Whether you’re a seasoned online marketer or a newbie to the world of SEO, you probably already know how important links are to your online rankings. High-quality, authoritative backlinks to your site can skyrocket you to the top of SERPs faster than just about anything else. So when it comes to links, every website owner wants them, but few know how to get them.
As with most anything, there are right and wrong ways of getting links to your website. In the language of SEO, the right way is referred to as white-hat link building.
What Are White-Hat Links?
White-hat links are the kinds of links that you get through purely natural link building techniques. You can think of them as rewards from the search engine gods who look down approvingly at all of the hard work you’re doing while simultaneously resisting the temptation to cut corners.
The Problem With White-Hat Link Building
White-hat link building is very effective, and it’s all on the up-and-up. There are absolutely no deceptive practices that you have to keep hidden, and you won’t ever have to worry about getting hit with a penalty from Google.
The only “problem” per se with white-hat link building is that it’s not an overnight or in-demand process. When it comes to this type of SEO, good things come to those who wait. If you’re not willing to be just a little bit patient, then you’re not likely to be too pleased with the process.
On the other hand, if you want real, long-lasting results in the form of solid placement atop SERPs AND you’re willing to wait for them, then white-hat is most definitely the way to go.
How Guest Posting Helps with White-Hat Link Building
It’s been well established that Google uses credible backlinks as a ranking factor. In other words, when high-quality sites link to your site, Google notices and rewards you with higher rankings on SERPs.
How Guest Posting Works (In Theory)
What does all of this have to do with guest posting? It’s pretty simple really—in theory at least. Just locate some popular blogs in your niche and offer to write a guest post for their blog. If they accept, provide a high-quality article that links back to your site. Voila—you’ve successfully implemented white hat link building.
Guest Posting Results
The results? Not only will you have a high-quality, organic backlink, but with any luck, you’ll also get relevant traffic to your site and eventually higher rankings as well. Cha-ching!
And it’s also a win-win (again, in theory). In return for the backlink, the blog you’re writing for will get a free post that’s high-quality and insightful. Their readers will eat it up!
Potential Pitfalls of Guest Blogging
Theory and reality don’t always coincide so perfectly, however. Guest blogging with the intent of getting white-hat links isn’t as easy as it used to be. That’s because word got out that it was super effective, and everyone started doing it—even people who had no business doing it (we’ll get to that later)—and that pretty much ruined it for everyone. Well, almost.
The “Decay and Fall” of Guest Blogging in 2014
This upward trend in guest blogging even caused Matt Cutts (trends analyst for Google at the time) to renounce the practice altogether circa 2014. He did this via a blog post entitled “The Decay and Fall of Guest Blogging for SEO.” Dramatic? Yeah, kinda.
Even before this, Cutts had warned us that spammy guest posting was going to be the death of blogger outreach for link building:
How to Get White-Hat Links for SEO: (AKA The List of “Dos”)
Luckily, guest blogging isn’t completely dead as Cutts implied back in 2014. In fact, blogger outreach for link building is still alive and well. It’s just taken on a different form and demands a little more effort on your part. Fair? Maybe not, but that’s just how the dice were rolled. So now, we play the hand we were dealt.
3 Fool-Proof White-Hat Link Building Techniques
Here are some proven techniques you can use to accomplish your link-building goals through white-hat blogger outreach.
Create Linkable Content
It should be fairly obvious that in order to get links, you need linkable content. However, this is one of the biggest oversights marketers make when pursuing blogger outreach as a viable SEO tactic.
Instead of focusing on their content, they tend to get tunnel vision about the links themselves.
Remember, in order to get what you want, you need to reciprocate with high-quality content that readers will love.
Seek Out Relevant, Successful Blogs
There are thousands upon thousands of blogs on the Internet. And there are probably hundreds and hundreds in your specific niche. Targeting all of them is not only impossible, it’s also a massive waste of time. Plus, you don’t want just any old links—you want high-quality links from credible sites.
That’s why it’s important to have a strategy for selecting blogs you want to pursue in your blogging outreach efforts.
A manual search in Google for guest blogging opportunities in the cycling niche might look something like this, for example:
Once you have a spreadsheet of guest posting possibilities, you’ll want to check the domain authority of each site. This ensures you get only high quality links from your guest blogging efforts.
There’s some debate about what a good domain authority score is, but if the site checks out with a DA of 20+, we say go for it!
Develop Relationships With Blog Owners
If there’s one thing bloggers hate more than anything else, it’s spam in their inbox. Spammy emails are tantamount to cold calls from a telemarketer. It’s annoying, and it simply doesn’t work.
I mean, does this look like any fun at all?
That’s a big old NO.
If you’re creating messages like these, then Cutts was right in your case—guest posting is dead, at least for you because you’ll never see results this way.
Instead of sending out mass templated emails to bloggers, you’ll need to take the long road and invest in relationships with the blog owners you’ve identified as targets for your link-building strategy.
That brings us to…
Worst Practices for Guest Blogging (AKA The List of “Don’ts”)
With these new expectations for blogger outreach and white-hat link building comes a new set of responsibilities for you, the SEO marketer.
Here are a few things you should definitely avoid:
3 Terrible Tactics for Blogger Outreach: What Not to Do
Don’t Blog Just for Links
Obviously, this post is about getting white-hat links through blogger outreach, but you need to have an overarching purpose for blogging that has nothing to do with links. Find meaning in your blogging efforts beyond self-serving results. Google encourages link-building guest posts when they serve other, more meaningful purposes:
Think about what you have to offer. Whether you can unveil insight into a misunderstood aspect of your niche or help out your colleagues with a few tips you’ve learned through experience, use the guest posting opportunity to contribute something meaningful. Will you get links in return? Well, that’s the hope, but when you do, it will be a win for someone besides yourself as well.
Don’t Blog About Something You Know Nothing About
In other words, don’t be a Fakey McFakerton. Google (and other search engines) reward expert content. And you can bet that the blog owners you’re reaching out to are just as concerned about their rankings as you are about your own. Don’t offer anything less than high-quality, authoritative content.
Translation: write about what you know. And don’t even think about faking it. A less-than professional post will never pass a legit blogger’s sniff test.
Don’t Be Spammy
We mentioned spam earlier in this article, but the point demands repeating. Spam is deceptive at its core, and it has no place in your repertoire of white-hat link building techniques.
And if you don’t know what constitutes spammy blogger outreach, here’s an example. This just so happens to come from Matt Cutt’s infamous post about the death of guest blogging:
In this case, Cutts got it right. If you’re sending emails like this, then you’re a spammer in need of reform. There’s no two ways about it.
If you keep it up, you’ll likely be reported.
On the other hand, if you employ the white-hat strategies we’ve detailed for you above, then you’ll have no need to write boring emails like this. And you can use the extra time to build real relationships with bloggers and create awesome content for them. As a result, you’ll get more white-hat links, and you’ll probably enjoy the process a lot more as well!
Avoiding spam tactics may also free up your calendar to check back here more often for the latest SEO advice and strategies. Happy guest blogging!