There’s a fine line between black hat and white hat SEO techniques, and that’s what is commonly known as grey hat SEO.
While white hat abides completely to Google’s webmaster guidelines, attempting to produce valuable and quality content in order to rank better, black hat SEO does the complete opposite, instead using techniques which go against those guidelines in an attempt to influence and sway the algorithm into making their result appear higher in the search engine results pages (SERPs).
So, where does that leave grey hat? Well not too much is known about grey hat SEO, except that it involves practices which neither adhere nor go against Google’s webmaster guidelines. However, these techniques could be seen as dubious or having the potential to cause you problems in the future. And with that being said, why do some marketers still insist on using grey and black hat methods?
Although it’s common knowledge in the SEO world that value and quality reign supreme when it comes to getting to those all-important top positions, if some SEO professionals aren’t getting their desired results, then many are tempted by black and grey hat marketing. Regardless of who swears by it, we’re unconvinced and rumor has it that Google will be cracking down on those SEO professionals who attempt to influence algorithms in the coming months before the new decade begins.
That being said, we pose the question: is it viable to employ any techniques now which will become useless or harmful to you in 2020? No, as it’ll be a complete drain on your time and resources. Instead, now is the time to start cleaning up your SEO practices to ensure you’re putting your best foot forward as we approach 2020. In this article, we’ll be talking you through all of the grey hat SEO techniques you’ll want to avoid having in your SEO strategy.
Grey Hat Marketing Practices to Stop Using
Firstly, how do you know if you are inadvertently carrying out grey hat SEO practices? A good start would be to assess your current SEO strategy. Make sure that you are not employing any of the following methods – and if you are, you should focus on eliminating them before 2020 or right now if you can.
1. Keyword Stuffing
Keyword stuffing is a marketing tactic that was used many years ago when SEO was still very new.
Creating pages and pages of content jam-packed with search phrases and keywords would get a website noticed by Google – at least, that was a general idea that people had. Everything has since changed. Google’s algorithm updates such as Florida, Panda and Hummingbird have advanced the search results to such an extent that it can now tell when content is written with genuine intentions (to provide value to the consumer) or simply to stuff keywords.
Nowadays, it’s increasingly challenging to use keyword stuffing for boosting search engine rankings, and implementing keyword stuffing techniques can see your website content demoted or even penalized.
2. Going Overboard with H1 Titles on the Page
H1 headings are the most essential headers on a page and usually contain the main target keyword for optimization purposes.
The average page of content normally contains just one H1 title, or a few more if the content creator sees fit; however, some website owners and grey hat marketers use more than one just for the keyword stuffing opportunity. Although John Mueller confirmed that Google doesn’t pay attention to how many H1 tags you use, multiple over-optimized H1 titles on the page disrupt the structure of the page and appear spammy to Google. For best practices use H1 tags minimally where you see fit without disrupting the flow or structure of your content.
3. Content Spinning
There are various programs and applications online that you can insert a page of content into, hit the spin button, and then the article sentences are shuffled around and reorganized.
The result is expected to be a new article that has none of the same word sequences as the original article. However, most of the free software tools do not do an outstanding job, and the final result ends up nonsensical or jam-packed with sentence construction errors. Still, people wishing to push out a lot of content quickly make use of content spinning programs.
All of your content should be new and fresh. Google algorithms are smart enough to check out when content is of poor quality and will flag content that it recognizes as most likely spun.
4. Duplicating Content
If you keep generating and duplicating the same material with just a few words changed here and there, you are going to suffer significantly when it comes to rankings.
Duplicate content is considered plagiarism, and even if you are copying content from yourself (self-plagiarism) internally on your site, this doesn’t look good in the eyes of Google. Instead, you should take measures to ensure that each meta title, description and piece of copy on your website is unique and isn’t featured anywhere else on the web. If you are unsure if your content has been featured anywhere else, you can run your content through a duplicate content or plagiarism checker.
5. Negative Competitor SEO
Many businesses set out to destroy their competitor’s reputation instead of working on their own SEO strategy. Many negative SEO campaigns will involve leaving false reviews, making fake online complaints and creating backlinks to their website from low-quality or spammy sites.
If this is part of your marketing strategy, then it is strongly advised that you stop. Instead, start focusing your personal attention on your own campaign and how you can improve it instead of relying on the decline of your competitors.
6. Brand Copycatting
Have you ever typed in the name of a brand, clicked on the website result and been taken to a website that is not that brand at all? That is because of brand copycatting, which is a relatively infamous grey hat SEO practice.
A grey hat marketer would register a website with the same name or very similar name to a particular brand within their industry, and then they steal the traffic that the brand generates. With the traffic that you receive from brand copycatting and the effort that it takes to carry it out, it’s by far a more ethical and better use of your resources to put that time into creating and building your own brand.
7. Creating Blogging Networks
Blogging Networks are where bloggers or businesses bus a variety of blogs to position themselves as an industry authority. All these blogs that have been created will point back to the same domain.
Instead of boosting your authority as you would typically expect with link building, blogging networks or PBNs as they are also commonly known can be severely detrimental to the overall health of your site if Google suspects that you’re using PBNs. It’s a lot more beneficial to acquire links naturally, which would be a much better use of your time and resources.
8. A Switcheroo
Have you ever visited a blog that you visited before, and suddenly it has become a commercial page selling a product? This is often referred to as bait and switch marketing.
This type of marketing involves working on a standard page’s SEO until it receives a good ranking and then suddenly converting it to a commercial page or using a 301 redirect. However, as there becomes more of an emphasis on dwell time and bounce rates to rank content, Google will soon realize that your page isn’t providing your users with value and eventually your traffic will tail off.
While grey hat SEO practices have certainly helped some digital marketers get ahead in the past, it is a good idea to keep in mind the nature of Google and how it has cracked down on poor or harmful SEO practices and pave the way for your future. You might be getting away with it now, but how long can that last?
Your best chance of a long-lasting and highly effective SEO marketing campaign is to employ techniques that can be considered “evergreen” and produce high-quality, valuable content with Google and your customers in mind.