Why do people use Gray Hat SEO

General information about Gray Hat SEO

Gray Hat SEO is the search engine optimization with the gray hat, which moves between White Hat SEO and Black Hat SEO in terms of its methods and thus seriousness. But while there is a lot of discussion about these two variants, the terminology is the Gray Hat SEO less familiar, which we perceive as a shortcoming. This is because it is the most frequently used form of search engine optimization. Why is that? Well, flawless white hat SEO is rare because it isn't always successful. Absolutely “black” SEO does not exist at all, or only for a short time, because the search engine operators punish the relevant pages very quickly with a penalty. They ban them to lower ranks in the SERPs or from the index altogether. What remains a priority for marketers is "gray hat SEO", which stays below the penalty threshold, but sometimes has a slight taste.

Gray Hat SEO: Limits

How someone rates Gray Hat SEO is a matter of perception. Very serious optimizers sometimes consider this variant of search engine optimization to be borderline. The black sheep among marketers, on the other hand, who are too happy to use black hat methods but only promote very fast-moving and short-term projects, smile at the efforts behind Gray Hat SEO. This is used because the optimizer actually wants to work seriously, if only to avoid being penalized by Google & Co. He also wants to position pages sustainably, which is hardly possible with Black Hat SEO. Thirdly, he wants to work completely legally out of inner conviction. But in an absolutely competitive market, pure white SEO can have no chance. There are many such markets that are serious in themselves:

  • Fashion
  • Food
  • Automobiles
  • Craftsman services
  • entertainment
  • Construction
  • Electrical engineering
  • Hi-Fi
  • domestic appliances
  • Etc.
The list goes on and on for a long time. We deliberately do not mention financial services including loan brokerage, stock brokers, dating or recruiting, used car dealerships, car scrapping and other semi-silly businesses that Black Hat SEO goes very well with. Many “advisory services” are also not worth the second you take a look and then immediately shrug your shoulders away. But anyone who is now on one of the reputable markets mentioned is exposed to very fierce competition. The corresponding marketing in the search engine then almost always uses methods of Gray Hat SEO - otherwise the company has almost no chance. The marketers themselves, their competitors (who do not do anything else) and we market observers find this borderline.

Would you like an example?

Gray Hat SEO relies on massive blogging, among other things. Let's say someone wants to sell household appliances. He promotes washing machines for a certain period of time and therefore puts extensive comparison and test pages on the Internet, from which he links to the sales pages in order to earn a little as an affiliate from the click of customers. After his first really successful test pages (optimized according to all the rules of the white hat SEO art), he found that they simply could not hold their own at the top of Google. Why is that? Well, countless other young people had the same idea as him. There were a whopping 7.33 million search results for the search term washing machine test in mid-December 2018. If you read this post later, look under the link to see how many results are up-to-date.

It makes sense to all of us that it is pure lottery to achieve a coveted top spot (around 1 to 5) in the Google SERPs among so many search results. So what does our optimizer do that finds it useful to compare washing machines? He publishes countless blogs and lets authors write about every imaginable washing machine: front loaders and top loaders, large and small machines, very energy-efficient machines, machines from Bosch, Siemens, AEG, Bauknecht, Gorenje, Samsung, Beko, Costway, LG, Haier, Miele and and and ... The optimizer builds blog pyramids: It links from 1,000 blog posts to 100 to 10 on a main page. That works, but where does our hard-working affiliate get all the content from? Well, product descriptions are being redundantly rewritten by persevering authors at a rapid pace in order to obtain supposedly unique content.

The mediating text agencies and Google let this spinning go halfway, but here at the latest we have reached Gray Hat SEO. It's actually spam, because who needs the 100,000th description of one and the same washing machine? But the intention of the optimizer in honor: It doesn't hurt anyone to read something about washing machines (unlike about loans without Schufa, such texts are pure rip-offs). This example, which experts classify under "satellite sites", illustrates the principle of Gray Hat SEO very clearly.

Methods of Gray Hat SEO

The example of massive blogging described is the most widely used method of Gray Hat SEO. Other methods would be:

  • Guest articles in outreach sites: Outreach sites have an incredible reach. Anyone who manages to place an article there and link it to their own page can benefit greatly from this. Whether this is Gray Hat SEO cannot be precisely defined, because guest articles are not a bad thing in and of themselves. Some marketers even try to use Wikipedia for this, but articles there with purely commercial intentions do not last long.
  • Link buying from absolutely related pages: Link buying is actually a black hat method. If, however, the linked pages fit really well with your own page, i.e. there is real added value for the user in terms of content, then the measure falls more into the area of Horror hat SEO.
  • Web 2.0s: The terminology is a bit outdated, it was created at the beginning of the 2000s and was one of the first attempts with this form of search engine optimization. This means the intensive interaction with users in forums, which today mainly takes place in established social networks. User generated content (forum and social media posts) is very good for SEO. But if it is artificially forced, that is a measure of Gray Hat SEO.

Is this method dangerous?

Anyone who practices Gray Hat SEO practically never risks a penalty, because such actions (worthy of a penalty) are definitely part of Black Hat SEO. But over-optimized sites sometimes slip slowly in the SERPs. The optimizers have to watch this very closely. This type of optimization therefore requires a lot of expertise and attention.