3 Non-White Hat Link Building Strategies

Travis Bliffen
by Travis Bliffen 31 May, 2016

As Google continues to improve its understanding of "natural" link profiles, the number of deceitful tactics working to rank sites is shrinking. That being said, there are still a few tactics that work very well to rank websites. In certain scenarios these tactics are more cost effective and better fit the goals of a particular website.


I know some of you will be upset by the mere mention of the following tactics so be forewarned: the following tactics are risky and can lead to penalization or de-indexation of your website (and not endorsed by Website Magazine). Proceed with caution and do not try this is if you are not sure of what you are doing.


1. PBN Link Building


This is a strategy that has been in use for at least six years and possibly even longer. The strategy involves buying auction or expired domains and setting them up as blog sites to pass the consolidated power of the sites existing links to a new website.


In the early stages link builders would look for sites based on their Page Rank, a now expired measurement of a sites strength. Very little emphasis was placed on the topical relevance of the site as a single blog would often link out to numerous sites that were completely unrelated. In the past year or two, Google has placed a greater emphasis on topical relevancy, in response, many private blog network (PBN) sites are now set up around a specific topic and only link out to related sites. The method of measuring the power of a potential PBN site has also changed. Instead of focusing on a metric like Page Rank, PBN builders look at Trust Flow, Domain Authority, and the number and quality of in inbound links.


Overall when used correctly, I rate this tactic a 10 out of 10 for ranking power.


2. Tiered Link Building


This method of link building is another tactic that has been around for quite some time and like PBNs, effectively using this strategy does not look like it used to. In the past a link builder would setup a mini blog on a Web 2.0 site like Blogger and link that to the main site using keyword rich anchor text.


These sites would often only have a single article placed on them and many times, the article would be spun using software. Tools like GSA Search Engine Ranker, Magic Submitter, and SeNuke were used to build thousands of spam links to each of the Web 2.0 properties. It was also common to create a third tier of links, mostly with the intent of getting more of the tier two links indexed.


Like PBNs, this strategy has also evolved. Now mini blog sites often contain several articles, images, videos and styling. These sites are also interlinked with social profiles and other blogs. The articles are also now usually topically relevant and hand written, the quality of many articles is still lacking but, it is much better than in the past. The method of building links to these site has also changed.


While some tools are still used to build links, second tier links are now closer to the former tier one contextual links and the third tier is also filtered more carefully than in the past. It is also not uncommon to use PBN sites as the tier two links pointing to the Web 2.0 sites.


The overuse of Web 2.0 sites has reduced the effectiveness of this strategy but I would still give it a 6 out of 10 for ranking power.


3. 301 Link Building


This strategy is another that has been used and abused for a while now. 301 link building actually manifests itself in a couple of ways. The most commonly talked about and used is likely the 301 redirects that point an expired domain to a new site to give it an instant boost.


Like PBNs, early adopters of this strategy paid little attention to the topic or anchor texts used on a domain and focused primarily on the PR of a site. Fast forward to 2016 and this strategy is a lot more effective if you can find sites that are closely related to the site you are trying to rank. Let's say for example you have a plumbing service in Nashville. If you can find a couple of strong expired domains that used to be plumbers in Nashville, that is a golden URL to 301 to your site. The next best scenario would be a plumbing service that is not located where you are, with the third best scenario being a site that would naturally link to a plumber such as a home builder site.


Expired domains are not the only 301 method in use though. Another common practice is to build links to URL shorteners that act as a 301 to your main site. This method often uses automated link building tools or SAPE link to power up the shortened url. There are a couple of notable benefits of using this method. Let's say you make a post on Twitter with a shortened URL, Twittter uses t.co to shorten links. That shortened link is now leeching off of the trust of Twitter and as with Barnacle SEO, that offers a level of protection from penalization to your main site.


Both of the 301 methods discussed are effective and powerful but 301 redirecting topically relevant expired domains is the stronger of the two methods so I will give it a 9 out of 10 while the URL shortener tactic will get a 5 out of 10 because it does not last as long.


Risk versus Reward

As you may have noticed, the amount of time, planning and resources going into nonwhite hat link building has increased dramatically over the past few years. There are still shortcuts and "tricks" to rank in Google but they are more complex and as such, costlier to execute. When you are planning the promotional strategy for your website or working with a company to have one developed, you should ALWAYS use a risk versus reward approach to understand which strategies are going to best serve your needs. For brands, white hat is the way to go, for a quick online store, a trip to the dark side may better serve your needs.


Over to you...

Have you had any success (or horror stories!) with these strategies?