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Grey Hat SEO Techniques: Should You Use Them? – Positionly Blog


In my last post, we discussed white hat SEO and why it’s the best way to approach driving traffic to a site and obtaining a good ranking in the SERPs. We touched briefly on black hat and why it’s a dangerous practice that is likely to get a site plummeting down the ranks, but what about grey hat SEO?

What is Grey Hat SEO?

It is what its name suggests. It’s somewhere in the middle of white and black and, if used by a professional, can still be effective. However, it’s safe to say that taking a grey-hat approach is playing with fire if you’re not 100% sure of what you’re doing, and since we’re predominantly content-led now, it’s not something I would recommend.

Grey hat consists of techniques such as:

  • Cloaking
  • Purchasing old domains
  • Duplicate content
  • Link buying
  • Social media automation and purchasing followers

Let’s look at each of these in turn.


Cloaking is a practice that shows the user a different result than it does the search engine. For Google, it’s considered to be a high-risk practice that violates its rules. I would put cloaking in the black hat category, and many would agree, but the jury’s still out in certain parts of the SEO community where it actually falls.

As you can see from Matt Cutt’s video, cloaking is not something that he or Google bots approve of. Cloaking can be achieved by altering meta information so that it doesn’t reflect the content and tampering with the IP address of a site.

Doorway pages can also be considered a form of cloaking and are large sets of pages that are each optimized for a keyword or phrase in order to direct the user to one site. Again, they are designed to manipulate bots and trick users into visiting a place they didn’t intend to. These can also be multiple pages on the same place that have keywords such as locations so that the site can take advantage of as many keywords as possible.

Old Domains

The web is a font of old domains that have been abandoned, and those that the owners don’t use much, and these are often used as a way to create backlinks in order to improve rankings. Generally, these tend to be authoritative domains so that the link appears to be of good quality.

Duplicate Content

Content, content. It’s the kingpin of the internet and all SEO efforts. We mentioned text spinners before, and while a small proportion of these can be effective, it’s still a very dodgy idea to use them. To illustrate, I’m going to take some of the text from this article and put it into a free online text spinner to show you the results.

In my last post, we talked about white cap SEO and why it’s the ideal approach to drive the movement to a site and acquire a great standing in the SERPs. We touched quickly on dark cap and why it’s an unsafe practice that is prone to get a place falling down the ranks; however, shouldn’t we think about ash cap SEO?

As you can see, I’ve taken the first paragraph and put it into a spinner, and it really doesn’t do the job. In fact, it’s laughable. It’s also something that Google algorithms would recognize and push down the rankings due to grammatical errors.

Now, while this is a free spinner, you can get paid ones that do a slightly better job, but you’re better off investing in a professional content writer if you haven’t the time or skill to do it yourself.

In the interests of science, I signed up for a paid text spinner, which gives you the option of rewarding yourself.

For a package that costs $47pm, I’d rather rewrite it myself if I were that way inclined, as it’s hardly difficult. However, you can proceed to the next step, which allows you to let the software do the work for you. here are the results:

In my last post, we discussed white hat Search Engine Optimization and why it’s the most effective method to move toward driving website traffic and acquiring a great rank in the SERPs. We touched briefly on black hat and why it’s a hazardous practice that is likely to cause a website to drop down the classes, but just what concerning grey hat Search Engine Optimization?

While it’s better quality than the free spinner, it still has its problems and is something that I wouldn’t be happy appearing on my site. The paid version allows you to check that the content is unique via a Copyscape API, but that won’t overcome the grammatical errors that Google will pick up.

I haven’t included any links to these spinners; they are easy enough to find if you feel the need to use them.

Purchasing Links

One word of advice: don’t. If you get found out, you will get a penalty; it’s as simple as that, and all of the investment you have put into your site will be worth zero. However, you can list your site on relevant industry directories as this is approved.

There have been a lot of scare stories relating to guest posting, and if this constitutes buying links, but if no cash is exchanged, then this is irrelevant. However, links can be exchanged for sponsorship of events (for example), and this is OK too.

Social Media Automation and Buying Followers

By social automation, I’m not talking about using tools such as Hootsuite or Buffer to schedule posts. These are legitimate tools that help to save time when you’re managing multiple accounts.

However, you can get other tools that auto-follow and unfollow 1000s of social media users without you lifting a finger for as little as a fiver for 5,000. This is one of the few here that can be called strictly grey hat as it’s not made it to Google’s blocklist yet, possibly as social signals are only just becoming important to search engines.

Buying followers may seem like a great idea to make it look like you’re in with the crowd, but all it actually means is no engagement and the risk of infecting any true followers with malware in some instances. There are no positives to it, and it’s easy to tell those who have, as they have a Twitter following filled with faceless profiles. Organically obtaining a following isn’t necessarily an overnight affair, but it’s worth it in the end.

What does all this mean?

Some SEO companies use grey hat tactics, but the best ones don’t. The short-term advantage, much like a black hat (and many of these tactics overlap with a black hat), doesn’t make for a long-term business. While grey hat might gain you some traffic initially, it won’t last, especially if you get caught out.

Let’s look at the possible advantages:



Surge in traffic to a site

Short term

Possibility of beating competitors to a sale

Google Penalties

In essence, with modern content marketing and SEO, white hat wins out. The web is highly competitive, we all know that, and so in order to ‘beat the system’, the best way is to work with it and invest in the future of your site.

Like anything in life, taking shortcuts to get you where you want to be right now is often the path to failure. Great SEO, good content, and a well-planned business are what will give your site a competitive edge in the end.

And, if possible, a large budget!