How Long Does It Take To Build A White-Hat Link?

  • Building white-hat links takes effort and, most importantly, time. With Google laying out guidelines for good and bad links, finding the right ones are crucial. 
  • White-hat link building can be easy, or incredibly challenging, depending on the industry you’re working in.  
  • When looking for sites to build white-hat links with, we take authority score, user-experience, and content guidelines into consideration – among other factors to determine if this collaboration will lead to a valuable link. 
  • Ultimately, it can take anywhere from ten to 48 hours to build a white-hat link. 

In the world of SEO, link building has become a staple tactic in organic search strategy across a variety of industries. For awhile now, links have been seen as a vote of confidence since Google has factored them into its ranking algorithms.

But, not all links are created equal! In the early years of SEO, all links were considered one and the same. Though, like everything in organic search life, they become abused by marketers and SEOs, and Google is forced to strike down its hammer and lessen the tactic’s importance.

Nowadays, because of Google’s increasingly strict guidelines around link building, there are clear (or, as clear as Google makes it) guidelines between good links and bad links. At a high-level good links are ones that you earn, and bad links are ones that are paid for. Good (white-hat) links take time, effort, and lots of skill. Bad (black-hat) links are easy wins, take little effort, and require no skill.

Again, not all links are created equal. The time, effort, and skills required to build a high-quality, white hat link vary by industry or niche. In this article, we’ll dive deeper into what’s considered a white hat link, how long it takes to build one (by industry), and some tips for building white links!

What’s white hat link building?

So, let’s first start by explaining what white hat link building really is. And, no, it’s not doing link building while wearing a white cowboy hat. White hat link building is a process of securing backlinks for your website in a legitimate and ethical manner that complies with Google’s Webmaster Guidelines or the guidelines of other search engines. 

This means that links are obtained through organic means and are not bought or manipulated in any way. Remember what I said before, white hat links are links that typically take time, effort, and tons of skill to build. White hat link building typically involves creating high-quality content that is relevant to the website and its target audience. That content is then promoted among relevant websites and influencers in the industry. 

The goal of white hat link building is to improve a website’s search engine rankings and increase its visibility online while maintaining the website’s integrity and reputation. By using ethical “by-the-book” link-building techniques, a website can improve its chances of long-term SEO success while avoiding Google penalties. 

How long does it take to build a white hat link?

Now let’s answer the question you came here for! How long does it take to build a white hat link in your industry? But, before we do that, let’s talk a little bit about the data and our methodology. The hour calculations are based on our 2022 outreach efforts across 20 clients in medical, marketing, e-commerce, software, legal services, home improvement, franchising, and manufacturing. 

Our standards for link building are pretty high; we typically look at these data points before deciding if we should collaborate with a site:

  • Authority score: For us, the authority score is an indicator of the SEO value of a site. However, we’re not high authority score snobs. Authority score gives us a quick idea of how healthy a site is from an SEO perspective.
  • Estimated organic traffic/keyword history: The history of a site’s organic traffic gives us an idea of whether or not a site has been affected negatively by algorithm updates or penalties from Google in the past.
  • The user experience of a website: It’s simple, the user experience can affect both how users and Google perceive the trustworthiness of a site. Since trustworthiness and user experience is a ranking factor, we want to ensure that the websites we collaborate with have the trust of their users. 
  • Rigorous content guidelines: High content standards simply tell our link building team the minimum acceptable quality of content a blog or website accepts. We ask ourselves, “Are they just allowing Tom, Dick, and Harry to post on here? Or, are they reserving their blog for good to excellent writers?” 
  • Social media activity + presence: Here, we are mostly looking to see if they have social media profiles linked in their footer and if they’ve amassed a following on social media. This can lend a hand to the quality of their content and the level of engagement of their audience.

Now let’s dive into the data! In 2022, our team sent over 42,000 emails with a little over 1,600 client hours. Of the emails that we sent, our average open rate was around 46%, while our average response rate across all emails sent was 4.17%.

The time it takes us to build a link varies greatly on a multitude of factors like industry, email delivery timing, content quality, etc. The build time we’re displaying below also includes the time it took to write content and correspond daily with publishers. Here’s the breakdown:

Time it takes to build a white hat link by industry: Legal 48 hours, medical 45 hours, finance 37 hours, e-commerce 31 hours, home repair 30 hours, franchising 30 hours, software 18 hours, marketing 15 hours, manufacturing 10 hours.

It’s important to know that link building isn’t the same across all industries. Some industries are easy to build links in, others are outright difficult! A few of our clients operated within hot industry niches, so that made link building a lot less time intensive. We’d pitch topics to publishers or promote content in their inbox, and they’d say, “You’re going to write me an article on passwordless authentication?! I’ll take it; that’s a fun topic!” or “Wow, incredible article! I’ll link to it in my next post.”

Some industries were also easier to gain wins in than others because webmasters or writers understood the importance of links. Others may have taken longer because our client either operated in a very small niche or because industry webmasters got sick and tired of link building emails and automatically declined every one they received. Often times we’d get email responses like this:

An email from ''. The email reads "Get lost with your phoney f[ ]k ways. Sent from my iPhone"

Now, this may seem discouraging to some because who in the world wants to spend 30+ hours building a single link? But, this is the reality of using cold outreach to build links. It takes tons of time and effort, coordination between multiple departments, to build a single link for a client.  But, when done the correct way (white hat only, of course), the greater long-term SEO success you’ll achieve for your website. 

White hat link building tips

As you’ve seen, white hat link building isn’t a quick and easy SEO tactic that you can do. It takes lots of time and effort to secure the best links that are aligned with Google’s webmaster guidelines. So, allow us to share some of our favorite tips for building white hat links:

  • Create high-quality, informative content that’s built for humans (not search engines)
  • Have strong link-building guidelines for prospecting
  • Look for websites with a strong social media presence
  • Collaborate with sites with strong editorial guidelines
  • Adhere as closely as possible to Google’s webmaster guidelines

Don’t have time to build white hat links? 

Link building isn’t an easy sport! There’s a reason why 52% of digital marketers say link building is the most difficult part of SEO campaigns. As you’ve seen, link building requires lots of time, effort, and persistence. It’s really a long game, but when played right, it can produce long-term SEO success for your website. 

If you don’t have the time to spend link building, then look no further than the team here at Redefine. Our link-building experts will build out a link-building campaign for you that will generate SEO success for you for years to come. 

Author avatar
Jason Martinez
Jason is a Cal Poly Pomona Alum, extreme fan of marketing, and social media advocate. As a Brand Marketing Manager at Redefine Marketing Group, he is responsible for the development and execution of strategy for reputation management, link building, and social media marketing for both the agency and its clients.
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