What is link building for SEO?

Link building can be understand as the strategies undertaken by SEO companies or businesses practicing SEO to acquire hyperlinks from other websites that direct towards their own. A hyperlink (usually just called a link) is a way for users to navigate between pages on the internet and is one of the indicators Google uses when ranking websites. Generally speaking, the more links pointing towards a site, the higher more authority Google will perceive that website to have, and as a result situate them higher in search engine results pages (SERPs).

However, there are several different strategies that can be used to build links, all of which vary in difficulty. And because of this, some unorthodox techniques of gaining links exist that basically act as a shortcut to build phoney or fake links. Google penalises websites that practice these unorthodox link building strategies and continually realises new algorithm updates that targets spammy link builders.

SEO companies will often use the terms “white-hat” and “black-hat” when discussing link building techniques.



White-hat strategies

White-hat strategies are those that are considered ‘good’ link building techniques and are very low-risk to carry out and usually fall well within the webmaster guidelines laid out by Google and Bing, meaning that search engines approve these methods of obtaining backlinks. Using white-hat techniques means that you are unlikely to experience any problems with the search engines when it comes to losing traffic because of a penalty. Top SEO companies practice white hat link building strategies, as it means that their clients are at no risk of being penalised if a search engine releases a new algorithm targeting spammy backlinks, which Google often does.

Examples of white-hat link building strategies:

  • Curating your own quality content, that is unique and provides useful insights to readers and consumers.
  • Building an engaged online community with two way communication that is genuine (not paid or forced).
  • Promoting your website to relevant audiences in a genuine, honest way. Such as writing personalised messages requesting them to engage.


Black-hat strategies

Black-hat strategies is the term used to describe techniques that directly violate search engine guidelines. These techniques seek to exploit loopholes in the search engine algorithms and rank websites higher than they actually deserve to. These types of tactics have the appeal in that they’re easy to obtain and usually users will see SERP results quicker than if they were using white-hat strategies. However, they never work in the long run because the search engines are always looking to stop them from happening. If caught using these strategies, the website will be penalised and its traffic and rankings can drop pretty much overnight.

Examples of black-hat link building strategies:

  • Cloaking is the process of showing different content to the search engines compared to what you show to users. It involves website coding and blocking pages in the robots.txt file.
  • Injecting hidden links into a website that you do not own by exploiting a security flaw and entering unauthorised through a websites backend.
  • Hiding text on a page that is only shown to the search engines, not users, typically full of keywords you want to rank for.


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