Building backlinks the white-hat way is hard.
It’s even harder when you try to build them using slow and outdated methods.
The truth is most white-hat link building methods you read about online don’t work. And if they do, the results take forever to show.
Not exactly a viable SEO strategy for any business.
However, there are some white-hat link building methods that actually work, and they work fast. These methods have been tried and tested across industries for years.
In this post, I’ll show you 4 such white-hat link building methods that will help you rank for your target keywords without getting slapped.
1. Broken link building
White-hat. Scalable. Proven.
These are just some words you can use to describe broken link building.
The idea behind this tactic is simple: help webmasters find broken links on their sites, then point them to an alternative on your site.
This tactic works because broken links are bad for user-experience (even Google highly recommends regularly checking your site for broken links). Webmasters who care about their users are more than happy if you point out broken links on their site.
In fact, some will be happy enough that they’ll even link out to you – provided you have something good enough to offer.
But how does broken link building work? What are some tactics to use this strategy?
Let’s find some answers.
What are broken links?
Any link that points to a dead or defunct page is called a ‘broken link’.
You’ve probably seen such links yourself. Some link out to pages that don’t exist, some to parked domains, and some to domains that have long expired.
Officially, broken and dead links are called ‘link rot’.
- According to a study of 180,000 links in academic papers, 24.5% of links are broken or unavailable.
- One Harvard Law School study of URLs cited in US Supreme Court opinions shows that nearly 50% of URLs don’t link to the original information.
- Even a heavily updated site like Wikipedia counts over 130,000 articles with broken external links.
In other words, broken links are all over the web.
While this is bad for user experience, it also presents a wonderful opportunity to build valuable backlinks.
How to use broken link building
There are several tactics to leverage broken links to build backlinks. All these tactics essentially boil down to three steps:
- Find broken links on relevant sites.
- Create content that improves or matches the broken page.
- Reach out to website owners and editors who’ve linked to the broken page
Let’s take a closer look at each of these three steps.
Step #1: Finding broken links on relevant sites
The first step is to find pages with dead or broken links.
There are several methods to do this:
Find broken links manually
This is a slow, manual method, but it works well enough for beginners.
When you land on any page, just hit the extension icon in Chrome to search for broken links.
For example, Domain Hunter Plus found the following broken links on this page:
To find pages which have a lot of links, use the following queries:
- Keyword + “recommended links”
- Keyword + “recommended resources”
- Keyword + “useful links”
- Keyword + intitle:links
- Keyword + inurl:links
- Keyword + intitle:resources
- Keyword + inurl:resources
- Keyword + “suggested links”
- Keyword + “list of links”
- Keyword + “list of blogs”
- Keyword + “resources”
Find broken links automatically
Instead of searching for broken links on each page manually, you can speed up the process 10x by using automated tools.
These tools usually harvest search results for a target query, then mine each page for broken links. Essentially, they automate the two step process we used above.
Some of these tools include:
Looking at each of these tools is beyond the scope of this post, but the process is pretty self-explanatory: find target keywords (see the list above), harvest search results, then find broken links on them.
Step #2: Create content that matches or improves the broken page
Once you’ve found a broken page with a lot of backlinks, it’s time to recreate its content on your own site.
- Figure out what the original content looked like. You can look up the broken URL on org to do this.
- Create content that is similar to, or better than the broken page. If you already have similar content on your site, you can modify it to match the broken page as well.
Step #3: Reach out to website owners/editors
Once you have high quality content, reach out to all website owners/editors who’ve linked to the broken page.
After that, it’s simply a matter of emailing the site owners and telling them about your new, improved content.
You can use tools like Buzzstream to make the outreach process faster.
If your content is good enough, you can easily get lots of backlinks from authority sites. Even if you don’t get any backlinks, you’ll still have high-quality content on your site – a win-win, whichever way you look at it.
2. Create linkable assets
Take a look at this page on marketing statistics from HubSpot:
Over the years, it has attracted thousands of links, mostly from bloggers linking out to a reliable source of marketing stats.
This is a classic example of a ‘linkable asset’ – a piece of content that tackles a very specific topic which naturally attracts links.
Usually, these assets tackle common problems in an industry. When others search for answers to these problems, they stumble upon your content and link out to it as a source.
Here are some content types that work well as linkable assets, along with examples:
- Case studies
- Long-form content
- Long listicles
- In-depth guides
- Expert round-ups
- Useful tools
- Compilations of statistics, lists, etc.
How to use linkable assets to get links
To be successful with linkable assets, you have to be very selective about what topics to tackle.
The right topic for a linkable asset usually has:
- Strong search volume
- Little competition in the SERPs of “outstanding” content.
- Limited scope; instead of broad topics such as “online marketing”, it answers specific questions such as “marketing on Reddit”.
Taking a look at the HubSpot marketing stats page again, we see that it gets most of its links from bloggers who want a quick source of SEO/Social Media/Blogging statistics.
By compiling all these stats in one place, HubSpot essentially does the heavy lifting for them, and gets tons of links in return.
HubSpot does the same thing for another common issue for marketers – social media image dimensions.
HubSpot compiled recommended image dimensions for popular social networks into a single infographic and got dozens of links in return.
So how can you figure out what topics to tackle with your linkable assets?
Instead of digging through keyword data, here are two better approaches:
Tactic #1: Find questions on Quora
Quora is a Q&A site similar to Yahoo Answers, but with better questions and answers.
It’s also a goldmine of ideas for creating linkable assets.
Unlike keyword data, Quora questions are more “human”. These are the actual concerns of people in your industry, not just a bunch of keywords.
If you can create content answering these questions, you’ll speak directly to your readers, not search engines.
Here’s how you can use it:
Search for a broad topic on Quora
For example, here’s what I see when I look-up “social media marketing”.
While this ‘Topic FAQ’ should give you plenty of ideas, you’ll see better results if you dig a bit deeper.
Click on ‘Questions’ in the right sidebar. This will bring up a list of all recently asked questions about your topic.
Dig through questions to brainstorm ideas
For example, the first three questions I see are all about social media tools, networks and forums/blogs:
These three questions can be answered in a single post, something like a “Complete Guide to Social Media Networks, Tools, and Forums”.
This would make for a great linkable asset that would naturally attract links since it answers a common industry question.
Tactic #2: Browse Reddit for questions
Reddit, the self-proclaimed home page of the internet, is an invaluable source of questions and keywords for linkable assets. Thanks to Reddit’s size, you can find communities for every topic and niche imaginable, from SEO and marketing to crafts and crocheting.
Just like Quora, you can mine Reddit for linkable asset ideas as well.
Follow these steps to get started:
Find suitable sub-reddits
Go to RedditList.com and search for your industry or niche keyword. This site will help you find sub-reddits ranked by their subscriber count and activity level.
For example, searching for “SEO” shows me the following results:
Find a few sub-reddits (a sub-forum on Reddit) related to your keyword that are fairly active. Aim for a subscriber count of at least 10,000 and at least a few posts every day.
From my search, I can see that both r/SEO and r/bigseo look like good candidates.
Search for questions on each sub-reddit
Browse the sub-reddits to find frequently asked questions. You can try sorting the posts by ‘top’ of ‘all-time/past year/past month/past week” to make this process easier.
For example, here are the top posts on r/bigSEO over the last week:
The three questions as indicated above can be very easily answered with a single post on the “best SEO tools, forums and podcasts”.
On most active communities, you’ll see similar questions asked over and over again. For example, on the “Keto diet” sub-reddit, people often ask whether X or Y food is good for Keto or not.
You can easily create a “definitive guide to Keto foods” infographic to answer these questions.
Combine linkable assets with a strong outreach strategy and you can easily build hundreds, even thousands of backlinks.
3. Guest blogging (with a twist)
Despite what Matt Cutts might say, guest blogging is still alive and healthy.
What’s changed is that guest blogging purely for backlinks is no longer a recommended tactic. It’s difficult to scale and takes too much time to craft each post.
There is, however, a simple twist that can make guest blogging far more suitable for building backlinks without incurring the wrath of Google.
This twist takes all the guesswork out of pitching guest posts. Instead of coming up with completely new, unproven ideas, this twist involves borrowing ideas from successful posts and pitching them to authority blogs with unsuccessful content on the same topic.
Here’s the process in a nutshell:
- Find successful blog posts on a topic and brainstorm ideas.
- Find respected blogs that tackled similar topics, but without much success.
- Pitch these blogs your brainstormed ideas.
Let’s dig in to figure out the details.
Step #1: Find successful blog posts on a topic
The first step in this process is to find posts on a topic that have proven to be successful.
Start by searching for your target keyword, such as “blogging”. You’ll see a list of articles ranked by total shares.
From the top results, you can easily brainstorm dozens of ideas.
Note these ideas down, then move to Step #2.
Step #2: Find unsuccessful blog posts on similar topics
For Step #2, go back to the search results on Buzzsumo or Content Explorer. However, instead of the first page, go deep into the 10th, or even 15th page.
You’ll find that though these blogs tackled similar topics, they were far from successful.
Make a note of these blogs then move to Step #3.
Step #3: Pitch your ideas
Pitch these blogs the ideas you brainstormed in Step #1. Since these ideas are based on already successful posts, you’re almost guaranteed approval 8 times out of 10.
Plus, it’s much easier writing a great post on a topic once you already have successful content to model it on.
That’s all there is to it – no fancy tools or complicated outreach required.
This approach makes guest blogging much easier and faster. Instead of dealing with unproven topics, you can pitch ideas that have already worked for others. Most blogs will be happy to give you a guest spot for proven content.
4. Outdated content link building
Data changes, trends shift, and new information is created on a daily basis.
Many publishers, however, continue to host content on their sites with outdated information.
Alerting publishers about outdated content and pointing them to more up-to-date alternatives can be a lucrative link building strategy.
Consider an example: when you search for “best free video editing tools”, one of the top results is a page on NerdsMagazine.com which was published way back in December 2013. Several tools it mentioned haven’t been updated in years or are no longer supported by the developer.
For example, “Pinnacle Video Storm” was last updated in 2010 and doesn’t officially support anything beyond Windows 7.
Such outdated content is bad for any publisher that wants to maintain its credibility. This is why top publishers frequently revisit their content to weed out any outdated links and references.
For example, this DigitalTrends.com article on video editing tools was recently updated with fresher content:
If you can help publishers find such outdated content and point them to alternatives, you can easily get some very high quality backlinks.
Here’s how to use this method:
Step #1: Find outdated content on authority sites
The easiest way to do this is to use the Outdated Content Finder tool.
Enter your keyword in the keyword box. Choose a “Before” and “After” date range. This will show only content with your target keyword published within this date range.
For example, searching for “productivity tools” articles published between October-December 2012 shows me this:
The results are sorted by domain authority, which makes filtering out bad results very easy.
Step #2: Search each result for outdated content
Go through each of the top results. Try to find any information or links that have changed or are out of date.
For example, the second result from my search for “productivity tools” is an article from INC magazine.
The fourth website listed in this article is “Action Machine”.
Clicking this result, however, shows that this tool has been discontinued.
If you can point out this outdated content to the site’s editor, there’s a good chance you’ll get a backlink (provided you have an appropriate replacement, of course).
Step #3: Contact site owner/editor and notify them about outdated content
This final step is simple outreach.
Once you’ve found an outdated result, you can email the site editor/author and tell them about it.
Any editor who cares about the reader experience would be quite happy to update the content with something more relevant.
If you were promoting a productivity tool, for example, the INC magazine article would be a good candidate for getting a backlink.
Try following this tactic for different keywords and different date ranges. You’ll easily come across hundreds of appropriate results.
Building white-hat backlinks is hard. Most tactics don’t work, and if they do, they require too much time and effort.
The four tactics covered above, however, have a high success rate. Since they are all content-focused, you also end up with high-quality content on your site, apart from backlinks.
Here’s what you can takeaway from this post:
- Broken link building is scalable, proven and safe. It is also quite easy to pull off with the right type of content.
- “Linkable assets” that answer common industry questions and work as a trusted reference attract links naturally.
- To increase success rate with guest posts, borrow ideas from successful posts and pitch them to authority blogs with similar, but unsuccessful content.
- Helping publishers find outdated content on their sites, then showing them alternatives is a great way to get backlinks.