Black Hat vs White Hat Link Building (What's the Difference)

In this article, you will learn what is the difference between a black hat and a white hat SEO link building.

Without a doubt, marketers wear many hats. But in the SEO world, the hat's color is more significant than its number. What does white hat SEO mean? What is classified as a black hat SEO tactic? More importantly, what types of link-building strategies will help you generate sustainable organic growth?

White Hat vs Black Hat Link Building (What's the Difference)

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What is White Hat Link Building?

White hat link building (also known as backlinking) is a search engine optimization (SEO) technique that involves creating links between websites on similar topics, making it easier for users to navigate the web and for search engines to crawl and understand the content.

SEOs typically generate these links by creating high-quality content pieces that include links to their target URLs, then delivering them to authoritative websites for publication. This white hat SEO procedure is also known as guest posting.

When Google and other search engines crawl the internet, they use links to quickly make connections between content topics and to understand the hierarchy of authority between websites. If authoritative websites link to another website, it sends a signal to Google to consider that website authoritative as well. This authority is sometimes called link juice by SEOs.

White hat link building is an approach to driving traffic to a website through search engine optimization (SEO) techniques, such as creating relevant links to other relevant content on the web. White hat links improve the ranking of a website or web page in search engines such as Google through "organic" means that improve the user experience by enhancing the quality of the content, expanding its reach through relevant links, etc.


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What is Black Hat Link Building?

Black hat link-building tactics are techniques used to attract traffic to a website by exploiting the flaws of the site, allowing a site to rank higher than it should be through "organic" search means. Search engines like Google have become aware of these practices that allow them to game the system and improve the ranking of sites.

White Hat vs Black Hat Link Building (What's the Difference)

Black hat link building is the practice of generating links in an ethically questionable manner, or in contradiction with Google Search Central guidelines. Here are some examples of black hat link-building strategies:

Private Blog Networks (PBNs) - A PBN is a network of websites that has been created or acquired by marketers and used to pass link authority between sites. PBNs are also sometimes referred to as "link farms." Because marketers own all the websites in the network, PBNs can be used to generate large amounts of links quickly. Using PBN links is extremely risky because these networks are often abused to generate unnatural link growth and Google has invested immense resources in technology to detect and penalize websites that use them. PBN links are often desirable to SEOs because they can be acquired more easily and by expending fewer resources than white hat links.

Spammed Blog Comments - A basic, but unquestionably black hat link-building strategy is to create blog comments that contain links to target URLs. For a while, these types of links were boosting rankings and black hat SEOs could essentially print link money. However, Google has made great efforts to minimize the impact of these links. In addition, these links are a surefire way to get your website penalized. In addition, most CMS and blog providers automatically make all links in comments "Nofollow", which prevents any potential penalty.

Why is White Hat Link Building Important?

If you care about backlinks, you care about increasing your organic traffic. Google's algorithm reportedly takes into account hundreds of ranking factors to rank websites in search engine results pages (SERPs). These ranking factors are generally organized into three main categories:

Technical - the workings of your website and the user experience. Technical factors include Google's "Core Web Vitals", site speed, mobile experience, site architecture, crawlability, sitemaps, etc. Basically, Google favors websites that care about the user experience.

On-page - the content of your website. Google Search is the world's most sophisticated customer service agent and it gets its answers from the words marketers put on their websites. The objective of an SEO or content marketer is to create content that best responds to users' questions in a natural and thorough way.

Off-page - the way other websites interact with yours - it's all about backlinks. From the beginning, Google's algorithm has evaluated the authority of a website by analyzing its link profile, or the combination of links pointing to it. If authoritative websites point to your site, Google transfers that authority (sometimes referred to as "link juice"), and your website is strengthened.

Although Google has made multiple algorithm updates specifically adjusting its backlink analysis (including the famous Penguin update), the value and importance of backlinks are more important than ever.

Backlinks are directed to individual URLs, and when the content of those pages is focused on specific keywords, the ranking potential of those keywords increases dramatically. But this goes far beyond the increase in individual keywords and pages. As links are acquired, a website's domain is strengthened, making it easier to load for all future keyword acquisitions. Each new backlink acquired is like a step forward for every other keyword you target.

Now, we would be remiss if we didn't explain the negative consequences you avoid by seeking white hat backlinks. We have already mentioned them several times: Google's penalties. If Google discovers black hat SEO strategies, it blacklists entire sites, preventing them from being found by its search engines. It is very rare that Google will inform a website that it has been penalized or exactly why, and it can take years to repair the damage. SEO requires a significant investment of time and money, so it makes sense that some marketers would look for shortcuts, but the potential gain is never worth the risk.


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What Makes a Link White Hat?

Avoiding black hat and other spamming tactics automatically makes a link white hat. But the effectiveness of a backlink is not just about whether it was acquired in an "ethical" way or not. The best backlinks are created from websites that have both authority and relevance.

Backlink authority is commonly tracked using one of two scores: Domain Rating (DR) and Domain Authority (DA). They essentially measure the same thing (both rated from 1 to 100) but are provided by different SEO software such as Ahrefs, Moz, and SEMrush. The higher the DR/DA, the stronger the backlink will be.

In addition to domain authority, topical relevance is crucial. If you're developing a cosmetics eCommerce site, it won't make sense to generate a backlink from a software site - and Google's sophisticated algorithm can quickly perceive these nuances.

White Hat Link Building Tactics

Guest posting - We've already covered this strategy above, as it is the most common and effective method. It involves writing high-quality content articles and giving them to websites that value that content. This is a mutual benefit because creating high-quality content can be expensive for website owners and backlinks are essential for organic growth.

Long-form content - White hat backlinks can also be generated by creating highly engaging content that naturally draws the attention of other websites. This content typically takes the form of reports, infographics, digital interactives, and long-form guides. However, these types of content usually require significant promotion through advertising, social media, and email to get the attention needed to get backlinks.

Broken link building - Websites are constantly changing. Pages are removed, entire sites are redirected and old content is rarely updated. When these changes occur, backlinks are broken. So imagine for a moment that a competing website undergoes major changes. Many of the links that used to point to that website may now point to dead (404) pages. You can then contact these sites to report the dead links and ask them to point to your site instead. Tools like Ahrefs and SEMrush can assist you in discovering these opportunities.

You can see this article on what is broken link building in SEO and how to find broken links

Link mentions - Especially effective for mature brands, it's typical for websites to mention other brands without linking to them. While brand mentions can be detected by Google to build your authority, mentions are not nearly as strong as backlinks. Sometimes turning mentions into links is as simple as contacting webmasters and asking them to link to your site. They already mention the brand and are likely to accept a backlink.

White Hat vs Black Hat Link Building (What's the Difference)

Black Hat vs White Hat Link Building - Summary

This was the difference between white hat and black hat SEO link buildingand I hope you enjoyed it.

Unlike the spammy black hat link building tactic, which aims to drive traffic to a site without adding value to the content or improving the user experience, white hat link building aims to educate users. Unlike black hat tactics, white hat link building can be labor intensive, as web designers and content writers must focus on quality content and then interject links to boost the page's SEO value. This type of organic link building to various sources on the web is beneficial to the online community as a whole, which is why search engines like Google reward this practice in terms of a website's search engine ranking. While black hat link-building tactics offer short-term results, white hat link-building aims to improve the web as a whole in the long term.

There are many white hat link-building strategies that can increase your organic opportunities without the risk of being penalized. The saying goes high-risk, high-reward. But in SEO, building a large number of black hat links does not always come with substantial long-term rewards. More than ever, the requirements of Google's algorithm and those of the end-user are aligning. Do what is best for the end user and you are sure to be rewarded by Google as well.

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