Most people think of search engine optimization (SEO) as a black hat vs white hat dichotomy.
White hat and black hat SEO are two completely different approaches to search engine optimization.
Black hat SEO techniques go against the grain of what Google wants in an attempt to game the system and rank higher.
White hat SEO techniques follow the rules and Google’s webmaster guidelines to improve rankings more sustainably.
But another category of search engine optimization falls between these two SEO techniques: grey hat SEO.
What is Grey Hat SEO?
Grey hat SEO is digital marketing that is a bit of a catch-all term for any optimization tactic against search engine guidelines.
Grey hat SEO is more likely to be penalized like black hat tactics. But they also have the potential to provide more significant results than white hat tactics, which is why some people are willing to take the risk.
Should You Use Grey Hat SEO?
Whether or not you should use grey hat SEO depends on your situation.
In some cases, the grey hat consists of potential rewards that might be worth the risk of a penalty, but in other cases, the risks might outweigh the potential rewards.
As a general rule of thumb, you should only use grey hat SEO tactics if you’re willing to accept the risks that come with them.
If you’re not comfortable with the potential penalties against google guidelines, then you should stick to white hat SEO tactics instead of increasing the website’s organic traffic.
Is it Illegal to Use?
Whilst grey hat SEO is not illegal; most search engines prohibit certain practices.
Some standard prohibited practices include keyword stuffing, cloaking, and doorway pages.
These practices can result in your site being penalized or even banned from the search engine results pages.
Grey Hat Techniques
There are various ways to gain access to a system you may not have permission.
These are called “grey hat” techniques, and while they may be considered unethical by some standards, you can still use them for good.
Here are some standard grey hat techniques:
1. Buying or Trading links
2. Spinning Content
3. Paying for Reviews
4. Duplicate Content
6. Using old and expired domains
7. Keyword stuffing
8. Private blog network
9. Submit your site to Web Directories
10. Multiple Social Media Accounts
Buying or Trading Links
Links bought or traded are generally considered to be unethical, as it goes against the idea of merit-based rankings.
There are a few advantages to buying links, even though it is a black hat or grey hat SEO tactic.
Buying or trading links can be a relatively fast way to boost your link popularity. Your link popularity will increase if you buy high-quality links from reputable relevant sources.
Buying links can be an excellent way to diversify your link profile, which can help protect your site from Google penalties.
However, search engines are getting wise to this tactic and are starting to penalize websites that engage in it.
So, if you’re considering buying links, you should know the risks involved in this grey hat approach. You could do more harm than good to your website’s SEO.
Spinning content is the process of rewriting an article so that you can use it multiple times.
It is the process of changing words and phrases in the original article while retaining the same meaning.
It can be an effective way to create new content without starting from scratch.
It’s essential to ensure that the spun content is still high-quality and relevant to your site. Consider how often you’ll need to spin your content to keep it fresh and ensure that the spun content is appropriately formatted and easy to read.
Grey hat SEOs often use spinning content to create multiple versions of an article for use in link building or other black hat SEO techniques.
Paying for Reviews
Paying for reviews is another grey hat SEO technique, as it goes against the idea of unbiased reviews.
It involves finding popular review sites in your industry and then offering to pay people to write positive reviews about your business on those sites.
Google loves positive reviews and will reward websites that have them with higher search engine rankings. It is because Google knows that people trust websites with good reviews and are likelier to click on them in search results.
So, if you want your website to rank higher in Google searches, encourage your customers to leave positive reviews!
Websites need original content to increase search engine traffic. However, a few times when duplicating content is a legitimate SEO tactic.
Duplicate content is a “substantive block of content within or across domains that either completely matches other content or are appreciably similar.”
In other words, it’s any time you have the same or similar content on more than one page of the same site or more than one website altogether.
Regarding your website, duplicate or poor-quality content can negatively impact you.
That’s because Google uses algorithms to identify and penalize sites with duplicate content.
Cloaking is another grey hat SEO technique that delivers content based on the user agent, IP address, or other factors.
Google catches cloaking by using algorithms and manual reviews.
Google algorithms can identify patterns that might be indicative of cloaking.
Manual reviews by Google employees look at websites flagged as potentially engaging in cloaking.
If they find that the website is indeed cloaking, they can take action against the site, including deindexing it from Google results.
Using Old or Expired Domains
Using old and expired domains to get links from sites with high PageRank is unethical, as it goes against merit-based rankings.
While using old or expired domains isn’t necessarily bad, it can be seen as a grey area because it’s not clear-cut.
It’s not black hat SEO techniques because you’re not doing anything that’s explicitly against the rules.
However, it’s not a white hat SEO method because you’re not following the best SEO practice.
You should use your best judgement when deciding whether or not to use this technique.
It refers to the practice of cramming as many keywords into your content as possible in an attempt to increase organic traffic.
Google’s algorithms are constantly evolving, and the company is continually tweaking its methods, so use careful keyword stuffing.
Google looks at the overall keyword density of a piece of content. If the density is too high, it is a red flag that stuffing may be happening.
If keywords stuff into the content unnaturally, such as repeating the same keyword repeatedly, Google will likely identify this as spammy behaviour.
Google also looks at the usage of synonyms and related keywords if a piece of content includes many associated keywords.
Finally, Google looks at the overall quality of the content. If the content is poorly written and does not provide any value to readers, stuffing has likely occurred.
Private Blog Network (PBN)
PBNs are networks of the website used to build backlinks to your main website with the aim of grey hat improving your site’s ranking.
The sites in the network are usually expired domains that have been re-registered or brand new sites that have been grey hat set up expressly to be part of a PBN.
The backlinks from these affiliate sites are more potent than other links because they come from sites related to your niche and are less likely to be detected by Google’s algorithms.
Make sure that your PBN sites are high quality and look natural. Don’t build too many links from one PBN site to your main site; don’t put all your PBN sites in one place.
Spread them out and link to them from different places on the web to make them look as natural as possible.
A PBN can give you a short-term boost, but if your site isn’t otherwise optimized, it’s not going to do you any good in the long run.
One type of SEO that has come under fire in recent years is the public blog network. It is where someone will create a network of blogs that link back to their main website.
It was once a popular method for building links, but it is now a form of black hat SEO.
Submit your site to Web Directories
A web directory submission is one of the most overused grey hat SEO techniques for improving your website’s ranking.
They are essentially lists of websites organized by category. In the early days of the internet, submitting your website to a web directory was a great way to get it seen by potential visitors.
It is by submitting your site to the directory and then asking the owner for a link back to your site.
It is an effective but not ethical way of getting links. If caught doing this, you could get banned from the directory.
Multiple Social Media Accounts
Creating multiple social media accounts is another grey hat SEO technique that gets more search engine visibility. It allows you to reach a wider audience.
With more than one account, you can target different demographics or interests and maximize your chances of being seen by potential customers or clients on social media sites.
Create multiple dummy accounts to give you more opportunities to post content, interact with other users, and be considered active and engaged.
It can help you attract attention and followers more quickly than if you only had one account.
Search engines prefer websites and profiles with a solid online presence, so having social media accounts can boost your business or personal brand in the search results.
Using multiple accounts on social networking sites to promote a website is considered grey hat SEO as it is not strictly against the rules set out by search engines, but it is not the best practice.
There is no sole “right” way to do SEO, and there are many grey areas between white hat and black hat SEO.
However, black hat methods can get a site banned from search engines, while white hat methods will result in better long-term ROI.
Grey hat SEO techniques can be for good or bad, depending on how you use them.
The benefits of grey hat SEO include the potential for more significant results than white hat tactics, as well as a lower cost of implementation.
However, grey hat SEO includes the potential for search engine penalties and a higher risk of failure.
It’s crucial to weigh the risks and rewards carefully if you consider using any grey hat SEO tactics.
In some cases, the potential rewards might be worth the risk of a penalty, but in other cases, the risks might outweigh the potential rewards.
Only you can decide whether or not the risks are worth it for your particular situation. If you are undecided, you can consult SEO professionals.