A Guide to White Hat Link Building: Earning vs Building Links

If you’re new to the SEO world then you’ve probably heard quite a few people in the industry talk about “links”. Although links are just one factor in the Google algorithm, they play a vital part in rankings and search visibility.

A website with a high ‘domain authority’ will rank better than those with low authority. It’s calculated based on the number of links and unique domains your website is linked from. Having a high domain authority symbolises to Google that you are a trustworthy, reputable site and thus should rank high in the SERPs (search engine results page).

Having said this; there are two ways of building up your site’s backlink profile: ‘link earning’ and ‘link building’.


What is Link Earning?

Link earning may seem like far more effort than link building but your site will reap the rewards. Link earning is all about creating and promoting resources and high-quality content that is useful for both website users and search engines. In other words, you aren’t actively reaching out or creating links with link earning but rather creating unique, valuable resources and content with the hope of acquiring a ‘natural link’.

For example, a company may create a piece of content that is so good that it gets picked up by big newspaper brands. This happens a lot with informative infographs and studies but can also happen if you have an interesting piece of content on your site that is worth sharing and linking back to.


What is Link Building?

On the other hand, link building is all about actively reaching out for and creating links back to your site. If this is the case, then you’ll need to ensure that the website you are reaching out to is of high-quality. Not every link will be of high-quality. There are certain link building tactics which should be avoided as they may be harmful to your website rankings. For example, creating a link from a spammy site with low domain authority won’t necessarily improve your rankings. Similarly, a diversified backlink profile is more beneficial than gaining 100s of links from the same site or having a backlink profile made up solely of links from directories.

Link building tactics can include the following:

  • Guest blogging
  • Local directories & citations
  • Suppliers/partners
  • Reciprocal links (so long as they benefit users)

This isn’t to say that link earning is better than link building. Guest blogs often provide a great opportunity for a backlink (so long as it’s from a high-quality website). Submitting your site to local citations and directories also provide a great start to help get your site up off the ground while also helping you to rank locally, i.e. on the maps.


Key Differences Between Link Earning & Link Building

Although these methods may accomplish the same thing, i.e. increase your site’s backlink profile, there are two main things that distinguish link earning from link building:


  1. Intent
  2. Does the link exist to benefit a website or to help a browser? If it’s obvious that the intent of your backlink profile is to help website rankings then your website may risk being penalised by Google. It’s important that creativity is key when trying to acquire links. Creating content to benefit the user rather than cheat the algorithm is what increases your domain authority. So, it’s important to focus on the intent behind your efforts.


  3. Quality
  4. It’s also important to focus on quality rather than quantity when it comes to links. It’s better to have a few links from high-quality websites than 1000s of links from spammy or low-quality websites. You should also aim to create backlinks from different websites, i.e. one link from a high-quality domain is far more important than 100s of links from the same domain with an above-average domain authority.


Although link building may get a bad name and be associated with ‘paid links’, which Google doesn’t like, it’s still a viable strategy. Non-paid tactics such as guest blogging and gaining a link from a partner are beneficial so long as they are relevant and of high-quality. However, it’s important to STAY CLEAR OF SPAMMY, LOW-QUALITY LINKS.

Link earning requires a whole lot of effort and resources which may be difficult for a small business to achieve. This is why many websites start off by using link building tactics while slowly turning to link earning.


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