This is Part 6 of a six part SEO series. A list of all the other posts can be found at the bottom of this article.
In our previous post on offsite SEO, we clearly defined the difference between black hat and white hat SEO as follows:
Put simply, white hat SEO is any means of attracting links that is both acceptable and openly encouraged in the eyes of search engines. Any form of white hat SEO complies with search engines’ Terms of Service (ToS).
Black hat SEO is any method of building links that would not be approved by search engines (were it to be discovered).
The purpose of this post is not to discuss the “ethics” of SEO. Our priority is to demonstrate to you how you can get your site ranked by search engines with minimal risk. How you choose to do so is entirely up to you.
Before we start, it would be remiss of us not to include the following disclaimer: employing the use of black hat SEO methods is a risky practice. If a search engine discovers that you are using black hat methods, they may do any of the following:
- Devalue your link portfolio (which typically negatively affects your rank)
- Apply a temporary or permanent penalty to your site (the effect of which is a significant drop in rank)
- Remove your website from their index altogether
Any of these outcomes are undesirable, and the final one is disastrous. If you do choose to use black hat SEO methods, make sure that you can stomach the risk.
What Color Is Your Hat?
For the purposes of this post, the only question that is relevant to choosing between white hat and black hat SEO is the following – which is best for my site?
The answer could be any one of these three:
- White hat
- Black hat
There is no rule that says you must practice either white hat or black hat SEO. After all, the vast majority of websites that rank in Google have probably practiced some “shady” SEO tactics in their time, whether by design or accident. Similarly, you can spend the vast majority of your link-building efforts on black hat SEO tactics, and still expend some of your energy on more “compliant” forms of link attraction.
But for practical purposes, here is a general rule of thumb: the more competitive the keyword, the higher the chance that white hat SEO will be the most effective strategy. Black hat SEO methods usually produce low-quality links, the total of which can potentially be wiped out by just one quality link produced by white hat SEO. So if you want to rank amongst the big boys, you are likely to need good quality links, which is why white hat SEO should generally take precedence.
With that said, let’s take a look at 4 different link building methods you can employ. These are ordered by the quality of links that you are likely to attract by pursuing the method (and by logical extension, their level of difficulty in executing).
1. Mass Article Marketing (Black Hat)
When it comes to link quality, this is near to scraping the bottom of the barrel. The method is simple:
- Write an article
- “Spin” that article so that it can be duplicated multiple times whilst still remaining unique
- Submit spun versions of the article to multiple article websites, each with 1-2 links pointing back to your site
Article spinning is usually achieved via software such as The Best Spinner. You can have articles spun automatically, but that tends to produce unintelligible content.
The main downside of this method is that the link quality is typically very low. The article websites themselves tend to be low-authority, and will be churning out a huge number of articles. Furthermore, some of the articles created will not even be indexed by Google. And if a page isn’t indexed, the links in it will not be taken into account.
The upside is that you can create an enormous number of links pointing to your site, with custom anchor text, with relatively little effort.
Two of the most highly-recommended services for mass article marketing are Unique Article Wizard and My Article Network. Subscriptions to these services do not come cheap, at $67 per month each. If you only want to do article marketing on a small scale, you might consider trawling Fiverr for relevant services, such as this.
2. Private Blog Networks (Black Hat)
In terms of link quality and indexing rates, this is one step up from mass article marketing, but the principle is very similar. The process is as follows:
- Write an article
- Submit it to the owner of a private blog network
- That article will be published on a blog, with a link back to your site
Each article must be unique – spinning is not an option. So this is certainly a more labor-intensive method than mass article marketing. The upside is that your articles will be placed on sites that are more authoritative than the average article site. Furthermore, the best private blog network services go to great lengths to ensure that most posts are indexed.
The two best private blog networks in our experience are BuildMyRank and RankJumpers. BuildMyRank is by far the most popular service, but is currently closed to new members. RankJumpers is the new kid on the block, but based upon our research, can actually offer you higher link quality and indexing rates (on average) than BuildMyRank.
3. Guest Posting (White Hat)
Guest posting is arguably the most accessible and “scientific” form of white hat SEO. When it comes to getting sites to link to you by natural means, you may have to put a lot of work in to get only a few links. But with guest posting, if your application is approved, you know that you will be getting a link from what is likely to be a relatively authoritative site.
The downside of guest posting is that it takes a very long time. If you are going about it the right way, you are likely to be spending perhaps 1 1/2 hours on average for every guest post that you write. That 90 minutes of work will only bring you one link (although it will be of a high quality).
The upside of guest posting is of course the link itself, but there are also plenty of additional benefits – both direct and indirect. First of all, you will receive traffic in the form of click throughs on the hosting site. You can also use guest posting as a way of establishing relationships with bloggers in your niche.
To get started with guest posting, we recommend that you read these four posts:
- 5 Reasons Why You Should Guest Post
- 7 Ways To Find Guest Post Opportunities
- 9 Steps To Getting Your Guest Post Approved
- 6 Powerful Guest Post Tactics that No One’s Talking About
4. Link Bait (White Hat)
Although the term itself may sound somewhat unscrupulous, the practice of producing link bait is in fact perfectly “ethical” in SEO terms. We only have to turn to Matt Cutts, head of Google’s Webspam team, for confirmation of that fact.
Any content that compels people to link to it can be seen as link bait. The difference between a normal blog post and link bait is defined by the number of times it is linked to. Social media sharing is also typically taken into account.
As you might have already gathered, publishing link bait as part of a SEO strategy is something of an art form. And you will typically need a sizable existing user base in order to see worthwhile results. However, the results can be spectacular.
One of our favorite link bait stories is Steve Kamb’s How to Travel Around the World for $418 post. It is chronicled in detail here, but the brief synopsis is that a post on Steve’s blog got syndicated by Gizmodo, which resulted in a hugely authoritative link, as well as an enormous wave of traffic to his site (amongst other benefits).
The potential upsides to this method are huge. The downsides are in the absolute unpredictability of it, and the fact that you have no control over the anchor texts that are linking back to your site.
Check out these two posts for an introduction on what you can do to create effective link bait:
What Is YOUR Favorite Link Building Method?
We have covered four of the most popular link building methods above, but there are countless more. Do you have a preferred method of link building? Let us know in the comments section!
Read the Whole Series
- Why SEO Will Always Be Important For Bloggers
- What You Need To Know About How Your Website Is Ranked
- The 4 Fundamentals of Effective Onsite SEO Revealed
- What You Need To Know About Offsite SEO
- Keyword Research: Our Three Step Process
- 4 Link Building Methods Revealed and Reviewed