Are These 7 Grey Hat SEO Tactics Worth the Risk? (Probably Not)
Tips from SEO agency experts contain a mix of white hat and grey hat search engine optimization (SEO) tactics. The former follows webmaster guidelines, but the latter walks a fine line between good and bad practices. How can you tell if the risk is worth it?
This guide discusses the pros and cons of using grey hat SEO, including:
- Defining grey hat SEO
- Comparing grey hat and black hat SEO
- Seven grey hat SEO tactics, what they are, plus their pros and cons
There’s a lot to discuss, so get ready to take notes.
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What Is Grey Hat SEO?
Whereas white hat SEO refers to “good” practices and black hat SEO refers to “bad” practices, grey hat SEO sits somewhere in between. For the most part, grey hat SEO has the potential to lean closer to either end of the ethical spectrum. It just depends on how and why you use it.
However, it is still important to note that some grey hat SEO tactics are riskier than others due to their proximity to willful rule-breaking behavior. Before you dive into anything grey hat, you must exercise due diligence. Otherwise, you expose your content and website to harsh penalties.
How Is Grey Hat SEO Different from Black Hat SEO?
Although grey hat SEO is ethically ambiguous, a distinct line separates it from the group of malicious practices known as black hat SEO. For instance, the former does not necessarily violate search engine guidelines, while the latter goes directly against them.
Knowing the difference between these two can help you avoid failing at SEO. The more you know what you should and should not do, the better you are likely to be at constructing effective SEO strategies. If nothing else, you can avoid trusting misguided SEO agencies and strategies.
7 Grey Hat SEO Tactics That May Not Be Worth The Risk
When you understand the importance of SEO for your website, you also understand why the best practices (white hat SEO) focus on creating value and genuine concern for users. On the other hand, grey hat SEO primarily cares about the benefits it brings to your websites.
Look at the seven examples below to learn more about the dangers of failing to walk the line between ethical and unethical practices:
1. Doing a Backlink Swap
Having many backlinks is ideal, but buying or trading them can cause you problems down the line. Today’s search engine algorithms can detect whether backlinks are genuine and organic.
- Why this is problematic: This leans much closer toward bad SEO because several black hat tactics rely on building an artificial network of random, low-quality backlinks.
- What you can do instead: If you want a robust backlink profile, aim to collect the ones from authoritative and relevant sources rather than random websites.
2. Creating A Blog Network
Running a private blog network (PBN) is a manipulative tactic to build backlinks. Think of it as similar to one person running several newspapers that cite each other as credible sources of information.
- Why this is problematic: There is nothing wrong with linking to your own website, but creating an echo chamber around yourself can damage content quality in the long run.
- What you can do instead: Network with peers through online groups and business events. You can also earn many high-quality backlinks by innovating in your industry.
3. Inserting Hidden Text
Hiding text through any means — zero-size font, blending in the background, etc. — is an ethically questionable practice. If nothing else, it is disingenuous, especially when it comes to keywords.
- Why this is problematic: While not directly against guidelines, this practice is still frowned upon to intentionally try to manipulate your search engine results page (SERP) ranking.
- What you can do instead: If a keyword is important enough to hide on a page, consider making content for it instead. Both users and search engines would prefer you do that.
4. Joining a Web Directory
Registering for a web directory is not all bad; take Google My Business, for example. Joining less-than-reputable ones to get free mentions is not a viable growth strategy for your site.
- Why this is problematic: Directories link to hundreds if not thousands of other websites apart from yours. You cannot guarantee that associating with them does not harm you.
- What you can do instead: Register for legitimate online listings. The best ones to try are associated with search engines or platforms, such as Google, Bing, and Facebook.
5. Using Dummy Accounts
Social media is somewhat of a numbers game, making faking engagement appealing. In fact, it is all too easy to hire a third-party company to create an army of bots for you.
- Why this is problematic: Fake comments are not helpful for users, so that is already points against your SEO. Moreover, they result in unrealistic expectations of your brand.
- What you can do instead: Let users speak their minds about you. Regularly encourage them to interact with your content to drum up authentic engagement with your business.
6. Letting AI Write for You
Generative AI is making a buzz among businesses and website owners because of its ability to “create content.” In reality, commercial AI is not yet powerful enough to replace human writers.
- Why this is problematic: Relying on AI tools to drastically increase your productivity has the unintended consequence of lowering your website’s overall content quality.
- What you can do instead: Use AI as a supplement, not a replacement, for a good content strategy. It is particularly helpful for getting yourself unstuck when writing articles.
7. Buying Expired Domains
Sometimes, a website owner loses interest in maintaining their domain. When that happens, it becomes open for someone else to take over, userbase and all, for whatever purpose it serves.
- Why this is problematic: This borderline black hat tactic exploits the trust of search engines and unsuspecting users for personal gain and is one you should avoid doing.
- What you can do instead: Build up your website’s SEO. There is no reason to believe you cannot achieve the same level of success as an expired domain.
Ethics plays a role in the success or downfall of your SEO strategy; some practices follow the rules, some break them, and some toe the line. If you want to explore all possible options, consider the potential benefits and compare them against the likely consequences.
Need help determining which SEO practices to add to your website strategy? Contact us to learn how we can help.
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