hat tricks may work for a short time, eventually Google catches on and updates their algorithm to provide a better user experience. This forces black hatters to change their loophole strategy every few months just to superficially keep themselves on top. What’s worse, Google may even penalize or completely remove a site for using these tactics, and it can take years to recover. In the end, black hat is just not worth it.
White hat, on the other hand, always strategizes with the user in mind. Since Google is concerned with providing a great user experience so people keep returning to it, creating content and backlinking with users in mind will (usually) keep you in Google’s good graces. Those concerned with seeing long-term positive results will want to employ white hat link building strategies into their campaign.
Onsite and Offsite Link Building
To have an effective link building strategy, you should focus on both onsite link building and offsite link building. Onsite link building are the links you place throughout your site, linking to other pages and/or products. The biggest benefit here is that you have complete control over the links and where they are placed. The key here is to interlink to purposeful pages that the reader will find useful. You don’t want to link to irrelevant pages or link random words in the text. For instance, readers won’t know what type of link they can expect from one placed on the word “the”. However, something like, “Internal Linking SEO” alerts the reader to what type of content can be found on the other side.
Offsite link building is the strategy for building a backlink structure from other webpages to your site. The key here is to either create content for publishing on other sites or message sites about how your page links would provide value to readers in their already created content, and naturally include a link or two to your website. Again, your links must be relevant to the content and the publishing site’s overall niche.
You will also want to aim to publish your links on higher authority sites. In Google’s algorithm, high authority sites that include your link in their content pass more authority to your site. This increases your value in the ranking system (hello first page!). It may be easier to get your links on low quality sites, but a link on a high-quality site can sometimes be worth about 20 links on low quality-sites. Instead of going for quantity in this area, definitely aim for quality. For more information on offsite link building, check out our article on the Skyscraper Technique.
Our Favorite Tips and Tricks for White Hat Link Building
To build a link strategy that’s as natural as possible and provides value to users, here are a few tips we recommend.
Don’t be a self-promoter.
If you write content that’s too salesy or promotional of your company, it may raise a red flag to both readers and publishers. Remember to write about a general topic in which natural links to your site or services would fit in. You can mention the name of your company if the situation calls. However, try to make it as neutral and professional sounding as possible.
But, you can utilize press releases.
There is one style of writing that does permit some promotion, and that is the press release. These are meant to showcase a new product, process, or piece of news related to your specific business. So, it’s okay to have somewhat promotional language throughout the piece. However, it should read in the third person and sound like a story you would read in the newspaper. Press releases aren’t ads, so don’t make it one.
Diversify your links.
Linking to the same page over and over either in the same piece of content or across multiple pieces of content is redundant. Besides diversifying your own site links, remember to diversify your source links as well. Citing multiple sources when making a point also strengthens the argument and overall piece of content.
Don’t link stuff your content.
Adding in too many links into the content can also seem unnatural. There is no hard and fast rule as to how many you can have per paragraph. As long as it looks natural, there isn’t a link in every sentence, and they all provide value to the reader, you should be fine.
Not only do you want to vary the pages you link to, so there are multiple access points for each page, but you will want to strategize about which pages you link to most often. High conversion pages are excellent choices, as they have already proven to bring you the most sales and exposure. You can use tools like FullStory to gather data on which pages are leading to the most conversions and why. Remember, though, to only link to these pages if the content is relevant.
Use your author bio.
If you are publishing on other sites and they let you include an author bio at the end, you can use this opportunity to add in another link to your page. As long as it’s natural sounding and isn’t overly promotional, most publishers will allow it. This can also be a helpful strategy if publishers keep rejecting main content links.
Following these tips can help your white hat linking strategy for increasing or maintaining your rank in Google. Just because it’s white hat doesn’t mean it has to be random and unhelpful though. As the old saying goes, “Be wise as serpents, and innocent as doves". A quality white hat strategy fulfills both of these characteristics.