What is grey hat SEO? I'm not sure what it is. Please give me description of grey hat SEO.


Grey Hat SEO is where someone may violate the rules around SEO such as Google's webmaster guidelines but doesn't do it maliciously. In other words they have violated the rules but didn't do it with the intent of deliberately violating the rules.

Grey Hat SEO isn't a term commonly used as more often than not what is technically grey hat SEO is simply someone doing something that they have been misinformed on and have thought is acceptable practice for optimizing a website. The end result of Black Hat SEO and Grey Hat SEO is much the same, but where black hat SEO is deliberately done for an improved search engine ranking knowing that the practice is a violation, grey hat's don't realise what they are doing is a violation and will often fix the issue when they are informed that what they are doing is a violation.

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  • Black hat SEO is practices that search engines don't allow.
  • White hat SEO is practices that search engines do allow.
  • Gray hat refers to when the rules are unclear. Areas in which you suspect the search engines might not be happy with what you are doing, but the search engines haven't said anything about it specifically.

Lets take hiding text as an example:

  • Black hat: Inserting non-relevant keywords into the page and changing the font color of them to match the background color so users don't see them.
  • White hat: Putting keywords into a tab that is initially hidden but showing the tab when the user clicks on it.
  • Gray hat: Placing keywords below the fold and then making it such that most users interact with the page in such a way that the keywords get hidden before they scroll that far.

Google has long said that they black hat case is against the Google Webmaster Guidelines. Google has also said that hiding text initially is fine as long as it is meant for users and they can interact with the page to see it. The gray hat case hasn't specifically been addressed by Google, but you could imagine that in some situations Google might penalize for it.

In some cases gray hat practices become black hat as search engines address more issues in their guidelines. An example might be link exchanges. Buying or spamming links has long been black hat, but Google only created a guideline against link exchanges relatively recently.

Google has some general policies in their webmaster guidelines:

  • Make pages primarily for users, not for search engines.
  • Don't deceive your users.
  • Avoid tricks intended to improve search engine rankings. A good rule of thumb is whether you'd feel comfortable explaining what you've done to a website that competes with you, or to a Google employee. Another useful test is to ask, "Does this help my users? Would I do this if search engines didn't exist?"
  • Think about what makes your website unique, valuable, or engaging. Make your website stand out from others in your field.

The gray hat areas are generally where you do something for search engines that also has some user benefit.

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