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With the many changes, Google applies with recent broad core algorithm updates, it’s getting more difficult to rank using spammy tactics. It’s a no-brainer that people should wear white hats and ditch the black hats.
Yes, Google’s algorithm is stricter now. If you want to rank, you should follow Google’s guidelines and stick with it. However, it is arguable that there are still strategies outside of Google’s guidelines that people still consider doing.
This practice is called Gray Hat SEO.
What is Gray Hat SEO?
Gray hat SEO is a set of techniques and strategies that don’t generally adhere to Google’s guidelines but can still be considered acceptable. It is the middle ground between White Hat and Black Hat SEO. It is technically legal, but risky.
Does it work? Are there risks?
Yes, Gray Hat SEO could work for you if done the right way. It is generally not recommended to use some of these techniques because they have a manipulative nature like black hat SEO but in essence does not violate Google’s guidelines. Because of that, there are still risks of getting penalized by Google. But when done the right way, you could reap benefits similar to white hat SEO strategies.
Gray hat SEO is more common that what you think. Link building for example. Google recommends getting links organically. Publish great content and get people to link to your content. In a perfect world, that would work just fine. But in reality, you would still need to pull out some stuff from your bag of tricks and get some links to your new content.
So the question is: is gray hat still worth doing in 2019?
My answer would be yes, but as mentioned, with moderation and proper execution. Here are some gray hat SEO techniques that people are still doing.
In Gray Hat SEO, Domain Grabbing is the process of buying expired domains and linking it to your website. This practice is popular for those who want to improve their backlink profiles fast and easy and accelerate the process of ranking.
Usually, domain grabbing involves buying old domains that already have good backlink profiles and established authority. This strategy works best if the old content of the old domains is relevant to your website’s niche. But if you plan on buying random domains without checking if their link profiles are good, it could do more harm to your website.
The process is pretty simple; check if the expired domain has good backlinks using Ahrefs, buy the domain, then do a 301 redirect of the whole domain to your website.
Link Building in Web 2.0 Sites
Today, most of the websites on the internet are what we call Web 2.0 sites. These are websites where users have the ability to collaborate with the webmasters. These are websites that are driven by its community.
So why is link building in web 2.0 sites considered gray hat? For Google, links where users have the control of its approval, anchor text, placement, etc. is unethical. However, the purpose of Web 2.0 sites is collaboration and reward people who contribute by allowing them to link out to their own websites or resources.
Examples of Web 2.0 are Wikipedia, Quora, Medium, WikiHow, and Reddit. When done right, it could help establish expertise in your niche and could contribute to your website’s overall E-A-T.
The best way to go about these types of websites is to genuinely contribute. Take answering questions seriously, contribute valuable and factual content, and never ever spam and leave keyword-rich anchor texts around.
Social bookmarking websites are places that allow users to submit and share their content for promotion and bookmark other content that fits their interest for later reading. Websites like Folkd and Mix (formerly StumbleUpon) are popular because not only can you dump your links around but could also get some referral traffic.
Social bookmarking sites won’t hurt your website generally since they typically give out nofollow links. Social bookmarking is actually a good way of promoting new content. A good measure would sign up for 2 or 3 sites. The thing that makes social bookmarking acceptable is that you still need content for it to work.
But just like any SEO strategy, there are some who abuse it. There are social bookmarking websites that are built solely for dumping links and these are the ones you should watch out for.
Link exchanges have been around ever since Google announced PageRank in 1998. Webmasters started to realize that they could easily grow their link profiles faster if they start exchanging links with each other.
Generally, link exchanges are fine. If both webmasters have content related to each other, why not link to each other as resources right? It is when people abuse this strategy that it goes bad. To Google, the most ideal way of getting a link is organic, people read your content, people like your content, people link to your content and it makes sense.
Having friends or partner webmasters is good and sharing some link juice is nice. But if you and your friends are linking to each other with each and every post you publish, then you have a problem.
Guest blogging or guest posting has been around for a long time and it is probably one of the most common SEO techniques that are still being used. The main purpose of guest blogging is actually great. Create partnerships with other webmasters and contribute content to their audience. It is a great way of building good links and to promote yourself.
However, there are some instances where guest blogging can be a gray hat SEO technique rather than a white hat SEO technique.
There are tons of websites that were only made to be guest blogging websites and is just used to pass on domain authority. Guest posts with excessive linking and spammy anchor texts are discouraged too.
When doing guest blogging, focus on contributing to a website that has value and it is easy to identify the ones that have value to the ones that don’t. Don’t do guest blogging for the sole purpose of getting a backlink. Do your best to provide valuable information to the website’s audience.
There are a lot more gray hat SEO techniques and come to think of it, a lot of SEO techniques that are being practiced today are somehow gray hat in nature. I won’t recommend that you follow gray hat techniques but if you do, remember to do it with moderation and caution.
Gray hat SEO is not for those who want to take risks. If you are not one to take blows from Google, then sticking to white hat would be better. In my opinion, gray hat would do better when done along white hat SEO.