White hat link is the buzzword these days and their demand is soaring. What’s fueling its demand? More and more SEO guys are discovering that gray and black hats are less effective these days. The evidence is all around us. You hear SEO guys fretting about manufactured links are not passing their link juice like they used to. Many forums and SEO groups are full of comments indicating PBN is getting harder to justify its ROI.
Here is a recent message sent by a member of my Facebook SEO group.
I personally have done well for years by spending tens of thousands of dollars per month on links built via my network and the network built by other vendors. I am, however, seeing the effectiveness slowing down. It’s no secret that SEO guys are now forced to incorporate links from real sites into the off-page SEO mix. To find out whether links from real sites, aka white hat links, are affecting rankings in a positive way, I’ve decided to dedicate a test for it.
On May 25th, I took the snapshot of rankings for a dental site I’ve been working on. I have dedicated a page to a group of select keywords and decided to send 20 white hat links and observe what happens. The target city has a population of over 250,000 and the keywords have monthly search volume ranging from 50 to 1300.
After taking the snapshot, I went ahead and targeted the page with varying anchors assigned to the page as best as I can. A vendor I partnered up with did his best to accommodate the requested anchors.
Links From Real Sites vs. PBN Links
Before I go on, you may be wondering about how to distinguish real sites from PBN sites. The metric I use is Google index count. While most PBN sites will return pages with a low index count due to everyone leveraging homepage links, real sites have anywhere from hundreds to hundreds of thousands of pages indexed. The theory behind it is that Google will not de-index pages on real sites as long as their pages have real traffic.
After receiving the links, I checked the domains for its DA value and their indexed page count. They all had varying DA value and varying index count ranging from several hundred to tens of thousands. One site had over 13,000 pages indexed. This was a good indication that the links were placed on real sites, not a PBN.
For about a month, rankings have steadily climbed upwards and have finally settled down. Other than emergency dentist + city, all keywords have gained significant rankings. The test has clearly produced positive upward rankings movements.
Now that the test has produced a positive result, should you go all in on it? My answer would be to hold your horses as there some things you need to consider.
1) Cost – Most white hat link vendors will charge anywhere from $60 to hundreds of dollars per link. Unless your client has a huge budget, the cost to build links can add up quickly and can drain your profit margin. Plus, there is no guarantee that the amount spent on links will produce the positive ROI. I know a friend who spent over $40,000 on white hat links and had no rankings to show for. Unfortunately, what you pay for doesn’t always equate to what you get in rankings in return.
If you are doing outreach on your own or have a team who can do the work for you, each link acquisition can cost $30 and up. I’ve recently hired a team and I am averaging between $30 and $35 per link acquisition.
2) Turnaround Time – Unless you are working with a vendor who happens to have a relationship with webmasters and bloggers, it can take a long time to acquire a link. When your client is expecting to see the result within a reasonable time, a long wait time can cause an issue.
3) No Guarantee That It Will Work – Unless you work with a vendor with a large database of established relationships with webmasters, it’s often hard to estimate where your next link will come from. You just have to live with whatever links you can get.
Although white hat links can be powerful and effective, it is by no means a solution to end all SEO issues. I typically rank thousands of keywords per client and switching to entirely white hat links for off-page SEO is out of the question. The budget required to achieve what I normally achieve with gray hat links would be astronomical. Based on the test result and the amount I had to spend, it would be a wise strategy to incorporate white hat links for select keywords and leverage gray hat links for less competitive keywords.
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