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In this age of internet-powered interactions, creating a strong online presence has become highly prioritized by digital companies everywhere in the world. Realizing how it allows them to reach a wider audience, businesses have started building a solid foundation in terms of visibility across diverse online platforms.
Over time, these businesses gained from their use of social media accounts and created company websites. The more users visited their site, the higher the increase in their potential and acquired customers. As a result, this form of digital marketing is now becoming a powerful tool that SEO companies use to maximize the benefits that the World Wide Web offers.
When it comes to widely-used methods, search engine optimization strategies often stand out. With a goal of making your website rank high on search engine results pages, most SEO companies make use of several techniques to turn this objective into reality. Generally, they are classified into three types: White Hat SEO, Black Hat SEO, and Gray Hat SEO.
White, Black, or Gray
Improving search results for websites can be done in various approaches. Some digital agencies use White Hat SEO practices that stick by the rules and strictly follow guidelines created by search engine developers. White Hat SEO works mainly because search engines recognize the site developers’ aim of putting the user experience first and foremost. These include providing high-quality content, optimizing the site for mobile use, improving website speed, and a balanced use of keywords, among others.
On the other hand, others prefer to go beyond the limits and use Black Hat strategies to deceptively rise among the ranks. They use mainly unethical practices that aim to manipulate the search engines and trick them into making their website rank high. Aside from punishing them for clear disregard of rules, search engines penalize Black Hat SEO acts because they result in ultimately poor user experience.
As their name implies, the White Hat practices are allowed, and the ones under Black Hat are prohibited.
Gray Hat SEO steps in where the guidelines remain blurred. This means that while the technical practices under this SEO strategy are deemed effective in gaining website traffic, their ethical legitimacy remains questionable. In short, they may temporarily pass automated crawlers and help your website rank on SERPs, but there is a chance of getting penalized, once the rules change.
Trying out the gray area
Despite all this, SEO remains permissive of Gray Hat SEO use. This is because the technique—like Black Hat SEO— evidently produces faster results (compared to White Hat SEO), minus the outright prohibition. Some examples of Gray Hat SEO practices include:
Search engines, such as Google, advise site developers to avoid duplicate content. And the highly similar ones that are proven to be deceptive and manipulative in nature are penalized. They either rank the copying page low on the SERPs or completely refuse to display them as part of the search results. As an alternative, some creative agencies that practice Gray Hat SEO turned to article spinning. They do this in many ways. The spun article may be a product of an automated content spinner. It may also be done manually with some writers or companies hired to paraphrase sentences or paragraphs, making slight variations to the original one.
Repurposing expired domains
Abandoned authoritative sites, or unused ones, attract Gray Hat SEO enthusiasts. They use these sites as backlinks to their pages, gaining higher rankings in the process. While there seems to be nothing wrong with using old domains, this falls in the gray area because you are technically just riding on the expired site’s authority to gain a rank. As much as possible, Search engines require you to establish authority in a more organic way, like attracting more site visits because of your credible content.
Revamping your site for show
Search engines always prioritize user needs when ranking sites. With this, the more updated a website is, the higher its chances of being suggested by a search engine to a user. Making frequent changes to your website achieves the same SEO output. Even if the alterations were merely font size or font type changes, crawlers may detect it as an update and classify your website as eligible to gain SERP ranking. Clearly, this lacks the genuine White Hat SEO characteristic of generating good user experience. But to some, it does not fall into a highly punishable one as a Black Hat strategy.
Multiple dummy accounts
A great social media reach amps your site’s authority in the eyes of search engines. The more likes, shares, and interactions you get from social media users, the more credible and high-ranking you can be. Gray Hat SEO practices use this social fondness of search engines to your advantage. Here, you make various dummy accounts and maintain them to expand your social media network. Like and share the main website you need to rank, using your other accounts. Needless to say, this creates an almost similar effect as when other real users actually interact with you on social media.
The bottom line
Search engines exist for the main purpose of guiding users to the best resource they can find on the web. Ideally, they tend to grant websites with a higher rank because they offer more value to those who visit their page. However, other SEO ground rules have yet to be further defined, which is why some websites get past the radar and end up in the ranks, despite uncertain practices.
Regardless of your choice of strategy, however, it pays to remember the basics. Black Hat SEO may help your site rank high, but will also result in a corresponding penalty, once discovered. White Hat SEO, on the other hand, is a slow but sure path towards the top spot. And somewhere in between lies the Gray Hat SEO. It may effectively help you in your search engine results rankings but do note that there will be risks associated with it.