Grey Hat SEO is a set of SEO strategies and techniques that allow web marketers to get their site ranked among the top search results. As some web marketers say, it is the middle ground between White Hat and Black Hat. This makes it the set of tactics that have remained ill-defined by Google’s published material.
In web marketing, search engine optimization is of paramount importance, as visitors tend to trust the first links that appear in the results.
And to optimize a website for marketing purposes, there are several techniques that can be used. But while some SEO strategies are good, others are bad and you need to be able to tell the difference.
In this article, I’m going to introduce you specifically to the different Grey Hat SEO techniques while emphasizing the link between them and other SEO strategies such as White Hat and Black Hat.
Chapter 1: What is Grey Hat SEO?
SEO is like a science that is not exact and whose rules are diverse and constantly changing.
1.1 What is Grey Hat SEO?
There are generally four main strategies in the world of SEO. This is the White Hat which includes legal SEO techniques such as
- Keyword research;
- The correct use of Meta tags;
- The writing of optimized content;
Black Hat as its name indicates is the set of SEO techniques that are purely illegal. This is the black SEO actions used by some SEOs to manipulate Google’s algorithms and get positioned in the SERPs. We can cite as examples:
- The purchase of links;
- Manipulation and other false signals
The third strategy that is the subject of this development is Grey Hat SEO. This strategy refers to practices that are not totally considered as White Hat, but which are not totally disapproved either.
In fact, Grey Hat is a kind of middle ground between White and Black Hat. The essence of this method is to follow and respect the majority of the values that Google advocates, although some Grey Hat tactics are not always ethical.
It is often difficult to clearly define Grey Hat and to identify the techniques that are included. This difficulty is due to a lack of precision of the actions considered as White or Black speaking of the guidelines of the search engines, Google in this case.
Here are some actions of Grey Hat SEO:
- Buying expired domains;
- Cloaking ;
In fact, Grey Hat SEO is a very beneficial SEO strategy insofar as it allows to obtain good results in line with the different actions implemented. It is also the most used SEO strategy among the three SEO strategies
However, it is advisable not to flirt too much with the techniques considered dubious in the practices of Grey Hat SEO at the risk of being subject to penalties from Google.
1.2. Advantages and disadvantages of Grey Hat SEO
1.2.1. Advantages of Grey Hat SEO
Grey Hat is an SEO strategy in the same way as White Hat and Black Hat. Its biggest advantage is therefore the possibility of optimizing the referencing of the website.
Some techniques of Grey Hat SEO are part of the practices very encouraged by SEO professionals. When we take the creation of links for example, it is a technique very appreciated by SEOs.
1.2.1. Disadvantages of Grey Hat SEO
The only problem with Grey Hat SEO techniques is that they are likely to be considered as shady techniques at times. This is why it is important to know Grey Hat SEO and to master all its components in order to avoid negative consequences on your site’s ranking.
Indeed, Google can simply restrict a website when it receives signals of shady practices in the actions of the latter.
It is important to take into account the existence of the penalty risk. But, when you practice Grey Hat in the right way, you can have similar results to the results obtained by practicing White Hat SEO.
Considering the pros and cons, is it worth it to practice Grey Hat SEO strategies?
I would say yes, but it is necessary to sort out the multiple practices and above all to use them with great moderation
Chapter 2: The different techniques of Grey Hat referencing
As we started by mentioning above, Grey Hat SEO is considered as the middle ground between White Hat and Black Hat. Among the techniques of Grey Hat SEO, we can mention:
- The purchase of expired domains;
- The use of social media accounts;
- The creation of multi-level links;
- Frequent site updates;
- Local SEO with citations;
- Rotating content;
- Use of Wikipedia;
- Influencer marketing;
- CTR manipulation;
2.1. Buying and using expired domains
The use of expired domains is a very powerful technique, but it must be well practiced to generate good results. It is a technique that is on the borderline between black and white.
It refers to the purchase and manipulation of a domain abandoned by the owner and already expired. This domain must have a lot of authority in order to generate quality links to your site. There are usually several options to exploit an expired domain in SEO.
2.1.1. Use a 301 redirect
The 301 redirectredirection, also called web redirection is a way to redirect the web browser while loading a content to another web address that presents you with content from another website.
More explicitly, the 301 code is a status code that tells the browser that the page being loaded has been completely moved to a new location. It thus directs the search engine to redirect visitors to the new location.
This technique is the most used by most web marketers. But, it is also one of the riskiest practices when the site used has penalties or manual actions.
2.1.2. Keep the expired domain and generate links to the web pages of your site
When you find out that the domain you purchased is a trusted domain, without any penalties or risks, you can keep it to be used for other purposes and generate links to your site.
To do this, you can search the site for archives of old content and republish it in order to restart it. This technique is going to allow you to achieve an instantly successful website with targeted traffic. Nevertheless, keep in mind that you are only exploiting a small part of all the assets of this domain.
2.1.3. Redirect visitors to your site by defining a landing page
In case the domain you purchased is in the same industry as your site, you can tell visitors to visit your site instead.
This option is also a more polite way to inform users that the old site is no longer functional and invite them to visit the new one which is nothing but your site. This is a very safe technique to generate a lot of traffic to your site.
2.1.4. Precautions to take before buying a domain
Before buying a domain, it is important to ask yourself some questions such as
Precaution 1: Is this domain relevant to your business?
This first question is the most important one because it will help you to measure the concordance between the domain you are about to buy and the subject of your site. You should look for a domain that belongs to the same industry as yours.
If you work in the technology industry for example, you would not want to buy a domain that belongs to the cosmetics industry. Remember that Google is strict on this point. The origin of the incoming links to your site and the weight of its links affect the trust you give to your site in Google.
Precaution 2: Is this domain penalty-free?
It is important to check if the expired domain does not mention any penalty or any manual action from the search engines. If it does, it would be better to abandon the purchase of this domain at the risk of getting penalized as well.
You can start by searching the full URL of the site in the Google search bar to see what you get as a result.
There are also tools like Google Sandbox and Penalty Checker Tool that can help you detect if the domain is completely removed from Google (Deindexing) or if it is penalized.
Precaution 3: What is the spam level of the domain?
Check the spam level of the domain with the OSE (Open Site Explorer) tool. The normal spam level is between 0 and 2%. It is also necessary to check the spam score of the incoming links.
You can also get an idea of the state of the domain by loading it with archive.org.
Precaution 4: Doing a link audit and domain’s inking profile
To audit a purchased domain, I advise you to use a tool like Ahref. Do a thorough analysis on the links of the site by exporting all of them into the CSV file.
The objective is to detect spam and paid links in a conventional way. To do this, you need to check first that the anchor terms have not been over-optimized. Secondly, make sure that the links are quality links and finally identify the source of the paid links.
Precaution 5: Control the traffic of the domain
The objective behind buying a domain is undoubtedly positioning and traffic generation. So, it is important to check if the domain you are going to buy has the traffic you expect.
Use Ahref to check the organic traffic of the domain. You can also install Google Analytics on the site to analyze the traffic if you already have access to the domain. In case you find that the traffic of the domain is low, it would be better to give up the idea of buying this domain.
2.2. Multi-level backlink building
Multi-level link building is one of the most debated strategies in the field of search engine optimization. A few years ago, this technique was considered White Hat.
However, if you point too many links to site with a predominance of level 1 links, Google may consider it as Black Hat and you will be penalized.
On the other hand, it is obvious that the creation of links of several levels (Level 1, Level 2, Level 3) can boost the positioning of your site and bring added value in terms of traffic.
2.2.1. Tier One Backlinks
Tier One Backlinks are Tier 1 links that emerge directly to your website. To benefit from this technique, you must ensure the quality of these links and their source. They must be generated by authoritative sites in the field.
These are generally platforms or websites that give users the opportunity to post content and especially to communicate with each other. The most recognized and authoritative of these sites are:
- WordPress ;
- Blogger ;
- Tumblr ;
- Weebly ;
- LiveJournal ;
The most important thing is to know how to choose the most relevant, authoritative and traffic generating sites. Tier 1 backlinks can help protect your site from Google updates such as Penguin.
This is possible when the references of Tier 1 links affect the optimization of most of the anchor text.
2.2.2. Level 2 backlinks
These are the links that emerge to the Tier One backlinks. The mission of Tier 2 links is to strengthen the quality of Tier 1 links. There are several options to create Tier 2 backlinks namely:
- The use of video sites;
- Article submission;
- Social bookmarking;
- The use of web 2:0 sites;
- The use of wiki backlinks;
- Directory sites ;
- And so on.
You are free to choose the options you want. Nevertheless, it is important to understand that many people choose to use social bookmarks, article submissions and also directories to generate Tier 2 links.
These options therefore tend to be very spammy and can be a hindrance to your site’s SEO. So I would advise you to prefer Web 2:0 sites, Wiki and video as a safe and more secure second option.
There is also the issue of relevance. Of course, the number of links you create is important, but it is more beneficial to ensure the quality and origin of your links. This aspect is very important because Google cares a lot about the relevance of the links that point to a website.
In addition, you can create as many multi-level links as you want. The principle is the same, each lower level link is linked to the previous one.
2.3. make frequent updates to the website
The frequent changes you make to your website can make you benefit from one of Google’s multiple algorithm updates. This is the system of indexing websites called caffeine
This update deployed by Google in 2010 for an overhaul of the indexing system favors fresh and newly updated content. To do this, you can make small changes to the site and give the impression that you have made a complete update. For example, you can:
- Change the code;
- Change the texts;
- Change the fonts;
To make sure this method works, practice it for a while and evaluate the results while taking into account factors such as the rate, amount of changes and even the areas of the site you changed.
2.4. Use Google Map citations for local SEO
A citation is a mention that can be without a link or with a link, pointing to a website. To quote a company or a website, we usually use references like:
- Number ;
Many web marketers have mastered the method of creating citations from directories. However, there are other more reliable techniques of creating citations such as
- Comments on blogs;
- Press releases;
To create citations on Map, you can create fictitious profiles ranging from 10 to 20 and save the location of your site on the map of each of these profiles.
All these profiles will create a net of links pointing to your company’s website. The benefits of Google Map citations are numerous and here are some of them
- Increased positioning of your site in local search results;
- Increased local social signals;
- Having a local business radius coverage ;
2.5. The use of spinning content
Another grey SEO technique that is not very recommended is content spinning. Content spinning is when you take content belonging to another site and modify it to publish in such a way that plagiarism recognition software cannot recognize it.
This Grey Hat technique also works well to get a website ranked in search results.
Indeed, once you manage to spin the content well to fool Google’s algorithms, you publish it on your own site while optimizing the keywords you want to rank on.
This practice is used a lot to generate links with the publication of content considered as new or original. The quality of the content turned called Spin is also very important.
In addition, there are now Spin tools that can help you to turn original content, which will not be considered as plagiarism. I suggest you to use The Best Spinnera powerful tool that will cost you only 37per year.
However, you have to be careful and check every time if the spun content is logical and fits your need because after all, it is a software.
Keep in mind that content spinning is a Grey Hat SEO method that is not ethical although it has its advantages. It would be appropriate to be moderate in its practice.
2.6. Using Wikipedia to generate backlinks
Given the authority of Wikipedia, many web marketers feel the desire to get links from this domain. It’s a given that generating Backlink from Wikipedia would be a great asset that would help you gain Google’s trust and boost your SEO efforts.
However, it is not so easy to get links from this very authoritative platform, due to the fact that people spam from everywhere.
On the other hand, Wikipedia’s main goal is not to be a marketing tool, but rather to be encyclopedic. For this reason, it will only cite your company if it proves that it is a reliable source.
But because most sites can’t meet this requirement, there are practices considered Grey Hat that can help you generate links from Wikipedia.
2.6.1. Donate media
One way to get links from Wikipedia is to donate media, whether it’s an infographic or an image. The principle of this strategy is to insert a link pointing to the source where the infographic was taken from. This method is a bit easier to practice and to get links.
2.6.2. Creating a new page on Wikipedia
This is about creating a page that will deal with a topic related to the subject of your website. This method seems a bit more complex, but very reliable. The most important thing to practice this method is to choose a topic that is of public interest.
Here are a few secrets to make it easier for you:
- Choose a topic related to public interest;
- Make sure the topic you choose is simple and relevant;
- Add reliable links to the new Wikipedia page;
- Use the same style and formatting as other existing pages.
2.7. Influencer marketing
Influencer marketing is a tactic that consists of promoting a company by building partnerships with influencers on the web. This strategy is White Hat in nature.
But here we will talk about the Grey Hat side. Indeed, influencers are people of authority on the web who have the ability to more easily incite a behavior (purchase, click, etc.) in users.
You can use influencers with a Grey Hat strategy to reach your SEO objectives. But be careful not to go to the most experienced and authoritative in their niche who would certainly refuse this proposal. These are:
You can pay one or more influencers to advertise your site. This is a good tactic to generate lots of quality traffic to your website. In case this method includes a no-follow link, the advertisement will even be considered as White Hat SEO.
2.7.2. Social promotion
To better achieve your goals with social promotion, you need to choose influencers that are related to your business. Social promotion is a way to make the content of your web pages viral.
2.7.3. Pay to get an interview
There are influencers who offer to give you an interview on their sites. The method is to ask you questions to gather information about your service offerings and publish it on their sites. Another way to do this is to publish your bio on their blog. This technique also helps you generate enough traffic.
Chapter 3: Frequently Asked Questions
3.1. Is Grey Hat SEO illegal?
Grey Hat SEO is well recognized as an SEO strategy. It is therefore not illegal. However, the way of using certain practices of Grey Hat SEO can be contrary to the rules of search engines. These practices will therefore be considered as Black Hat and likely to be punished.
3.2. What is the link between Grey Hat SEO and White Hat SEO?
White Hat SEO is the term used to describe search engine optimization techniques and practices that are approved by search engines. When you practice White Hat SEO techniques correctly, you have a high probability of boosting your website’s SEO.
On the other hand, Grey Hat SEO techniques can get you into trouble.
3.3. What is the relationship between Grey Hat SEO and Black Hat SEO?
The Black Hat SEO is considered to be the set of techniques that are not approved by Google and that violate the normal rules of SEO.
However, Grey Hat SEO is made up of techniques that do not always violate Google’s requirements depending on how they are used
Basically, remember that Grey Hat SEO is a strategy to boost search results on Google like White Hat, Black Hat and Dunce cake SEO.
But depending on the use of the practices that make it up, it can be very beneficial for your website or be a danger that will lead to penalties.
It is therefore important to seek to understand each of the techniques included in this SEO strategy so that you can practice it in the right way and without having negative returns on your site.
If you notice that I missed any Grey Hat SEO techniques that you like, feel free to put them in a comment!