With all of the recent Google changes, I wonder how much longer the gray area of SEO will last…
Gone are the days of keyword stuffing and doorway pages. Those black hat techniques are nowhere to be found. But, what about gray hat techniques?
Some SEOs identify gray hat techniques as strategies that are not black hat, but may not be “Google-approved.”
Can anyone really define gray hat? Even with Google’s terms, every SEO has a different interpretation of gray hat and some say it does not exist at all.
According to the Bruce Clay SEO blog, gray hat has been defined as:
- Techniques that are somewhat deceptive yet not specifically disallowed by search engines’ published guidelines – but may someday be.
- Black Hat techniques used for legitimate, non-deceptive purposes, or techniques whose legitimacy depends entirely on the intent of the webmaster.
- Techniques that search engines disapprove of, but won’t (or can’t) penalize your site for using.
- John Andrews defines Gray Hat as “techniques which remain ill-defined by all that published material coming out of Google, and for which reasonable people … could disagree on how the tactics support or contrast with the ‘spirit’ of Google’s published guidelines.”
Are gray hat techniques simply white hat techniques that are not understood? Are they really black hat techniques clothed as permissible?
Grey hat has also been defined as the instance when webmasters are unaware of the tactics that are against Google’s terms, but use them anyway. But does the webmaster’s level of knowledge really change the color of the hat? I’m not buying this one.
As you can see, there is a lot of conflicting information about this. I surmise that Google would see it as a black and white issue, but one will never know for sure. When it comes to breaking the rules, it’s hard to find gray areas.
Death to Link Networks
With the recent link network shakedowns, I wonder if the death to gray hat may be more of a reality than we think.
The newest Google updates are cracking down on blog networks that sell services allowing webmasters to gain more links. Link networks charge a fee for allowing you to publish content with links attached on their blogs.
Blog networks have been around for years, but until recently there hasn’t been much action from Google. Google was active last year in penalizing websites for paid links. JcPenney and Overstock.com had their hands slapped on a number of occasions. So this is not a new issue.
Google is trying to remove any site that attempts to manipulate rankings. A couple of weeks ago, the popular link network, Authority Link Network, saw 25% of its blogs de-indexed. And Build My Rank had to close its doors indefinitely after Google de-indexed ALL of its blogs! I discuss this in the recent article: Don’t Put All of Your Eggs in the Google Basket
Interestingly, some SEOs categorize link networks as gray hat while others would argue they are black hat. Essentially, the blog networks are selling links, which according to Google is a no-no.
I guess we will never really know if gray hat is dead because a unified definition is nowhere to be found. And to some it doesn’t exist at all. How can you kill something that doesn’t exist?
Time will tell how this will all play out. The best strategy a website can implement is to share and post valuable content and do everything they can within Google’s terms to get their sites in front of more eyeballs.
How do you define gray hat SEO?