4 Grey Hat SEO Tactics You Must Avoid | With Examples

“Grey hat SEO”

Since ancient times, the color white has been associated with the symbol of good and black as evil. Similarly, white hat SEO and black hat SEO tactics symbolize the good and bad ways of using SEO for search engine rankings. However, there exists another area called grey hat SEO.

In this article, you’ll find:

What Is Grey Hat SEO?

Grey hat SEO techniques are methods that combine both white hat and black hat SEO tactics. For example, creating high-quality content and then buying backlinks for it is a grey hat SEO technique. Creating content is a white-hat SEO technique and buying links is a clear black-hat SEO technique.

Acquiring backlinks from other websites to improve your site’s domain authority is a perfect example of grey-hat SEO. It is common for websites to acquire links from authority sites by sending a request using their contact form and waiting for a reply. However, Google’s guidelines suggest that you must send links using the Google search console. Doing so won’t get you penalized because it isn’t necessarily a bad thing but it’s also not encouraged by Google.

To further understand what grey hat SEO means let’s take a look at what clearly defines white and black hat SEO techniques.

what is White Grey and black hat SEO

White Hat SEO Techniques

Here are examples of what defines white hat techniques.

  1. Using targeted keywords on web pages
  2. Creating content that is high quality
  3. Increasing the site speed
  4. Descriptive alt text for images
  5. Making the site mobile-friendly
  6. Internal linking
  7. Building healthy relationships with other websites

So, white hat is any strategy or method that complies with Google’s guidelines.

And the opposite of that is

Black Hat SEO Techniques

Here are examples of what constitutes black hat techniques.

  1. PBN (private blog networks)
  2. Link exchange (when done excessively)
  3. Unnatural links
  4. Cloaking
  5. Using doorway pages
  6. Keyword stuffing on web pages
  7. Social bookmarking submissions, low-quality directories
  8. Spammy links and comments

These are just some of the many examples of black hat techniques. If Google’s guidelines have specified that a technique will reduce the ranking of a page or site, it comes under black hat techniques. These are tactics that will bring results but at a cost; your page or site might get low rankings, and sometimes be penalized or banned.

Grey Hat SEO Examples

Here are a few examples of what grey hat SEO looks like.

Using cold emails to reach out to potential clients

This is the most common grey hat SEO tactic that many digital marketing specialists use. It is considered safe because unlike buying links, it doesn’t involve someone paying in exchange for links.

Cold emails are widely used in link building where the outreach department would send emails and pitch your products/services to people who would have no prior experience doing business with you. In some cases it will end up as spam and some people may even report your email, but done right using the right email marketing tool, it can help generate leads for your business.

Using low-quality websites to build backlinks

Doing so would improve your site’s domain authority and gain more PageRank in Google which will help you to stay ahead of the competition. Gray hat SEO tactics like this can improve search engine rankings.

PageRank is a Google algorithm that defines which pages to rank and which ones not to.

So, white hat SEO lies at one end of the spectrum and black hat on the other end. In between, you have grey hat SEO that pushes you to achieve quality results using white hat techniques combined with the methods and outside-the-box thinking of black hat tactics. Ideally, you should always aim to do only white hat, as that is what white hat SEO professionals recommend and it is also the one that gives results without having to face Google’s wrath.

Grey Hat SEO Tactics You Must Avoid

Grey Hat SEO Tactics You Must Avoid

Here are 5 gray hat SEO tactics you must avoid:

1. Buying Links

Building links takes time and resources but the benefits are huge. But, it is not uncommon to be tempted to take the shortcut and get the benefits. For example, buying links is a violation of Google’s webmaster guidelines and will hurt your rankings in the search engines.

Buying backlinks is not recommended because

  • It goes against Google’s guidelines
  • They can be penalized by Google
  • Buying links is expensive and on average it costs $360 per link

Instead of buying backlinks, focus on guest blogging. With guest blogging, you will be able to showcase your writing skills and expertise and earn high-quality links simultaneously.

2. Keyword Stuffing

A few years back you could rank higher in the search results by just stuffing the keywords inside the webpage. Now, it’s not so simple. Google’s algorithm is much smarter than it was before and having the right amount of keywords is crucial to rank better. Also, it’s not just the algorithm, but the readers too. Stuffing too many keywords will only make your content look bland and becomes a negative user experience which can hurt your site’s ranking.

Instead, you can

  • Create content that has a lot of depth and research put into it
  • Cover a wide variety of topics
  • Create pillar and cluster topics
  • Write in-depth content and include long-tail keywords

3. Negative SEO

This is when a website creates multiple spammy links to its competitors’ websites. It is a tactic where a user will use black hat SEO tactics to sabotage competitor websites. This won’t work anymore because Google can detect spammy links and remove them altogether.

It is an illegal practice and severe punishment will be given to those who are found guilty of it. Instead of sabotaging competitor websites, you can

  • Beat your competition with high-quality content

Identify the target keywords for your audience and create content with search intent in mind. You can use the same keyword in two different articles but with different search intent. So, when a user searches for a term, identify what they are looking for in relation to that term and include it in your content.

The next step is backlinks. The outreach team or you yourself can reach out to high authority sites and request backlinks from them. This actually comes under grey hat SEO but you won’t get penalized or banned for it, so it is safe to use.

With high-quality backlinks in your content, you can improve your page’s authority and improve rankings in search engines.

4. PBN (private blog network)

A PBN or private blog network is a group of websites that are created only to provide backlinks to the main site. A separate network of websites is created and then embedded in them is the link to the main site. This is done to manipulate the search algorithm into ranking the main site higher.

Instead of manipulating the search algorithm, you can

  • Build quality links

You can use link building strategies like guest posting, social media backlinks, or add-ins to create quality links for your site.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is grey hat SEO safe to use?

The best word to describe the nature of grey hat SEO techniques is risky. If done right you can gain some benefits but if not you could potentially lose all your previous hard work. However, if you do such practices too often, your site could get noticed by Google and be penalized.

2. What is link exchange?

A link exchange occurs when two websites mutually link each other’s content. This is done to increase the authority of each other’s websites.

3. What is cloaking?

Cloaking is a black-hat SEO practice. It is when a website shows two different versions of a site’s URL or content; one to the search engine crawlers and the other to the user. Some examples include replacing Javascript, using invisible or hidden text, and HTML pages.

4. Is AI content a grey hat SEO technique?

According to Google, AI-generated content that follows the EEAT guidelines won’t be penalized. As long as the content is helpful, provides value, and complies with Google’s guidelines, it is safe to use. So, it is not a grey hat SEO technique.

Should You Use Grey Hat SEO Techniques?

Grey hat SEO techniques are still popular, but remember that the risks are still higher than the rewards. If you have a personal blog, you can implement some low-risk techniques, but for long-term success, it is recommended to stick to white hat SEO methods.

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