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Be Careful Using Grey Hat SEO

SEO process

Since mid-2019 the news spread of Google’s position on nofollow, sponsored and UGC (user-generated content) tags on external links. For example, websites need to adhere to the update on using nofollow, sponsored and UGC on external links. We’ve adopted this practice in good faith while other sites may believe it still falls into the grey SEO zone.

Personally, we believe it’s a no-brainer that black hat SEO tactics are dead in the water and using grey hat is likely to get your site penalised. However, some grey hat strategies should be applied as they’re more likely to stay in the grey zone, e.g. updating existing blog content and sharing your revised articles with your social media followers.

Here is a quick review of the three hats of SEO, so you’re clear on what to avoid outright, what is best practices, and what tactics are risky.

Black Hat SEO

Here are some common actions still used today by naive and unscrupulous operators. Not all SEO experts have your best interests in mind. Proving their tactics shady or otherwise work is their focus, and they may be long gone before your website is tarnished by the activity.

Keyword stuffing, Poor Content, Blog Comment Spam

Do not overuse keywords in your content, this is a tactic commonly used by article copywriters. Repetition of phrases or a keyword in the content will be picked up by Google as the content will come across as unnatural, and most of all offer no value.

Poor quality content is high on the radar in the latest algorithm update, and it’s about time too. Content copywriters are using article spinning techniques, as well as scraping content from another site.

We fell victim to this activity where another site was scraping our articles as their own content for search ranking. Thankfully we used a free duplicate content checker and reported the offending website to their hosting provider.

Comments on your blog, in theory, are worthwhile for improving the ‘time spent online’ statistic in your website analytics; however, you need to manage them as spammers love to abuse them. Have you found unrelated website links, promotion and amoral content in your blog comments features?

Cleaning out comments can take a lot of time; however, no comment need to be visible on your site until you’ve moderated it. Plus you can use Google’s free reCAPTCHA to cut down on the spam.

Cloaking, Redirects, Misuse of Structured Data

HubSpot also mentions another devious ploy and that is ‘Cloaking’. This is a new one for us, however, in reading all about it, it’s easy to see how presenting different versions of the same content is dubious at best.

Also manipulating the URL redirects feature and misusing structured data are part of the suite of actions to put in the ‘do not use’ category.

There are plenty more tactics that will see your website drop in rankings. Therefore it’s very much ‘caveat emptor’ (buyer beware). Get familiar with best practices for SEO even if you have engaged an SEO professional remember your website is your responsibility.

White Hat SEO

All good things take time and when your website will do well in search engine ranking when you focus on its true purpose, as the front window to your business.

When we researched online for an adept definition, Webopedia confirmed our understanding insofar as it’s strategies that focus on the audience, not the search engines. So it’s that simple when you focus your content for your intended audience, it will show your expertise, knowledge and common interests.

Consider what you personally do when you view a video, image or read a blog post that provokes an emotion – you share it with your network of followers. More organic website visitors will result from quality over quantity content and remember Google is watching

Gray Hat SEO

There are quite a few SEO strategies that are considered grey hat, and it’s wise to proceed with caution. SEO Hacker says grabbing expired domains with reasonable authority is a common practice. The aim is to leverage their higher authority by adding a website link on the newly acquired domain and repeating the practice by acquiring lots of expired domains that are ideally relevant to your own site. Performing a 301 redirect to your website completes the process.

Social bookmarking is also considered a grey area of SEO though it’s debatable, as the starting point to sharing your content is that you need to first create it. Sharing links to your website content on social media sites, for example, is a good strategy.

The backlinks to your blog articles are nofollow on these social media sites. Therefore the conversion relies more on the quality of your social profile network and how engaged they are with you. Build up your presence in LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook (to name the most popular channels) and engage with them every day.

View your google analytics to measure the visitors from these referrers. Once again you won’t get immediate results, it takes a long time to build up the trust of followers, so they not only click through to your site but also recommend what you’ve shared to their networks.

Creating a profile on business listing sites like Crunchbase and LinkedIn is a good way of creating more organic traffic. And aim for more reviews, especially if your business relies on local custom. Positive reviews, from reputable sites, will grow your website traffic. Here is another caveat emptor moment, as Google will come down hard on you if you use ‘paid’ reviews to artificially inflate your ranking.

Summary

Use white hat SEO all the time and your business will shine through in time. Stay informed on Google’s algorithm updates, and when using SEO experts always seek to understand their recommended tactic and the risks so you can make informed choices on all things SEO.

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