Is Whitehat Linkbuilding Worth It in 2024?

Aaron Marco Arias
Last edited on Jun 21, 2024

We asked over 100 SEO specialists how important they considered link-building to be.

  • 27% of them consider link-building to be an essential part of their SEO strategy
  • 42% of them believe it to be a huge advantage
  • 11% say that it's fairly important
  • 20% report that content is far more important

If you're reconsidering how you allocate your inbound marketing budget, you may want to know if link-building is actually worth paying for. In this post, we'll answer that very question.

We'll cover:

  • Google's stance on linkbuilding
  • The challenges of landing high-authority backlinks in 2023
  • Strategies to overcome these challenges
  • Whether you should prioritize content production or link-building

Let's dive right in!

What Does Google Say?

Google’s link-building stance is pretty clear: Links are a ranking factor. But you shouldn’t try to build or buy links for the sole purpose of ranking higher. 

In April 2023, when covering the company’s most recent anti-spam policies, the Google Search Console blog mentioned some improvements to SpamBrain that allowed it to detect 50x more spammy backlinks than ever before.

It’s worth mentioning that link spam detection affects both the beneficiary of the backlink and the website that’s providing it.

So, in short: Google still considers backlinks as a sign of site authority. In consequence, backlinks positively affect a website’s chances of ranking higher in the SERPs. 

Is Landing High-Authority Backlinks in 2023 Possible?

Maybe it’s because I run a website, maybe it’s because I’m a marketer, but almost every day, I receive a couple of emails and LinkedIn messages from link builders promising high-authority links at a moderate price. Link-building spammers are everywhere.

Additionally, some reputable content agencies have pivoted towards a link-centric service. And I don’t blame them.

Content is expensive to produce, it requires a team of highly capable people that are willing to learn about your brand, product, and audience. And they should also know SEO, and they should also write fairly well. 

There’s less friction in link-building. It’s easier to quantify and easier to scale. And, considering the current stage of the Google algorithm, there’s a linear correlation between backlinks and organic traffic. And every content creator worth their salt knows that. 

So, is landing high-authority backlinks in 2023 possible? Yes, it is. Will it require a budget? Yes, it will. In the next section, we’ll explore a couple of strategies that will help you land high-authority backlinks, even in this hyper-competitive landscape.

6 Link-Building Strategies that Still Work & 6 that Don’t

We recommend:

  • Guest posting
  • PRs and press outreach
  • Link exchanges
  • Paying for links (discretionally)
  • Creating link-worthy content
  • Complementing your strategy through internal links

We don’t recommend:

  • Trying to earn guest posting links through low-quality material
  • Submitting PRs without newsworthy content
  • Engaging in excessive or irrelevant link exchanges
  • Sacrificing content relevance or quality just to acquire links
  • Paying for a high volume of low-quality backlinks
  • Overusing keyword-rich anchor texts in internal links

Let’s take a closer look.

Do: Guest post strategically / Don’t: Submit low-quality guest posts 

At its best, guest posting isn’t only about acquiring backlinks. Use it as an opportunity to:

  • Showcase your expertise
  • Build brand awareness
  • Establish relationships with industry influencers

Only offer guest posts to high-DR publications that your target audience is already connecting with. Look in your social circle (social media mutuals and LinkedIn connections) and establish a content creation partnership. Go beyond trying to build a link. The results could amaze you.

Instead of aiming for a high volume of guest posts on various websites, focus on quality. Select authoritative websites with relevant audiences to ensure maximum impact.

And, if you’re connecting with valuable voices in your niche, invest in good content. Don’t try to get them to publish an AI-generated or poorly researched piece. 

Do: PRs and press outreach / Don’t: Submit PRs without newsworthy content

Ideally, your best links would come from news sites and publications. These high-DR, high-traffic backlinks raise your domain authority while giving you exposure. 

Connect with relevant journalists to act as a source.

A simple way to get high-DR backlinks at scale is hiring a PR distribution service. These services allow you to submit a press release for distribution across hundreds of publications. And these publications usually have extensive content syndication, generating a snowball effect and bringing you thousands of backlinks. All this, starting at $200. Isn't that great?

Not so fast!

Your press releases should always be newsworthy: Press releases should contain valuable, timely, and relevant information. Avoid using PRs solely as a link-building tool. Instead, focus on providing newsworthy content that genuinely captures the attention of journalists and readers.

PRs are often reproduced by low-value sites that could bring toxic links to your platform: While widespread syndication might seem attractive, keep in mind that not all websites reproducing press releases are high-quality or authoritative. Some low-value sites might pick up your PRs, potentially generating toxic links that can harm your website's reputation and SEO efforts.

As always, quality over quantity: Instead of aiming for a large number of backlinks through PR distribution, prioritize quality. Focus on targeting reputable publications and influential media outlets that align with your industry or niche. A few high-quality backlinks from trusted sources hold more value than a multitude of low-quality links.

The importance of editorial discretion: Understand that journalists and editors have the final say on whether or not to publish your press release. Even if you pay for distribution, it doesn't guarantee that every publication will pick it up. Ensure that your PRs are well-written, compelling, and tailored to the target audience of each publication.

Supplement PRs with other link-building tactics: Don't solely rely on press releases for your link-building strategy. Diversify your efforts by incorporating other tactics like guest posting, creating link-worthy content, and building relationships with industry influencers.

Remember, submitting PRs without newsworthy content can result in wasted resources, poor backlink quality, and missed opportunities. Focus on creating compelling press releases that genuinely provide value and resonate with journalists, readers, and your target audience.

Do: Link exchanges / Don’t: Exchange in excessive or irrelevant link exchanges

Link exchanges can be controversial. But according to Ahrefs, 43.8% of top-ranking websites have reciprocal links. 

But, if linkbuilding could be synthesized into a sentence, that’d be “what do I get in return?”. If your website has a low DR, you’ll have a hard time getting attractive link exchange opportunities. With that in mind, you may want to start exploring link exchange once you’ve surpassed a certain DR. Usually, if you’re in the 40 DR range, you’re in a good position to explore link exchanges.

Let’s explore how to approach link exchanges effectively.

Choose relevant partners: Prioritize link exchanges with websites that are related to your industry or niche. Relevance is key to ensure that the exchanged links provide value to both parties and their audiences.

Focus on quality, not quantity: Instead of engaging in a high volume of link exchanges, concentrate on establishing connections with authoritative and reputable websites. Quality links carry more weight in search engine algorithms.

Maintain a natural link profile: Avoid excessive reciprocal linking, as it can raise red flags with search engines. Aim for a balanced link profile that includes a variety of link types, such as editorial links, citations, and natural backlinks.

Vary your anchor texts: When engaging in link exchanges, diversify your anchor texts to create a more natural linking pattern. Using the same anchor text repeatedly can appear manipulative and harm your SEO efforts.

Monitor link quality: Regularly review the quality of the websites you've exchanged links with. If you notice a decline in their reputation or discover low-quality practices, consider removing the link to protect your own website's credibility.

Remember, while link exchanges can be a part of your link-building strategy, it's crucial to approach them strategically, focusing on relevance, quality, and maintaining a natural link profile.

Do: Pay for links / Don’t: Pay for a high volume of low-DA backlinks

According to a survey by Authority Hacker, over 74% of linkbuilders pay for links. In spite of Google’s guidelines, paying for link insertions is one of the most widespread, effective and popular strategies for getting competitive backlinks.

At this point, you may assume that paying for links is something that only novice linkbuilders do. But that’s not the case at all. According to AH, experienced linkbuilders are more likely to pay for links than newbies.

Guest posting and creating link-worthy content help you build links while positioning yourself as an industry expert. But there’s no denying that some of B2B SaaS’ most celebrated case studies were built on link-buying. 

In spite of its black hat status, it’s not uncommon to pay for links. But don’t go overboard.

Paying for backlinks can be tempting, but it's crucial to avoid the pitfall of acquiring a high volume of low-DA (Domain Authority) backlinks. 

Diminished link quality: Low-DA backlinks often come from websites with limited authority, relevance, and trustworthiness. These links provide minimal SEO value and may even have a negative impact on your website's rankings.

Increased risk of penalties: Search engines are constantly evolving to combat manipulative link-building practices. If search engines identify a high volume of low-quality backlinks pointing to your website, it can trigger penalties, resulting in a drop in rankings or even deindexing.

Lack of relevance and context: Linkbuilders that offer a high volume of low-DA links rarely care whether these websites relate to your industry or niche. Such links lack relevance and context, making them less valuable in terms of driving targeted traffic and establishing your website as an authoritative source within your field.

Focus on natural link acquisition: Instead of paying for a large number of low-DA backlinks, prioritize natural link acquisition through quality content, outreach, and relationship-building efforts. Organic backlinks from reputable and relevant websites hold more value and are more likely to result in long-term SEO benefits.

Long-term sustainability: By avoiding the temptation of purchasing low-DA backlinks, you can invest your resources in strategies that promote organic link growth and foster genuine relationships within your industry.

Remember, the goal of link-building is to enhance your website's authority, visibility, and relevance. By steering clear of paying for a high volume of low-DA backlinks, you can prioritize ethical, effective, and sustainable link-building practices that yield long-term benefits for your website's SEO.

Do: Create link-worthy content / Don’t: Sacrifice content relevance or quality

With the rise of AI-generated content, enriching your material through first-hand experiences and original insights has never been so important. Produce original research, case studies, expert roundups, and other types of content that creators in your niche will want to link. 

This technique is known as “reverse linkbuilding”. 

Chasing reverse linkbuilding opportunities shouldn’t entail losing focus on your content strategy’s goals and KPIs. Make sure your content helps your audience reach their goals and understand your product. The possibility to get links is a plus, but shouldn’t be your core focus.

Do: Build internal links / Don’t: Overuse keyword-rich anchor texts in internal links

Internal links guide users to relevant and related content, helping them discover additional information and explore your website further. This enhances their overall experience, engagement, and time spent on your site.

They also provide a clear path for search engine crawlers to discover and index your website's pages. Strategic internal linking can help search engines understand the hierarchy and structure of your site.

Additionally, internal links distribute link equity throughout your website, helping to boost the visibility and authority of different pages. This can contribute to improved search engine rankings for targeted keywords and topics.

While internal linking is beneficial, it's important to avoid overusing keyword-rich anchor texts. 

Excessive use of keyword-rich anchor texts in internal links can appear unnatural to search engines, potentially leading to penalties or a negative impact on your SEO efforts. Additionally, over-optimized anchor texts can make your content sound forced, unnatural, and less reader-friendly. 

Don’t forget that internal links should be relevant to the content they are placed in and provide value to users. Instead of solely focusing on keywords, vary your anchor texts to include descriptive phrases, brand names, or calls-to-action that are contextually appropriate. Prioritize user experience and ensure that your internal links flow naturally within the context of your content.

Strive for a balance between optimizing anchor texts for SEO and maintaining usability for your audience. In conclusion, make sure you’re building internal links. But avoid overusing keyword-rich anchor texts. Focus on providing valuable, relevant, and natural internal links that improve user experience, aid in site navigation, and distribute link equity effectively throughout your website. Your primary goal should be to provide helpful and relevant links that enhance the user experience rather than solely targeting keyword optimization.

Is Your Backlink Profile More Important than Your Content Quality?

At this point, you may be wondering if your backlinks profile is more important than your content quality. If you see a boost in traffic from buying backlinks, why not stop doing content altogether?

While a strong backlink profile is crucial for SEO, it is the quality of your content that lays the foundation for success. Prioritize creating valuable, relevant, and engaging content, and focus on acquiring high-quality backlinks through organic and ethical means.

High-quality content forms the foundation of your website's value and relevance. It is what attracts and engages your audience, establishes your expertise, and encourages other websites to naturally link to your content.

On the other hand, content quality directly affects the user experience on your website. Engaging, informative, and well-crafted content keeps visitors on your site, encourages them to explore further. While this increases the likelihood of your users sharing your content or linking to it naturally, it also signals to Google that your platform’s worth exploring. The result? A boost in your organic positioning.

It’s also worth mentioning that, while organic visibility and traffic should be among your website’s SEO KPIs, organic conversions are more important. And you can’t have organic conversions with poor content - or with no content. And yes, content-led growth is possible in 2023.

The Content Your Users Deserve, without the Stress

At Postdigitalist, we help some of the most promising B2B startups to grow with content. Our 5-star team will learn everything there is to your product, niche, and audience. And combine that with SEO insights to provide you with a steady stream of conversion-oriented content. Book a free consulting call to discover more. 

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