10 Grey HAT SEO Tactics to Avoid Post Google Penguin 4.0


On 23rd September, Google made the long-awaited release of Penguin 4.0 update. This update makes Penguin permanently part of Google’s core algorithm and it makes it real-time, meaning bad SEO will lead to quicker decrease in ranking and vice versa (after crawling and indexing).

Only those who are out to intentionally deceive search engines use Black HAT SEO tactics. Grey HAT SEO tactics lie between White and Black HAT tactics. Whereas they will not lead to the banning of your site, they are useless in post Penguin 4.0 world. It is therefore important that you avoid Grey HAT SEO tactics (even as you avoid Black HAT SEO tactics). These include:

  1. Spinning/rewording articles

Article spinning is the most common Grey HAT SEO tactic because it is easy to implement. Google and other search engines are looking for, and reward fresh, unique content and they penalize duplicate content. There are several software programs that can be used to spin/reword articles to fool search engine bots that the content is fresh and unique. Not only will your site be penalized when discovered by search engines, but you should note this is copyright infringement that can have dire legal repercussions.

Articles are good for SEO because they allow you to do keyword optimization. Articles give you a large canvas to work with, allowing you to include more info than you would on the home page and other pages on your website. Articles give you an opportunity to pass important information that cannot be accommodated in the website (such as different methods of using a particular product), but be careful that the article is not promotional.


  1. Use of old and expired domains

Some link spammers monitor DNS records to buy expired domains, especially credible domains. They then change the pages of these expired domains to link to websites the webmaster is interested in. Some webmasters also buy old domains that have authority for this purpose.


  1. The Use of microsites

A microsite is a site that is created for a particular niche in your business, meaning you will end up with several different sites. As an example, if you are a contractor, you can split your site into general construction, plumbing, roofing, and so on. Although this can be effective, note you will most likely be using the same address and phone numbers as well as other information and search engines bots will catch up with you.


  1. Exchanging and reciprocating links

Link exchange and reciprocating links (popularly referred to as 3-way link exchange) has, until recently, been one of the most common SEO practices that one would expect even from a top SEO agency. Since Google decided they do not like this practice, the practice has moved from White HAT SEO to Grey HAT SEO. Google Panda and now Google Penguin algorithm changes have all but made this practice useless. Link building tactics that are still White HAT SEO include:

  • Listing your website in trustworthy directories, particularly directories in your niche.
  • Releasing press releases to credible news outlets (and not PR sites) who will then link back to you.
  • Writing good blogs that readers would want to link to.
  • Link building by writing testimonials in business sites.
  • Asking for backlinks from clients, partners and other people you know who have credible websites in your niche.
  • Social media link building, where people who like what you’ve posted or what you are selling build backlinks to your website.
  • Turning mentions (brand and products) into backlinks by contacting the webmaster of sites where you are mentioned and asking them to convert the mentions into backlinks.
  • Recovering broken links to your site. This might have been caused by misspelling of your link and change of page location.
  • Getting indirect backlinks from the competition by getting your backlinks in authority sites where your competitors are linking.
  • Writing guest blog posts in your niche.


  1. Creation of separate pages for different keywords

You can use a different page for each of the targeted long tail keyword as a way of increasing traffic. Note that even if you were to use an article spinner (since you will have the same content, products, and other info such as address in the different pages), search engine bots will catch up with you. Note this is also very time consuming because you would have to release the pages slowly to ensure you do not trigger spam filters.


  1. The use of CSS to manipulate content

A popular Grey HAT SEO tactic is the coding of a website using CSS to make the content seem further lower the page than it is. This is done to make pages seem more valuable since most people believe that Google first craws content.


  1. Google bombing/Google washing

This involves the release of very many keyword-optimized links created for high performance in SERPs. Given the many number of links, Google is likely to use some of them to increase your ranking. Note that this involves the use of keywords that are either on-topic or off-topic.


  1. Cloaking

According to a Matt Cutt video on cloaking, Google frowns upon this practice. This a deceptive practice where users get different results from what search engine bots do when they do a search, making it borderline Black Hat. The use of doorway pages is also considered to be cloaking since it tricks users into visiting a website he had no intention of visiting.


  1. Regular website redesign

Some webmasters regularly redesign websites and use the same content to fool Google into thinking that the content is fresh.


  1. Hidden text

This involves using text and/or keywords that are of the same color as the background to deceive visitors and search engine bots. It also refers to placement of keywords behind browser edge or in hidden layers to hide them from visitors.


Other Grey HAT SEO tactics that may or may not get the attention of search engine bots include:

  • Content repositioning
  • Keyword stuffing
  • Link farming
  • Google bowling
  • Use of charity links
  • Use of fabricated news
  • Paying for reviews
  • Link chaining
  • Misuse of the ‘change of address’ tool
  • Keyword association manipulation

Other than getting caught and being penalized by search engines, another reason to avoid Grey HAT SEO tactics is that most of them lead to poor user experience. Since White HAT SEO tactics are inexpensive and effective, avoid the temptations of Black and Grey HAT tactics.

Author Bio: Derek Iwasiuk runs a top SEO agency in Minneapolis. His tactics are completely White HAT. He will also help you with Penguin recovery if you’ve been penalized for using Grey and Black HAT tactics.