The Different Hats of Link Building


Google has come a long, long way since the wild, wild west of online search in the early 2000s.

The algorithmic updates over the years set the precedent on how people should approach link building.

Instead of getting links by brute force and volume, people need to observe this practice with subtlety and develop a working strategy.

If there’s one thing about Google that people gloss over too much, it’s this:

Google’s algorithm is just math. That means strategic behaviour can go far when trying to rank a site.

Google’s algorithms determine which pages to rank on SERPs using an equation that computes for different website variables.

As a site owner, you have two choices:

Should you follow the Google webmaster guidelines and stay within the limit?

Or should you experiment with the algorithm and taking it to the limit sounds?

This is where the cheesy spaghetti western analogies resonate in SEO.

You will see different link building tactics as categorized into hats.

Some link building tactics walk within the confines of the rules Google set.

Others cross the border and taking site optimization into their own hands. Whatever tactic you will choose, Linkbox instant link indexer helps you to reach results from your backlinks as soon as possible.

So which one is which? 

White Hat

People who practice ethical link building associate themselves with white hat link building.

These gunslingers (link-slingers, as you will) are the good guys. They don’t engage in link schemes and don’t break the laws stated in the Webmaster Guidelines.

Later on, we will discuss the link building tactics they engage in so you can replicate them.

By being good, obedient link builders, you’d expect them to rank higher and faster on Google, right?

Not really.

In fact, white hat link building is a rather long process with slow upward mobility.

In a case study conducted by Ahrefs, only 5.7% of websites rank on the first page of Google search after a year they have been “first seen.?

Out of the 5.7% sites, most of them rank on Google after two to three months.

Keep in mind that the study doesn’t consider the type of links acquired during the period.

Nonetheless, the data help set your expectations when ranking for your keywords.

On the topic of white hat link building, expect to rank even longer when taking up its tactics.

The reason is the difficulty of earning links versus getting them.

By playing the white hat game, you are hands-off when it comes to building links.

You can’t ask people to link to your site in any way or manner.

It’s up to the person whether or not to link to your site.

Sticking by the white hat route can be a frustrating experience as a result.

But here’s why people build links ethically in the first place:


If you’re playing the long game and are in no rush to rank for your keywords, then white hat link building is your jam.

By straddling within the lines that Google deems acceptable, you also make your website algorithm-proof.

So when Google rolls out a major algorithm update, expect your site to remain in place at the very least – if not increase your rankings even further!


Black Hat

Black hat link building has gotten a bad rap over the years and with good reason.

I mean, who wouldn’t be annoyed to see hundreds of spam comments that link to Viagra and Cialis sites?

However, black hat link builders have refined their practices ever since.

It is true that, unlike white hat link builders, they have total disregard for what Google considers acceptable practice.

Nowadays, black hat link building is more concerned with pushing the envelope of organic search in general.

They no longer use tools to mass-produce and auto-generate backlinks online. Instead, they take a more deliberate approach when it comes to building links “unethically.?

If done correctly, they rank on top of Google SERPs in a matter of weeks.

Take Charles Floate for instance. He took a site that was getting 300 organic visitors a month to 30,000 in six months.

Granted, Charles spent over $17,500 from his pocket to roll out his black hat link building strategy.

However, he was able to recover the expenses and then some by generating a monthly revenue to $20,000 in CPA commissions from the site.

More importantly, his clients were earning $110,000 a month thanks to his help.

Here’s another example of a successful black hat link building campaign:

Asif Ali used thematic link building which is a modified version of a link exchange.

In a nutshell, he looked for link partners similar to the niche of his client’s site and reached out to exchange backlinks with them.

There weren’t any results of the organic traffic and keyword ranking after the campaign. But he did receive a positive reaction from one of his clients.

There are probably a lot more studies there that attest to the effectiveness of black hat link building. 

At the very least, the results should encourage you to consider the possibility of implementing these tactics into your strategy.

However, if there’s one thing to discourage you from going full black hat, it’s the constant dance with the Google algorithm.

Black hat link builders may see tremendous gains in the short term. But in the long run, if and when another Google algorithm update hits, their organic traffic could disappear in an instant.

By engaging in unethical linking practices, you risk the future of your site with every Google algorithm update.

There’s no way for you to know if your site will be safe years from now.

Then again, it’s possible that you could retain your organic traffic as continuous algorithmic changes leave your site unscathed.

But the uncertainty that you live by with black hat link building is not designed for the faint of heart.

Gray Hat

There’s a good chance that you use a healthy combination of black and white hat link building techniques.

In this case, you are a gray hat link builder. 

What you’re interested in are tactics that move the needle and not because of association.

So if you see good results from buying and earning links at the same time, then go for both!

However, what defines your actions is your ability to take the ambiguous text found in the Google Webmaster Guidelines to your advantage.

For example, Google has nothing in its Webmaster Guidelines about buying expired domains.

At one point, private blog network owners got some of their sites deindexed. It is believed that Google tracked expired domains to distinguish which ones become part of a PBN.

However, people have smartened up since then and nothing much came out of it.

That said, gray hat doesn’t mind to get their hands dirty and engage in unscrupulous link building tactics.

At the same time, they balance their black hat efforts with white hat activities.

Because they play both teams, their sites enjoy the benefit of faster and sustainable ranking on Google SERPs. To control the results of your link building you should use the dofollow link checker by Linkbox to prevent webmasters from adding nofollow attributes to your backlinks.

On the downside, they are not susceptible to ranking drops after an algorithm update. But there’s a very good chance that the drop in ranking is minimal and their sites can recover over time.

You can make a case for Charles’ study in favor of gray hat. Aside from the black hat tactics he employed, he also optimized meta tags and content, sculpted internal links, and others.