Gray Hat SEO Tactics

Amanda DiSilvestro differentiates between white, gray and black hat practices of search engine optimization.

Gray Hat Search Engine Optimization Johnny DeppSearch engine optimization (SEO) is an extremely important factor when it comes to marketing and increasing the visibility of a brand. It seems that some people will do anything to find their website at the top of a search engine results page (SERP), so Google has continually been forced to crack down on what the industry called “black hat SEO tactics.” Naturally, since black hat tactics are forbidden, white hat SEO tactics are what the industry refers to as a correct SEO approach. Consider below some of the white hat tactics and black hat tactics:

White Hat SEO Tactics

Black Hat SEO Tactics


  • Internal Linking: Link to your own webpages through content on your site.
  • Content Creation: Create original content for your website.
  • Guest Posting: Offer valuable content in exchange for a link back to your site.
  • Keyword Research: This will help ensure that you are targeting quality keywords that are relevant to your content/site.


  • Keyword Stuffing: Placing a large number of irrelevant keywords onto the page.
  • Hidden Text: When text/keywords are the same color as the background. Search engines see it; readers do not.
  • Doorway Pages: Pages added only to target a keyword.
  • Cloaking: Presenting different information to the search engines through Meta tags/descriptions.


Being that Google likes to keep SEO experts on their toes, the line between black and white hat tactics can get a bit blurry. Of course, these are called “gray hat tactics.” Gray hat tactics should generally not be used, but in certain situations it may benefit a company to utilize these types of tactics and it is therefore considered ethical. Consider below some of the gray hat tactics and when they are appropriate to use:

Gray Hat SEO Tactics


  • Duplicate Content: This is considered ethical on a resource site or a site that has permission. A resource site is simply an index of articles on a specific subject matter, so this can be of value to readers. Some sites also link back to the site where the article was originally published and asked permission before republishing. This is considered a good way to spread content across the web.
  • Cloaking: If your site is image based, it may be necessary to create content for the search engines that a user cannot see. This also works if your site has a “members only” area where only a certain number of people can see specific content (you may want the search engines to see the content, but not users).
  • Paid Links: It is okay to pay for links for advertising purposes only. However, it is not ethical to purchase links for link-popularity. If you want links for link-popularity, you must offer quality content either through guest posting or by natural links earned.
  • Automated Social Media: Some websites send users an automatic message when connecting via social media. Although search engines will not dock a company for this, it’s considered more annoying than anything.



The large majority of companies do not use gray hat SEO tactics because they are not necessary. Most companies can get by just fine using white hat SEO tactics and staying away from gray hat tactics. The only time your company may need to walk the fine gray line is if you are trying to be a directory site or if you are an image based site that needs to give search engines a little push.

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Amanda DiSilvestro is a writer on topics ranging from social media to starting a small business. She writes for an online resource that gives advice on topics including document software to small businesses and entrepreneurs for the leading business directory,