How I Built 59 White-Hat Links in 10 Weeks for My New Authority Site

Today we've got a guest post from Tom Attenborough, someone who I've only known for a few months, but have already become a big fan of. I think over the next few months you're all going to be learning a lot from him. At least I hope so.

As some of you know, I started a dual site case study a few months ago and it started out fine, but ended up stalling a little. I've changed the format a few times, and am now just working on it in the background, giving updates where I can.

For the meantime, I wanted to introduce you to Tom, as he's doing a dual site case study of his own and the updates he's done so far have been great.

I reached out to Tom last week and asked if he'd be willing to write this post. 

He accepted, and what follows is his update on his own case study.

From Tom:

I’m very excited to be able to post on Human Proof Designs today. The reason being is that Bryon is probably one of the first bloggers that I started actively engaging with and he has always been very approachable.

I love his content because unlike many bloggers out there, he doesn’t just talk-the-talk, he actually walks-the-walk. Just take his recent post on boosting Amazon conversions – how can you not love that kind of stuff? That’s the type of stuff anyone can put into practice immediately and see results from.

My hope is that I’ll be able to provide you something of similar quality today.

Brief Introduction

You see, I’ve set myself a goal to generate an income stream on which I can sustain myself by the end of this year. I currently have a full time job, but my ultimate dream is to build my own business online. It’s not about the money, it’s about having freedom over how I allocate my time.

In order to achieve this, I started my dual-site case study on my blog 9toLife in which I’m building out two different types of sites, using two completely different methodologies. The first is an authority site that I’ll be building out using white-hat methods only predominantly focusing on outreach, while the second is a niche site on which I’ll be using more questionable approaches such as PBNs.

I’ve read dozens and dozens of articles on both approaches. Some swear by white-hat, while others swear by black-hat.

Rather than speculating, I’ve just decided that it’s time to put these methods to the test and see which works best for me.

My hope is that one (or perhaps both) will end up turning into something that is able to provide me with a reliable stream of income by the end of the year. If not, at least I’ll have learned a heck of a lot in the process.

General Update on the Authority Site

So you might be wondering what I have done up to this point on the authority site for the last 10 weeks or so.

To sum it up, I probably have in the region of 55,000 words on the site at the moment. I started writing content for the site initially but have found 2 great writers who do all the writing for me at this stage. The great news is that they are probably more knowledgeable on the subject than I am and I feel that my time is better spent on elsewhere.

I have also set up an 11-email auto responder (with some affiliate links sprinkled throughout) and currently have an email list of around 60 people.

I need to focus more on growing the list, but at the moment I don’t feel that I have the traffic yet to make it worthwhile to start optimizing my pages for conversions. I just feel that my time is better spent elsewhere at the moment.

I have played around a bit with Facebook ads and trying to send traffic to a squeeze page but have so far been unsuccessful in making this work from a cost-per-conversion standpoint. Any tips you guys might have would be more than welcome.

I have produced what I would call one epic piece of content so far which I described extensively in one of my posts using the EgoScraper Technique.

I have three more epic posts that I’m working on (including an infographic which I’m hoping to launch next week) which should give me plenty of ammunition to raise the game on my outreach and link building going forward, although I have had decent success so far as well.


I’m quite pleased when it comes to links. At this point of time I have a total of 59 unique domains linking to me, and I don’t think it should be an issue to grow that to a total of 100 within the next two or three months.


Bear in mind that these are all white-hat links that have been obtained through either (1) outreach, (2) natural linking, (3) a handful of website directories that were relevant to my subject. They should therefore be 100% Google safe.

Like I mentioned before, once I post my subsequent pillar pieces of content I should have further ammunition to step it up a notch on my link building front.


On the traffic front, especially when it comes to organic traffic, I’m not quite seeing the volumes that I was hoping for but I’m hope that that improves with time. It’s all about patience at this point in time, and keeping my head down to work on outreach.

I have a feeling that my site is still in the Google Sandbox at this time since I’m not even ranking first for my brand name in Google at the moment. I come up on the 4th place, even though I have by far the most links pointing to me with my brand name anchor text as you would expect.

The funny thing is that ever since I started my authority site, the amount of times my brand name has been searched for has shot up significantly when looking at the Google Keyword Planner. I must be creating some sort of buzz!


However, as I mentioned, I’m not quite happy with the amount of traffic I’m receiving yet. My traffic fluctuates anywhere between 10 – 150 visits on normal days at this point in time (with some exceptions).


As you can see, however, the amount of traffic that I get from organic search is still very erratic is at around 10 per day on average. There does seem to have been a slight improvement though from March 15th onwards, so hopefully we’ll see that improve further.


I’d be interested to see some of the traffic figures of some of the guys that are participating in Jon’s Authority Site Challenge to see whether they are faring any better since these sites would have started at around the same time as mine.


Funnily enough social is where most of my traffic is coming from, but is where I’ve probably spent the least amount of time. I’ve been contemplating hiring a VA to manage this for me, or to automate it through Hootsuite or some type of other application, but to be honest simply haven’t gotten around to it yet as it hasn’t been one of my priorities.

My plan is to start focusing on Pinterest as I’ve seen a number of people that have had great success with that in terms of getting traffic. Unlike with other social networks where traffic tends to fade after a number of days, pins on Pinterest can propagate for much longer thereby giving you a steady stream of visitors.

Money Invested

Now the interesting part. How much money have I “invested” into this site so far.

Here goes…

ContentWriter 1$570
 Writer 2$263
 Epic Post 1$100
 Stock Images$112
Subtotal $1,045
Infographic (x1) $75
Logo $60
Other $130
Subtotal $265
Total $1,310

I haven’t included any subscriptions that I have to services like Buzzstream, Getresponse, and Thrive Content Builder as I don’t see those as expenses that specifically relate to my authority site. If you were to add those in as well I’d probably be closer to the $1,600 mark at this stage.

Link Building through Outreach

So to get to the crux of the post, my goal today is to talk to you specifically about link building through outreach, as this is what I’ve focused on over the last week or two and I’m finally starting to gain some traction with this.

I had tried a number of times to follow the techniques as recommended by people like Brian Dean (with an earlier website) in the past, but I was largely unsuccessful.

I just wasn’t able to garnish the same type of success as he talks about on his blog.

Perhaps that was due to my incorrect interpretation of the approach, nevertheless, I’d like to go into some tweaks I’ve made that are giving me much better success rates than before.

The key thing to remember is that you are dealing with real people. It’s easy to forget that when you have put together a list of 200 prospects and the only goal you have in mind is to get a link back to your site.

It’s tempting to just blast 200 emails to these individuals hoping for a link. This is what I used to do, and it’s certainly a lot faster. The problem is that it just doesn’t work that way and you’ll end up souring your relationship with a lot of websites that might have given a link if you’d just paid a little bit more attention to it.

The key is to personalize, personalize, and personalize. Yes, you spend more time for each e-mail, but it’s time well spent in the long-term. I’ll get more into this later.

So what are the steps of a successful outreach campaign?

STEP 1: Make Sure the Design of Your Site is Kick-Ass

I can’t stress enough how important design is. You can have best article, but if the formatting and design of the article or your website is bad, no one will want to link to it. First impressions last.

In some cases I would go as far as to think that design is more important than content. If you think about it, most people generally don’t read articles in-depth online. They skim.

If they open your article and it looks like a website from the 1990s they’ll likely click away before they even read one word of your content, let alone link to you.

On the other hand, if your design is awesome, and you’ve used some nice and relevant pictures, your site will just ooze authority. People might link to it after just skimming through your article and reading the headers, since the design will make them believe that “this simply has to be good”.

One tool that I couldn’t recommend more for this purpose is Thrive Content Builder. I purchased it last month, and this is one of the few tools on which I have spent money without having even the slightest sliver of regret. It will allow you to make any website look great, without using any code or CSS, and is extremely simple to use.

I won’t go into a detailed review of the product here (as there are a number of great reviews already like this one), but if you’re serious about building out websites to create passive income, this tool will make your life 100 times easier.

STEP 2: Finding Content Ideas

You can’t write articles on just any old content. You have to make sure that the article is link-worthy.

The best way of doing this is by finding content that has proven to attract a lot of links in the past. If you’re somewhat familiar with the niche that you’re operating in, you should have a fairly good idea of the type of content this is.

If not, a great place to start is by using a free tool called Topsy, or using Buzzsumo, to find out what the most popular content has been in your niche in terms of social shares.

Since this content has proven to do well already, it proves that industry likes this type of content. All you have to do is to make it better!

STEP 3: Write Compelling Content

One comment I’d like to make here is that everyone says it has to be the best on the net. While this is obviously preferred and will improve your success rate when it comes to garnishing links, I don’t believe that it is a 100% necessary.

Ultimately your article just has to be better than the article to which your prospect is linking.

The reason that I’m saying this is because it’s what I have experienced with my authority site.

Rather doing nothing, I just decided to start my outreach with the content that was already produced, even if I thought it may not be the best of the best.

Just to be clear, this content is of very high quality, but I wouldn’t say that it blows the competition right out of the water. Yet, I’m still able to get links to it because it’s formatted greatly and I’ve taken an extremely personalized approach to outreach which I’ll go through a little bit later.

The most important part is to just take action. You’re never going to get everything 100% right!

STEP 4: Find Prospects

The easiest way to find prospects in to do a simple search in Google for the keyword that your content is targeting, and reverse engineer the links pointing at the highest ranked sites using Ahrefs. The fact that these articles are ranking means that they are bound to have a large amount of juice-passing links to them.

For example, for the keyword “best home improvements” the Google results look as follows:


If we take the third link as an example and pop it into Ahrefs you and look for the links just pointing at that article, it comes up with a total of 146 different domains out of which 132 are do-follow.


That’s a total of 132 potential prospects that you could target.

In reality, some of these won’t qualify, or the domain authority might not be high enough to make it worth your while, but I would say that maybe 40 of these would be worth contacting.

The trick is just to go through as many of the top Google results that you can, throw them into a spreadsheet, and go through them one by one using your Outreach tool of choice and come up with a list of targets that you’re happy with.

In my most recent campaign. I ended up scraping around 360 targets using this approach which I narrowed down to 62 that I was happy to contact.

Another method I’ve used for prospecting is by doing an advanced search on Google for the topic of your article and filter your results to show only content that was posted in the last month.


This will give you a ton of targets that have posted content recently and as such they are more likely to be open to having the article edited if your link can add value. You can even set up Google Alerts so that you can stay on top of any new content that is produced to which you can pitch your link.

STEP 5: Assess Prospect and Have an Open Mind

Just because you’ve decided on targeting broken links, the Sky Scraper Technique, or any other process for your link building doesn’t mean that you need to stick to it 100% of the time.

I make it a point to analyze every prospect on a case-by-case basis and I’m open to changing course if I think one outreach strategy will work more favorably than the one I had initially set out on.

For example, just because you have flagged a prospect as a candidate as being a good link target for the Sky Scraper Technique, doesn’t mean that that’s necessarily always the best approach.

Before reaching out to them, I would recommend looking at the type of website it is, the amount of authority it has, in order to determine the best way to approach them.

So far I have found that it can be difficult to just score a link from higher authority sites by asking for it, so generally I have approached them with a guest post proposal instead, which has seemed to yield slightly better results.

Unfortunately there is no hard and fast rule for this, and part of it comes down to “gut feel”.

STEP 6: Crafting Your Message & Conducting Outreach

This is arguably the most important part of outreach and consequently also where I fell down in the past.

Sending out a template without any personal information in it will yield you with very little success, if any. You can’t just blast out 100 emails without knowing anything about the sites that you’re sending them to.

You  need to spend at least 5-10 minutes going through some of the recent content that was written, or their about page, and make a comment in your email highlighting something specific about that.

I can’t stress that enough. If you don’t you’ll just end up wasting a ton of great prospects that might have linked to you if you had put in a bit more effort.

The approach that I have been taking recently is to start the email by mentioning something specific in relation to their latest post that you enjoyed, and only mention the article (which you stumbled on as you kept browsing through their site) where you’re trying to get your link towards the end of your email.

It sounds more plausible that way, as opposed to mentioning that you stumbled on the target article directly which in many cases may be a year or older.

Usually I also add them to Twitter and will mention this in my email as well so that I can keep an eye out for any new posts they may publish.

Out of the 62 emails that I sent in my recent campaign I have managed to convert 9 into links (with 6 of the links being accepted right away, and the other 3 being guest posts). That’s a conversion rate of 14.5% which I’m pretty darn happy with.

STEP 7: Make it a Routine

This is something that I haven’t done consistently yet, but I’m going to make it a point to set some time out of my schedule every day to make sure I send at least 50 outreach emails per week.

Assuming that I convert at around 10% (which is probably more realistic than the 14.5% so far), that would mean that I have 5 new and highly relevant links pointing my domain every week and 20 per month. Not bad!

If you stick to this, you should have some serious link juice flowing through your site after a number of months.

It’s all about putting in the effort now and reaping the rewards later.

About Tom


Tom Attenborough, who is new to the world of marketing, has set himself a goal to generate enough income from online marketing by the end of 2015 by putting the tips from the experts into practice.

He's currently documenting how he's building out both a white-hat authority site, and a black-hat niche site, in a case study on his blog. He also has some other tricks up his sleeve to reach this goal which he is planning to announce in the near future.

You can find him at, on Twitter  and on Google Plus.

6 thoughts on “How I Built 59 White-Hat Links in 10 Weeks for My New Authority Site”

  1. Awesome post Tom, you’ve got yourself another sub.I love the idea of the ahrefs, never thought about checking the only do-follow links.

    Since it’s the first time I’ve heard about you, how are you finding the process of maintaining a 9-5 as well as building two sites on the side?

  2. Hey Tom, thanks for the share. I am starting my own dual site case study too. In fact, it is going to be white hat vs black hat like what you are doing too.

    I’ll be looking forward to more sharing from you! Thanks Bryon for this guest post.


      1. Definitely I will. I would need your expert advise too while building my sites. I’m trying out the silo structure for the white hat site and some of Brian Dean’s strategies. I’m hoping for some great backlinks by doing so.


    1. Thanks for stopping by Jane! Good luck with your dual site case study. I’ll make sure to keep an eye out on any future posts from you on your case study. If you need any help, or want to exchange ideas, let me know.

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