We have briefly touched upon grey hat SEO before in our blog, and here is that post in question. What we haven’t really talked about before is grey hat SEO specifically. Today’s the day we finally do that! Let’s go over together what this SEO tactic is all about and why we don’t recommended it for your business’s website.

What is grey hat SEO?

Grey hat SEO is usually defined as a search engine optimization practice that’s riskier to do than white hat SEO, but one that may or may not result in your website being banned from search engines and their affiliate websites. Google has labelled grey hat SEO as a high-risk practice that violates their self-published guidelines on how a website must and should be optimized.

Sometimes it’s difficult to understand whether you’re using a black hat or a grey hat SEO tactic in order to optimize your website and get it to rank higher on Google, but we have some examples below to help you better understand.

What are some examples of grey hat SEO?

Cloaking. Cloaking is when the content you create and is presented to the site visitor is different from a search engine crawler’s point of view. Cloaked content is delivered usually via IP addresses.

Old domains you’ve paid for. While the idea of recycling and reusing is fine, it’s when you recycle old domains that can create all sorts of new problems. Many of the older domains online may even not be secure anymore in the first place.

Duplicate content. This is a tricky area that deserves the grey hat SEO label, because some duplicate content is good such as a similar call to action on your web pages. The issue is that the content on each web page should at least be unique and not exactly the same as the other one—that’s when the hat colour can shift from white to grey. Bonus points if the duplicate content is not helpful in the least to visitors.

Thin content. Much like duplicate content, thin content is not exactly not recommended, but at the same time it doesn’t really offer very much to the user. The longer the content is, the more useful it will be—vice versa is where we step into grey hat territory.

Automation through social media. While there’s nothing wrong with scheduling posts in advance, it’s the quality of those posts that usually ends up being questionable. If your posts are just being spewed every hour on the hour with no second glance at what you’re posting, that’s where it becomes a problem.

Bulk social media followers. Whether it’s for Facebook or Instagram, people are smart enough to spot a fake follower when they see one now more so than they used to be. They’re also smart enough to realize when a whole bunch of followers look as if they’ve been paid for—which, sadly, some people have.

Buying good reviews of your business in bulk. Again, like the bulk social media followers, you’re purchasing good reviews in exchange for a reward such as money. And, again, most people online are smart enough to tell when a real review versus a fake one has been posted.

Clickbait. Usually these consist of headlines such as “SHOCKING—380-pound woman in Edmonton loses 290 pounds in 5 days, leaves doctors baffled”. This is another tricky area because more often than not, the headlines do convince people to click on them. The end result, however, usually waste’s the user’s time, much like the rest of these grey hat tactics.

There are many, many more examples that exist out there but these examples are the most prominent ones of all.

Why don’t you recommend grey hat SEO?

We actually have quite a few reasons why we still don’t recommend grey hat SEO in the first place:

  • It’s always risky. At the end of the day, you’re pleasing search engines, not your valued customers.
  • It’s leaning too close to black. We’re not about that life, not one little bit.
  • It makes you look desperate. And cheap, and sneaky, and all sorts of adjectives that tarnish a business’s reputation.
  • What’s grey hat this year can become black hat next year…or even later this year! The rules about SEO are always changing. However, some rules that almost never seem to change are Google’s guidelines on proper SEO.

However you feel about grey hat strategies, it’s highly recommended that you avoid performing any of the following examples we’ve given in the first place and instead adhere to Google’s guidelines and perform white hat SEO.

How can I tell I’ve used grey hat SEO without meaning to?

Usually a second glance at your website by our professionals at V3 Media (only if you’ve come to us before we built you a new website, one that adheres to white hat SEO guidelines) can tell you whether or not grey hat or black hat SEO has been implemented or not. We also pay close attention to the latest categorizations, which also change per year.

How do I get white hat SEO on my site instead?

It really depends on the state of your current website. If you’ve discovered a few articles in your blog here and there that lean toward the grey side, but only a few, then there’s time enough to rework these articles into something more white hat. Recycling blog posts is a fair practice and it at least gives you the opportunity to give your blog a makeover and even produce new content based on the older stuff. 

However, if you’ve discovered there have been a lot of messes already, or you’ve given instructions to perform grey hat SEO tactics from the get-go and are realizing that was wrong, then cleaning up the mess is going to be both tough and expensive. We hate to say it, but if there’s that much grey hat to wash out and things are looking a little too black for comfort, it’s better to get a new website built from scratch using strictly white hat SEO. If that’s what your company needs, then definitely give us a call at V3 Media. If you want to discuss further about the different SEO tactics out there and want to know how best we can optimize your new website (if that’s what you need), then reach out to us for a one-on-one consultation. We’re more than happy to wash out that grey hat and make it white, anytime!