Gray And Black Hat SEO What Is It Really?
In one of my previous posts, I covered white hat SEO techniques. I explained what they meant, why they are the best to use and why it’s the safest method to create websites.
Then I went on to describe why this method may also be the longest and slowest one to create a significant amount of money online or rank up your website.
But what are the other methods and how bad are they really?
Well to further educate not only you but myself included, I did the research and will describe the somewhat acceptable grey hat SEO techniques as well as the frowned upon black hat SEO methods.
What you can expect from this post:
- What grey and black hat SEO techniques mean
- What they are good for
- How you can use them and if you should
- What choice you have for your business
After reading through this post, you might be surprised what what each of the hat methods actually are and include. Sometimes the answer isn’t just black and white, it can be grey too!
If you’re aware of SEO techniques and certain methods to improve your website, you probably also know that some of these aren’t advised or against Googles regulations.
Then there are questionable methods which are ethically questionable but kind of slip through the rules. These are the ones we like to refer to as grey hat methods.
For instance the method described here by wordstream clearly depicts how their example of buying links can be seen as an ethical approach, even though Google clearly doesn’t like the idea of agreed link building.
To give you a quick summary; if you pay for a site to link back to yours, but they have relevant content and the audience is generally interested in your content, is it really a bad thing?
All you’re actually doing, is giving the audience more information of what they were trying to find or look up already.
What’s also notable to mention is that a grey hat method can quickly turn into a black hat one if you don’t pay attention.
It can also simple turn black with time once updated rules and regulations of search engines decide to clearly define these as inappropriate behaviour.
Now once you start using Grey hat compared to the all natural approach, you will obviously see faster results and a lot more traffic traction.
As soon as you start to bend the rules, you will put yourself to more risk but the reward is a lot quicker. This is why most people tend to mix up white and grey hat methods.
The black hat techniques are a bit more defined than the above mentioned gray ones. You will instantly know that you should stay away from them.
Of course a website can go from generating $0 to a couple of hundred if not thousand bucks within 3-4 months, but that will be it.
Don’t get too excited though because you also pay for a lot of the black hat services to be done for you. In the end you might just break even.
The way I could best describe the black hat world, it is the lazy mans approach to an online business.
In almost any business, sport or game there is a way to speed up processes. And most of these are usually not accepted by the rules or law.
If you walk into a Casino and try to count cards (gray hat) at a blackjack table, it’s technically allowed but the casino will throw you out once they pick up on it!
If however you walk into the same casino and try to smuggle in a few cards (black hat) to get a guaranteed win, the casino might even hurt you before throwing you out!
However, both these methods can get your wallet feeling heavier within a few minutes! The amount of risk you want to take is up to you.
The color of the hat you’re going to wear for your SEO simply defines how pure your intentions are.
All of them work but only one truly will last with time and that is the obvious white hat.
How You Can Use It
There are obviously many methods used in the questionable SEO world. You might have used some yourself or maybe you’re trying to find a great deal of methods to implement.
Although I don’t condone these, Kerry Butters described some of the more popular methods here. It’s easy to understand how algorithms and people see these as unethical.
In the example of buying old domains with higher authority, to link back to your website, it’s technically not illegal and your right to do that.
But that would mislead the purpose of natural link building. Your basically just pumping up your site with dead links.
Obviously search engines want your website to be linked to because it has pages full of rich content, thus having sites linking back to you.
But it can be hard to tell for Googles spiders if your site is being linked to because 1) you own the domain and 2) the domain is high in ranking but doesn’t actually have any value anymore.
Once the spiders to pick up on the missing content or that both owners of the site are you, you may find yourself in a bit of trouble.
As a matter of fact, the methods described by Kerry Butters, which she sees as gray hat, have actually already turned into black hat methods by now.
If you go into Google Webmaster terms, you’ll find that they strictly tell you not to cloak links etc. therefore ruling it out as a black hat method.
A good method you could try to implement grey or black hat techniques is by doing a simple A/B testing:
- Create two similar sites
- One of which only uses white hat techniques and one only grey hat
- Promote the same products and watch which one takes off first
- Continue to build out both sites and watch which one lasts longer
Obviously you could turn that into an A/B/C testing as well with C being black hat methods only.
Chances are the one site which is bending the rules will make a faster profit and it might not even get shut down by search engines anytime soon.
But at the same time you’re protected by owning a similar copy which is completely ethical in search engines eyes.
Not only would this make a great review and guide on how to use either method but it’s also interesting to use as a case study.
Additionally you’ll have made some pretty pennies on the side and learned a lot on what you can and can’t do online.
Where To Find Methods
If I haven’t scared you off yet and you really want to give the dark side a try, there are many places where you can learn a lot more about these techniques.
There are huge forums dedicated to solely these purposes and people sharing their experience etc.
But if you already own a website and have been building it naturally, chances are you’ve become victim to some black hat methods already.
For instance on my website I get tons of spam comments on a daily basis, such as shown below:
As you can see there is no relevant input in these comments, no real user names, tons of spammy links to get backlinks to their sites and fake emails.
Luckily I get most of these filtered out through a spam protection plugin called akismet.
Now although this is just one example of a black hat method, it is a great way to describe most of the black methods.
Basically it is just a quick way of getting traffic boosts but really it can be a whole lot of waste of time. I don’t think anyone, or at least a very small percentage, would actually approve one of these comments.
Even if I approved them, what are the chances of one of you actually clicking on these links?
The same goes for article spinning or keyword stuffing. No real users would read a text that is poorly written.
Search engines might give you a temporary boost for your website but search engines are also a lo smarter than you think.
They pick up on these sneaky methods rather quickly and get rid of your site.
So before you go off and go full metal jacket on black hat SEO methods, have a look at 8 of the most common, yet highly risky methods described here.
You’ll notice that not only are some (if not all) of these methods incredibly frustrating and annoying for the person being affected, it can actually damage their website too.
If I were to accept these comments for instance, it looks like a website no one takes care off and full of spam.
Additionally the links I’m giving juice to are completely irrelevant to my content so the bots will downgrade my website as well.
In some cases these methods are used to ruin competitor websites and thus gaining a higher rank for your personal site.
The Choice Is Yours
Overall I think it becomes evident that grey hat SEO techniques are technically legal but they can easily become black hat. If you don’t see why, scroll up again and look at the mentioned methods.
Now I can imagine some of you are really intrigued about getting your hands on these grey methods, even if it’s just for informational use.
Here is a good list of these but please keep in mind that I personally prefer to play by the rules.
I just couldn’t be bothered with losing it all in a few years time because I was lazy and looked for a shortcut.
Some of these I don’t even consider as grey hat methods.
For instance sharing your own content is absolutely fine. After all that’s what social media is for and I’m pretty sure Google wants you to share your content.
Of course that doesn’t mean you should spam the hell out of it and share the same link over and over again!
However some people argue that grey hat is the same as black hat.
I actually disagree with that argument but at the same time it’s easy to see why you could assume that.
Unless you’re not playing by the rules, you’re breaking them and automatically fall into the dark side of hats. If you want to know my opinion, I think it’s actually good to take risks in life.
But when it comes to building a sustainable business, I don’t see why you should risk it after putting so much work to it.
Using grey hat methods still require a lot of work and although you may spend two thirds of the time you’d spend using white hat methods, you’re still investing a lot of time.
Wouldn’t you be really annoyed if all that hard work suddenly vanished?
Having said that, I know it gets really frustrating working hard on something for months and not seeing anything in return. But believe me that the results will come.
Take my site as an example. Every time I doubt myself, I look back at the progress I’ve been making and realize, that I am consistently making money although I was a complete newbie just a few months ago.
It is very rare that quality doesn’t get picked up by search engines.
Additionally there are so many ways and techniques you can use for SEO, so you don’t have any excuse of saying you didn’t know what to do.
Having said that, there are some super affiliates, who make a wonderful living using questionable tactics in the grey area.
If you take a look at the 7 step process for a profitable Amazon niche site by Doug Cunnington, you’ll see that he uses PBN’s.
Having followed his blog for a while I can tell you he’s making great profits and has been for years.
He also sells off websites occasionally which keeps him clear from worrying of the site being banned by search engines.
In the end it is up to you and the choices you want to make. No one can force you what method to use but search engines can force how long your sites will survive.
So what are your thoughts on the different SEO tactics? Have you had annoying experiences or do you prefer having a quick income and move onto the next project?
Share your thoughts below and let me know if you have any more questions!