White hat SEO link building campaign is impossible

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I’ve seen lots of SEO companies offering link building services and some of them claiming they are white-hat SEOs. I’d like to explain why link building campaign is never white hat SEO. It’s always in some gray area and often completely black hat.

If you want to receive backlinks that are totally white hat, you can’t:

  • Buy links
  • Beg for links
  • Spam or place them on your own in any other way

Basically, you can’t create backlinks that will influence rankings in any non-natural way. This means that only thing you can rely on is your marketing activity. A good white hat link building campaign is actually not link building campaign at all, we’re talking about inbound marketing techniques, content marketing or link bait to be more precise.

Imagine backlinks as your reputation. You need others to respect you in order to increase your reputation. Voting for yourself a lot of times will not help in the eyes of others, they still need to respect you on their own.

No company can ever guarantee you a certain number of links you will receive and call themselves white-hat SEOs. If you can guarantee a certain number of links you are obviously manipulating search engines and you are not doing white-hat SEO.

If any off-site SEO activity is going to be white-hat, it has to rely on your content and ability to gain natural backlinks. So if you can’t literally build links, you can’t do a link building campaign. It’s pretty simple.

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About Toni Anicic

eCommerce Consultant

SEO. Professional gaming. Home-brewed beer. Magento Certified Solution Specialist.

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15 comments

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  3. Great post, I completely agree.

    Creating natural inbound links with varied anchor text on sites you don’t own can not in any way be natural.

    On one hand Google expects us to let links be created by others who found our content link-worthy. On the other hand Google explains to us the best practices for controlling anchor text and where your links should come from.

    Google tells us with every update and algo change that we need to get better at faking sincerity. If we can fake sincerity really well we will get rewarded.

    You follow G’s advice thinking it means you are being white hat but the unfortunate fact is that we ARE being told to fake sincerity, there is nothing white about it.

    Later on G moves the goalposts and the white hat technique becomes black hat. Deemed so by the very same company that created the white hat technique in the first place and told us all how to do it. (EMD is a shining example.)

    The bottom line is that while some benefit from the algo changes and yes, some unsavory websites do get fairly penalized, many legitimate hard working online business’s either fold, run to increase their Adwords budget or go bust.

    As long as one company is telling us how to run our business’s, how we should communicate with others, the best way to conduct ourselves online and ultimately being judge and jury of everyone there is no white hat. There is no hat. Only Google.

    Google is starting to look like the worlds first digital dictatorship.

  4. Unless its natural, all link building is Blackhat!

    I often read many posts where SEO experts frown upon Blackhat strategies but then openly promote link building. According to Google’s TOS, natural links are links others point back to your site without the need to pay for it, ask for it, comment for it or insert a link in your article to gain it.

    So, if all link building strategies are in effect manipulating search engine results, doesn’t it stand to reason that all link building is Blackhat and the majority of off-page SEO practiced by SEO firms is in effect, Blackhat?

    Isn’t having an online business all about rankings, traffic and conversions in the first place and search engine optimization should essentially be a technical, and possibly not a moral or ethical issue?

  5. Thsi days is really hard to have good backlinks. People buying, selling … backlinks, and it is really hard to have good backlinks for free

  6. Well, sometimes it is pretty hard to distinguish a white hat SEO from black hat. And it is hard when you need to balance between. When clients approach and want to promote their web site they don’t care what method to use. In that case you could stick to a white hat and lose clients or do a black hat SEO and get the money. Only thing that helps is to explain them that a black hat promotion could harm their web site. Well, you tell them if you do care about clients. But many “SEO experts” don’t. That’s why SEO is getting a bad reputation.

  7. OMM: That’s not black hat. I don’t feel like explaining the line between fair and unfair advantage over your competitors, it’s just something people don’t usually understand and I don’t blame you.

  8. Nice try, but this is reaching too far. Active link building is a “natural” way to promote your site.

    What about Public Relations? PR is trying to get reporters to write about your company. Is pitching a story idea to a reporter black-hat? Is writing much of a story for a reporter black-hat? Should PR people never reach out, only wait for a reporter to find their great content naturally?

  9. @Julian:

    Good point, but, “everyone does it” doesn’t mean it’s acceptable or that you should also do it.

  10. Good post, but the problem is that it seems that everyone is embarking on link building campaigns to their websites. It’s become an entire industry. With so many sites being so active in trying to improve their SEO the ones that rely on 100% natural methods get left behind. The only thing that will ever change this is google using a different method to rank sites, which begs the question…. what other ranking factor could take the place of inbound links?

  11. The main point of this post I agree with. I think it’s even more sad when I see SEO companies posting jobs on freelance sites trying to get other companies to give them xxxx amount of backlinks to xxxx site. They probably have some dumb contract with their client that guarantees a certain amount of incoming links, and unfortunately people fall for it. The fact of the matter is, a single natural incoming link for a respected website is far better than 20,000 backlinks from random sites. The only valid tactic for gaining links is making your website marketable, creating unique and high quality content, and then simply making your article easily shareable or presenting it to other reputable sites.

    Your overall statement is correct, however, the very name ‘link building campaign’ is basically a synonym for trying to mislead search engines by abusing a well known SEO component. Not that Google and all the other search engines don’t already know about it and the campaigns are useless.

  12. Eh, semantics. Kinda goes to the whole “all of SEO is blackhat” thing. Don’t particularly agree with it myself, as there are plenty of search engine approved methods for link building, which would make them whitehat, which makes some of linkbuilding SEO whitehat. ;)

  13. I agree with most of the article however it is often the case that someone can develop great content that simply does not get noticed. There is no shame in asking a others (who have some professional or personal interest) to review your website and provide comments. If they like it they will always have the option of linking to it. I realize that this is absolutely tedious and very, very slow but it does represent a good quality link and that is the objective.

  14. I see your point, however it seems you are discouraging marketers from link building. Most SEO’s I talk to say that the process of link building is a necessary step in gaining traffic. Although it is not completely ‘white hat,’ do you think marketers should do away with it?

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