White Hat Link Building: Building Links for Free

White hat link building is building natural links, just like Google wants you to.

From Google’s guidance, backlinks are natural from people going to your site, finding helpful content, and linking back to you on the web.

And the most powerful backlinks are often the ones where you’re quoted as an expert in your field.

But how do you start doing white-hat link building?

We’ll go over all that and more below, let’s get into it.

What Are White, Grey, and Black Hat Backlinks?

White hat backlinks

White-hat backlinks (or SEO, for that matter) are following search engine guidelines without breaking the terms of service.

Google understands that SEO is a vital part of the web, and they have released their webmaster guidelines to help SEOs better understand how to rank.

The truth is, even if you play by Google’s rules, the algorithm is always changing. As I’m typing this now in March of 2024, we’ve recently seen one of the biggest updates that has destroyed many niche websites that were following Google’s advice to a T.

When it comes to building backlinks, Google does not want you to ever pay another agency to build links for you, as you’re still paying for links and this could be seen as “unnatural”. Google’s idea of building links is write good content, and let the algorithm do the rest for you, and people will naturally link out to you.

Sadly, this is not the case in 99% of the instances we’ve seen and tested ourselves. Websites NEED backlinks, especially now with how much AI content the web is being flooded with.

Google does not know how to identify AI content from “useful” content, as they’d like to say, and are still utilizing backlinks as a ranking factor.

As time goes on, Google will likely get better at identifying lower-quality backlinks, so it’s imperative that whatever type of backlink building you decide to do, you do it the right way.

Grey hat backlinks

Grey hat SEO is implementing white-hat SEO as well as black-hat tactics. Most SEOs that help businesses rank are in this category. If you only followed Google’s guidelines in competitive niches, you would never rank for anything as websites require backlinks to rank.

Grey hat backlinks are, according to Google, any backlinks that you build that are to increase or manipulate your rankings.

A common technique of grey hat backlink builders is to pay for backlinks. While Google has no way of knowing what websites are purchasing backlinks, it can find patterns over time to identify lower-quality sites, aka, link farms.

Most websites that are being worked on by SEOs are by definition doing grey hat SEO, but the real truth is that it’s impossible to follow Google’s guidelines in today’s environment and run a successful business.

Black hat backlinks

Black hat backlinks are backlinks that are built solely to manipulate the Google algorithm. This is where PBNs, or private blog networks, come in. Private blog networks are networks of sites that only exist to provide backlinks to other sites to improve their search engine rankings.

Google says that PBNs don’t work any longer, but it likely has no way to determine what is and what isn’t a PBN with so much going on in the entire internet.

Link farms are also used in black hat link building, but I would consider link farms more of a grey hat type situation.

Other types of black hat links would be tier 2 and tier 3 backlinks, which utilize many types of spammy links that are often “UGC” or user-generated content like comment spam from WordPress sites.

How to Build White Hat Backlinks?

Write Amazing Content

Google’s vision of the internet is a great one, where all the top content ranks above everything else and every query that is searched for is fulfilled with THE best option.

As Google gets better and better at identifying amazing content, it’ll be easier for amazing content to surface above all the other content that you’re competing with.

Google wants you to create killer content so that when other people genuinely use your article, they then share it with their audience.

Imagine you wrote an amazing recipe that another food blogger couldn’t get enough of and then shared it on their blog.

Or you wrote a statistic piece that you went out and gathered data from, this is how you get amazing links from 90DR+ sites as journalists will search for “automotive statistics” or “SEO statistics” if they’re writing an article and then they will site the page for the statistic.

Writing banger content is the way to get these links, but the caveat here is that if you want to rank for any of these “statistic” keywords, you’ll need to go out and get backlinks to the page to rank. Once you get the wheel going, however, the links will come pouring in.

You can start by doing outreach to get links to the page, or even do paid advertising to the keyword to get some natural backlinks that way. Is it considered “paid” if we paid for Google ads? I guess we’ll have to let Google decide!

Do Guest Posts the RIGHT Way

Google has said that guest posts should have nofollow links, which means that the backlinks you’re doing won’t pass any link juice.

However, it has been noticed by some SEOs that even nofollow links can influence your rankings. Imagine you have a nofollow mention from Nytimes.com, I’m sure that this is going to give a positive signal to Google.

John Mueller has stated that Google can already detect guest posts and has devalued them. Guest posts that are marked with the tag “guest” post or have an author box are what he’s talking about, as unmarked guest posts are difficult to detect when done right.

While these types of links are not going to move the needle as much as paid backlinks, they can still be a good resource to utilize for a well-rounded backlink profile.

Digital PR

Digital PR is a way that bigger brands score 100s of backlinks from authority sites like BBC.com and Thesun.co.uk. Digital PR is similar to traditional PR which involves networking with journalists to get published in bigger publications.

With many agencies trying to get their clients backlinks, it can be hard to stand out through all the noise journalists are having to deal with.

Reactionary PR is another way to get a lot of links from big publications. Recently there was a big story about Kate Middleton’s photo being altered.

If your company was an agency that deals with photo restoration, it could be an opportunity to show how the photo was altered, and with journalists needing stories to run, they’ll always go with the ones that are most likely to garner the most clicks.

Don’t think that digital PR is simple, it’s not, and it often takes a trained team working together to come up with ideas to stand out against the crowd. It’s a creative art that takes time to learn how to do. At Zen Backlinks, we don’t offer digital PR as it’s a different service than traditional backlink building BUT it’s always good to do both together.


White hat link building, while aligned with Google’s guidelines, acknowledges the necessity of strategic adaptation in a competitive digital landscape. While Google advocates for organic link growth through valuable content creation, the reality often requires a mix of tactics, leading to the emergence of grey hat practices.

These techniques blend ethical SEO with manipulative strategies to improve rankings, while black hat tactics exploit search algorithms for ranking gains.

To embark on white hat link building, emphasis should be placed on creating exceptional content that attracts natural backlinks from authoritative sources. Additionally, ethical guest posting and digital PR efforts can enhance a website’s backlink profile by leveraging relationships with journalists and industry influencers.

However, success in white hat link building demands diligence, creativity, and adaptability to navigate the complexities of online competition while adhering to search engine guidelines.

About Roy Cohen

I'm Roy, the founder of Zen Backlinks. I've been building links for over four years, and with my wealth of knowledge, I'm happy to share everything I've learned and what has worked for our clients. You can contact me on my LinkedIn or roy@zenbacklinks.com