What’s Grey Hat Optimization?
The short, concise definition of grey hat is that anything that you actively do to manipulate your websites search engine rankings is grey hat optimization.
Google especially, want their listings to be purely organic and consequently they are opposed to anyone attempting to improve their position in the listings.
If you do anything at all outside of Google best practice then you are a grey hat optimizer!
Think of grey hat optimization as speeding up the organic process. Rather than leaving your website to build popularity through pure organic growth, you build links to promote your site and help it’s traction.
Other than submitting your site to a few quality directories such as Dmoz and Yahoo, Google isn’t keen on link building as a strategy. They would prefer for you to wait for people to find you, like you and recommend you to their readers via a link.
In the real world, that process can take a long time to happen. For many sites and pages it never does.
Pure organic growth depends on the creation of great quality content that others want to reference. In many instances, someone will have already written a high quality piece covering your niche or an important element of it. Often this will already be seen by many as their reference resource, and consequently it will rank well.
To overcome this, you either need to create an even better resource and push it until it becomes the preferred choice of reference, or make your page more valuable and useful than that of your competitors.
Helping Quality Content To Rank
The best content to create consists of content that people will want to visit and use again. For example, tens of thousands of people link to http://www.majesticseo.com/ (just like we are here) because they provide a very good SEO tool for analysing back-links. The volume of their popularity has driven them to the top of the rankings for SEO related search terms.
The challenge you face is to apply this to your niche, business and website. What content can you create that people will value that highly?
Because of the obvious challenges involved with creating content that is highly valuable, many web masters dip their toes into ‘grey hat’ SEO to give their content an extra push.
If white hat SEO is limited to tagging up your content so that search engines can understand what your pages are about, grey hat moves things a step further by actively building quality links from valued resources.
If you create good content then this process will happen anyway given enough time. All you are doing (in our opinion) is accelerating the process to achieve the same result, a little faster.
There is an important distinction between grey hat and black hat SEO in that black hat involves practices such as ‘cloaking’, hidden text, redirects and others to actively mislead the search engines into ranking junk pages high in their listings.
We wouldn’t recommend pursuing this avenue as Google and the other major engines are getting much better at detecting black hat SEO and penalising your site. However, with every algorithm update, new ‘loopholes’ and anomalies appear and these are soon exploited by some black hat specialists.
The downside is that you will always be just one click away from a Google penalty. In the main, as soon as your site gets in front of volumes of traffic it will face closer inspection and then you run a very real risk of the Google slap.
Instead of living on such a precarious clifftop, grey hat SEO is an ongoing process of building a steady stream of quality links pointing to the pages of your site.
In our opinion, you still need to create good content because you need real people to find it useful.
If no one stays on your pages to read and absorb your content then you will be considered to be a lower quality page and rankings will drop accordingly.
You need real people to recommend your pages to their friends via their social media profiles, as well as having other website owners link to you.