You have probably heard the saying, “Not everything in life is black and white. Sometimes, the best parts are grey.”
Well, some parts of that are TRUE in SEO and link building.
In other words, it’s not always “white hat links” or “black hat links.” There are grey areas in between the two: the grey hat links.
In SEO, however, the best parts are never “grey.”
So, does that mean grey hat links and link building are just as BAD as black hats?
So, are grey hat links as GOOD as white hats?
What are grey hat links? Are they GOOD or BAD?
This article will give you closure. Here, we shall discuss grey hat links at length: if they are good or not, and how to build them for SEO boost.
Let’s get to it!
What Is Grey Hat Link Building?
Grey hat link building is not white hat; neither is it black hat. Instead, it combines the two techniques to game Google search rankings.
In other words, when you build grey hat links, you are doing “white hats” partly and finishing it up with “black hats.”
For example, let’s say you promote your content on social media (white hat). Afterward, you bought comments and reactions to boost its performance (black hat).
Grey Hat Vs. White Hat
Unfortunately, differentiating “white hats” from “grey hats” is not straightforward. The best thing we can do is to list the top white hat techniques and explain how grey hats differ.
Here are the top white hat techniques:
- Content marketing and link building — grey hats would rather buy links en masse than provide REAL value through guest posting and relationship building.
- Forum posts and comments — grey hats don’t offer valuable advice. They only care about inserting links.
- Social media promotion — grey hats pay for “comments and likes” instead of building communities.
As we did with “white hat,” we’ll compare “black hat” with “grey hat” using its top techniques.
Here are some of the top black hat techniques:
- Link farms and PBNs — grey hats don’t build links on dump sites actively. They would buy from them.
- Hacking sites — grey hats might be crafty, but they are not “criminal hats.”
- Hidden links — grey hats don’t actively hide links. They would rather stuff their articles with keywords.
Further reading: What Are Black Hat Links?
As a rule, any shady technique that fast-tracks white hat link building is a grey hat.
However, if the said approach gets worsened to the point of hacking into websites to add backlinks, that’s no longer grey but black.
Whether grey or black hat, don’t use it to build links to your site. Stick to white hat techniques.
And that leads us to the most critical question in this article:
SEOs build grey hat links to their sites and clients’ businesses. And do they work?
You might even hear some SEOs say there are no 100% white hat links. Yet, pro link builders practice white hats and get consistent results.
Overall, grey hat links might not be as “bad” as black hats. But even at that, they are not “good” for your website.
If you build such links to your site, Google bots will soon discover you. And you might be penalized for that.
But what if you don’t know if you are using grey hat links already? Are there some examples to watch out for?
Yes. Check the top grey hat practices below!
Listing just the grey hat link building techniques won’t help you. We’ll do better by recommending the right thing (white hat) to do for each.
This technique often counts as a black hat because it is borderline malicious — though not as criminal as hacking. So, what does this entail?
SEOs will round up competitors of their money keywords. Afterward, they would send spammy links to their site — hoping that Google bots would act.
Funnily enough, this hack doesn’t even work anymore. The bots can see through it.
Nevertheless, “malicious SEO” is still practiced. But it should be discouraged. Don’t hire anyone who uses this technique.
What should you do instead of “malicious SEO”?
Understandably, you want to topple your competitors. Sending spammy links won’t get you that. They (the competitors) could do the same to you.
So, do better by building a head-on white hat SEO campaign. Build on low-hanging keywords and channel the traffic to your money pages.
Like PBN, SEOs use expired domains to generate grey hat links. The only difference now is that they (the SEOs) don’t necessarily boost the domain with new articles or hide it.
So, how does this technique work?
SEOs look for expired domains with tons of traffic. Now, they use the “301 redirect” to funnel all that ranking juice to their site or clients’ businesses.
Unfortunately, the method works. However, it doesn’t last.
Instead of building backlinks from expired domains, do this:
- Find the backlink profiles of your competitors
- Check if any of the sources are still accepting guest posts
- Offer to write for them
Also read: What Are PBN Backlinks?
Note: while guest posting and inserting backlinks, follow the editorial instructions. Limit the number of backlinks to what the site instructed.
Buying links for link building has always been a tricky area. Here is how:
- High-traffic and authority sites would ask for payment for guest/sponsored posts unless you were interviewed.
- On the other hand, some sites “only” sell links. They don’t care about the quality of your articles.
Now, the first part is not a grey hat. The payment was not made for the link. Often, the links in such sponsored posts are not to money pages.
Overall, buying links from sites that sell them are grey hats — albeit passively. Either passively or actively, this technique is “bad.”
What should you do?
- You don’t necessarily need to guest post on sites that ask for more money than your budget.
- Guest posts on blogs and sites that are actively growing. They are often free. Plus, these sources will appreciate your input.
Now, we will move away from the STRONG grey hat technique. Below are the standard forms.
This is another one of the commonly used grey hat techniques. Like “malicious SEO,” keyword stuffing doesn’t work.
Perhaps this technique was a thing years back before several Google algorithm updates. Now, the bots can sniff any stuffing and not rank your article as you had hoped.
Google bots aside, stuffing your content with keywords is a let-off for readers. The content will be unnatural and confusing.
Worse case: your site’s bounce rate will increase. That would also affect your SEO rankings.
So, what should you do instead of keyword stuffing?
- For money pages: only use keywords where necessary. Focus on marketing your services and authority.
- For blog posts: write comprehensive and practical articles. The more value you offer, the more keywords will fit into your content naturally — even without trying.
sharing your content and guest posts via your social media profiles is 100% okay. In fact, that strategy is a white hat.
Also, there are no limits to the networks you can share the content. You can use all of them — Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, etc.
The only issue with social shares is when you create false accounts to increase your reactions. This hack is a grey hat.
So, what should you do?
- Learn social writing — what captions, hashtags, and summaries get the most shares.
- Encourage your friends, family, and followers to share your content.
- Organise trivia occasionally to reward the highest shades.
This grey hat technique is often more pronounced among local SEOs – especially location content.
Instead of creating different content for each city of operation, SEOs will only replace the old with a new one.
In other words, you’ll find duplicate content across all cities of operation. The only difference will be the name.
Unfortunately, many sites are ranking well despite using this technique. However, that would soon be discovered by Google.
Google aside, prospects will likely think you’re lazy in duplicating content. They might not want to work for you.
The way out: write unique content for each of the cities.
This technique is just as lazy as using duplicate content. It requires running your existing content through AI tools.
The tool will spin the content and rewrite it. But the result is not always perfect.
Besides, spinning an article does not mean it won’t sound exactly like the former. Often, the tools only interchange words with their synonyms. And that can make your content meaningless and with no direction.
What is the way out?
- Hire experts to update or rewrite your content.
- If you must use AI writers, use the RIGHT command. More importantly, edit the end result.
Grey hat links are not 100% ineffective. Some SEOs get results with them.
However, you should ask yourself what you want. Do you prefer “short-term results” over “long-term results”?
Your answer will likely be no. In that case, grey hat links won’t help you.