Does white hat link building still exist?

In today’s SEO world, there is a growing debate about the relevance of white hat link building. With changing search engine algorithms and an increased focus on quality content, we explore whether this ethical approach to link building is still valuable for marketing managers and CMOs striving for sustainable online growth and visibility.

White hat link building: an ethical approach

White hat link building focuses on getting backlinks in a way that is completely in line with search engine guidelines. This approach emphasizes creating valuable content that naturally attracts links and building relationships with other websites. It’s a long-term strategy that revolves around earning links, rather than buying or manipulating them, which helps the sustainability and credibility of your website.

Does white hat link building still exist?

The importance of quality content for natural link growth

Quality content is the cornerstone of any successful white hat link building strategy. High-quality, informative and relevant content naturally attracts links from other websites. This type of content is seen as a valuable source of information, which encourages other sites to refer to it. Natural link growth through quality content is a powerful way to improve your SEO and strengthen your website’s authority.

Creating shareable and informative content

Creating content that is both shareable and informative increases the chances of obtaining natural backlinks. This means that your content should match your target audience’s interests and needs, provide valuable insights and be easily shareable on social media and other platforms. Consider creating in-depth guides, research reports or informative blog posts that answer specific questions within your industry.

What types of content is this about?

There are many different forms of content. Below I have compiled a list of forms of content that are easier (and often more interesting) to share than other forms such as textual content.

Type of contentDegree of divisibility (1-100)
How-to guides85
Interactive quizzes75
Lists and top 10s80
In-depth research reports70
Videos and tutorials90
Personal stories65
Case studies70
Blog posts with expert opinions80
The most shareable content (online) for link building.

Using visual elements to encourage links

Visual elements such as infographics, videos and interactive content can be effective in generating backlinks. These forms of content are often more appealing and easier to share, so they can have a wider reach. By incorporating visual elements into your content strategy, you can present complex information in an accessible way and increase the likelihood that your content will be picked up by other websites and social media.

Using visual elements to encourage links

Guest blogging: a win-win for link building

Guest blogging is a popular white hat link building tactic. By writing valuable content for other websites, you can not only earn backlinks to your own site, but also increase your reach and brand awareness. It is important to seek guest blogging opportunities at relevant, high-quality websites within your industry, where you can actually add value to their audience.

This is not about buying guest blogs, which is more common in this market. This involves writing high quality content for publication on someone else’s website (this will not be your competitor).

Choosing the right platforms for guest blogs

When selecting platforms for guest blogging, focus on websites that are relevant to your industry and have a good reputation. Look for sites with strong readership and high domain authority. The goal is to establish a partnership where both your site and the host site benefit from the published content.

Writing valuable content for someone else’s site

When writing guest blogs, it is crucial to provide content that is truly valuable to the readers of the host site. This means doing thorough research, offering unique insights and making sure your content fits well with the style and tone of the host website. Well-written, informative guest blogs can not only generate backlinks, but also enhance your reputation as an expert in your field.

Strategies for obtaining backlinks through relationships

Building relationships in your industry can be an effective way to get backlinks. This includes making connections with industry peers, influencers and other websites. By developing strong professional relationships, you can lay the groundwork for natural link exchanges. This can range from sharing each other’s content to collaborating on joint projects. The key word here is mutual benefit: make sure every interaction and exchange adds value for both parties.

Networking with industry peers

Networking is a fundamental strategy for building relationships in your industry. This can be through online networking events, webinars, social media, or even face-to-face meetings at conferences and workshops. By connecting with industry peers, you create opportunities for backlink exchanges and partnerships. Be active, engaged and helpful in your network. This can lead to natural recommendations and mentions, which in turn results in quality backlinks.

Requesting a link by relationship type (and how)

Obtaining link entries through relationships can be an effective link-building strategy. Here’s an overview of different types of relationships where you can request a link listing, with a brief explanation of how you might take this approach:

Relationship typeHow to request a link
Local businessesApproach local businesses you work with or that are complementary to your business. Suggest promoting each other’s services or products through a link on each other’s websites.
Industry peersContact colleagues in your industry for guest blogging opportunities or sharing mutually beneficial content.
Industry influencersApproach influencers in your industry with a proposal for collaboration, such as a joint project or sharing your unique content on their platform.
Local community groupsBecome active in local community groups and suggest sharing relevant content or events on their websites.
Professional organizationsJoin professional organizations and contribute to their publications or blogs in exchange for a link to your site.
Educational institutionsWork with educational institutions to provide guest lectures, internships or joint research projects, and ask for a link on their website.
Non-profit organizationsSupport nonprofit organizations and in return ask for a listing on their partner page or in their sponsorship section.
Events and conferencesAttend or sponsor events and conferences in your industry and ask for a link on their website or in their promotional materials.
Suppliers and partnersApproach suppliers and partners for reciprocal link exchanges based on your business relationship.
CustomersAsk satisfied customers to mention your company in their testimonials or case studies on their websites.
Leveraging relationships in the marketplace for link building.

When asking for link mentions, it is important to emphasize the mutual benefits, remain respectful and professional, and clearly explain how the link can add value to their website or audience.

By now, many individuals are familiar with the fact that link building is an important part of SEO. Be prepared for this in requesting a link listing.

Creating collaborations and partnerships

Another effective way to get backlinks is by forming collaborations and partnerships with other companies or influencers in your industry. Think joint promotions, co-creation of content or joint research projects. These collaborations often result in natural and relevant backlinks because both parties have a stake in the success of the joint project.

The power of social media in link building

Social media play an important role in modern link-building strategies. Being active on platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram can help you expand your network and build relationships with influencers in your industry. By regularly sharing valuable content and interacting with your followers, you can attract the attention of other websites that may be interested in linking to your content.

Being active on relevant social platforms

Choose the social platforms that are most relevant to your industry and target audience. Having an active and consistent presence on these platforms can help increase your online visibility and build relationships with potential link partners. This includes not only posting your own content, but also participating in discussions, sharing and commenting on others’ posts, and offering valuable insights and advice.

Creating shareable content for social media

For effective link building through social media, it is essential to create content that people want to share. This means that your content must be both informative and engaging, and connect with the interests of your target audience. Shareable content can range from engaging infographics and inspiring quotes to in-depth blog posts and engaging videos. By creating content that is easily shareable, you increase the likelihood that it will be picked up and shared by others, leading to more backlinks.

Using local SEO for local link building

Local SEO is a crucial strategy for businesses targeting customers in a specific region or city. By optimizing your local SEO, you not only improve your visibility in local search results, but also create opportunities for local link building.

This includes listing your business in local directories, building relationships with local businesses and media, and participating in community activities. Local backlinks are particularly valuable because they increase the relevance and authority of your website in a specific geographic region. So this is actually the first foundation you can build yourself for a link building project.

Optimize local directories and citations

To strengthen your local SEO, it is important to list your business in relevant local directories and citations. This includes sites such as Google My Business, Yelp, and local business directories. Make sure your company information is consistent and up-to-date across all these platforms. This not only helps improve your local visibility, but it can also generate quality backlinks that further boost your local search engine rankings.

Optimize local directories and citations

What are the most interesting directories?

Here is a table of some of the largest local directories in the Netherlands, rated on a scale of 1 to 100 based on how interesting it is to get a link from them to your site. This assessment is based on factors such as relevance to local search results, directory authority and potential impact on SEO.

Local directoryScore (1-100)Comments
Google My Company100Essential for local visibility and SEO.
Yelp Netherlands90Important for reviews and local search results.
Phone Book80Good for local business listings.
Foursquare75Useful for local findability and reviews.
Business page70Helps with local SEO and visibility.
Opening hours65Useful for businesses with physical locations.
Entrepreneur’s Guide.com60Suitable for local business profiling.
Cylex Business Directory55Offers both company listings and reviews.
NetherlandsinBusiness50Useful for a wide range of businesses.
Hotfrog Netherlands45Useful for company listings in various industries.
Interesting directories in the Netherlands.

These scores are indicative and may vary depending on your company’s specific industry and location. In general, listings on high-scoring platforms such as Google My Business and Yelp are very valuable. Keeping your business information consistent and current on these directories is critical, as it can have a significant impact on your local SEO performance.

Participate in local events and sponsorships

Another effective way to get local backlinks is to actively participate in local events and sponsorships. By getting involved in your community, you can build valuable relationships and make your brand visible. This can range from sponsoring local sports teams to participating in charity events or community festivals. Such activities may result in mentions and links from local organizations, schools, or news websites.

Analyze and monitor your link profile

To assess the effectiveness of your link building strategy, it is essential to regularly analyze and monitor your link profile. This involves looking at the number and quality of backlinks you receive, and how they affect your search engine rankings. By monitoring your link profile, you can gain insight into what strategies are working, where there is room for improvement, and whether there are potentially harmful links that could affect your SEO.

Tools for monitoring backlinks

There are several tools available that can help you monitor your backlinks. Popular options include Ahrefs, SEMrush, and Moz. These tools provide detailed information about your backlinks, including the source of the links, the anchor text, the authority of the linking sites, and whether the links are dofollow or nofollow. This information is crucial for understanding the impact of your link building efforts and for identifying opportunities for further improvement.

Analyzing link quality and relevance

When analyzing your backlinks, it is not only important to look at the quantity, but more importantly the quality and relevance of the links. Quality backlinks come from reputable, relevant sources and have a positive impact on your SEO. Low-quality links or spammy sites, on the other hand, can be harmful. Focus on getting backlinks that are relevant to your industry and come from reliable and authoritative websites. This not only helps improve your rankings, but also reinforces credibility and trust in your brand.


White hat link building remains a valuable strategy in the world of SEO. Although it can be more time-intensive than other methods, it produces lasting results that can strengthen a Web site’s long-term integrity and authority. In today’s digital age, where the quality and authenticity of links are increasingly scrutinized by search engines, a white hat approach is not only interesting, but essential for companies looking to increase their online presence in an ethical and effective manner.

Senior SEO-specialist

Ralf van Veen

Senior SEO-specialist
Five stars
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I have been working for 10 years as an independent SEO specialist for companies (in the Netherlands and abroad) that want to rank higher in Google in a sustainable manner. During this period I have consulted A-brands, set up large-scale international SEO campaigns and coached global development teams in the field of search engine optimization.

With this broad experience within SEO, I have developed the SEO course and helped hundreds of companies with improved findability in Google in a sustainable and transparent way. For this you can consult my portfolio, references and collaborations.

This article was originally published on 14 December 2023. The last update of this article was on 28 December 2023. The content of this page was written and approved by Ralf van Veen. Learn more about the creation of my articles in my editorial guidelines.