For most people, there is enough to deal with coping with the top or ‘white hat’ SEO practices without ever considering the other options. And while no-one is suggesting that you take on the bad or ‘black hat’ techniques, there are a series of techniques that fall into the middle ground and are deemed risky or ‘grey hat’. So, what are they and are could any of them be worth considering for your website?
What are grey hat techniques?
Generally, there are two categories of risky SEO practices that you can consider. The first is anything that endangers the user experience or UX of the website. These are risky because the idea currently is everything on a website should be done for its human users, not for search engines. The other are the techniques known as grey hat techniques. These may result in a website being banned from search engines as opposed to black hat techniques which definitely will result in a ban.
What that means is these techniques may work or may have a negative effect on your website. Therefore, consider them very carefully before instituting any.
Having 1000 words on homepages and articles
image source - neilpatel
The problem – 1000 words is a lot of content which can make a page look cluttered and off-putting for visitors. This wall of text isn’t considered a good user experience. Common practice is to have lots of white space, nice images and small amounts of content on a homepage and even with bigger articles, they are generally well spaced out.
Why consider it – search engines adore long form content such as pieces 1000 words or more. That’s why most SEO experts recommend writing longer posts and stats show that people like longer content that they can really get their teeth into. In fact, posts with 1000 or more words in them can have an instant boost to your overall rating - one study demonstrated that most position #1 ranking websites have content that is 2000 words or more in length.
But why might this apply to a homepage? The answer is basically the same – you can get a boost to your ratings by having more words on the page. The key is to make the homepage interesting and useful, packed with good information that the user might want to read.
Use occasion negative SEO
The problem – negative SEO has the aim of lowering rivals ranks rather than increasing your own. There’s a line between bad (hacking) and grey (strategic) and it is important to understand that before you even consider these moves.
Why consider it – if you notice a competitor using black hat techniques, you can tell Google and they might receive a penalty for it. Also, if you spot any shady SEO tactics being used on a competitor’s site, you can also use this to help demote them in the rankings.
Look for paid links, rich snippet violations and product abuse. For example, rich snippets should provide review or rating information about an item, category or a list of items. You can even check the Search Console’s official spam report to find out what kind of techniques might be classed as negative. Plus, read up on the big black hat techniques and keep a watch for them on competitor sites.
Exact match anchor text
The problem – Google doesn’t like links that exactly match the place you are linking to. These are known as exact match anchor text and in the case of this article, the negative link would contain the title What Risky SEO Tactics Are Worth Considering? as a link rather than a keyword such as ‘risky SEO tactics’.
Why consider it – exact match anchor text can help boost your keyword rating because that keyword is directly associated with your website. Most websites want to rank for long-tail keywords so by using these as anchor text, you can help add to the overall ranking position of the site.
Buying up available domains
The problem – if you buy extra domains and use them to build backlinks or to redirect traffic to your website, Google might realise and dismiss the secondary site.
Why consider it – you can use the site to create backlinks to your website and this increases the credibility and authority of your website when done in the right way. Or you can use the new site to simply redirect traffic to your main website. It also stops anyone having a website that is similar to yours: you have owned the .com and buy the .co.uk as an extra to stop anyone else using it.
Finding domains to buy is relatively easy – you just visit a website that allows you to search for domain names. Search for the keyword that you want to focus the domain around and see what options are available. You can then select the one you want and register it as yours then set about creating that new website to help boost your original one.
Purchase domains that have expired
The problem – if you buy expired sites and set up 301 redirects from these sites or use them for backlinks, Google might realise and dismiss them from your rating. This is often more common if you buy an older domain.
Why consider it – both tactics can boost your site. By having redirects to your site and using the expired domain to set up backlinks, you can increase the profile of your website.
There are sites you can visit to find expired domains but make sure any you are considering don’t have any bans or penalties associated with them or the effort will be wasted.
The problem – microsites take a lot of work to create as you have to make lots of good quality content to go on the site and you could still get penalised for it.
Why consider it – well made, legitimate micro sites can work magic for target keywords and to then get high-quality backlinks to your main website. The idea is that you create a new site that is related to your main one. It should have the same topic as your main site and offer excellent value to the reader. Examples are a food brand that has a recipes microsite that directs traffic back to the main site from links within the recipes.
Make some small changes to the website
The problem – making lots of small, frequent changes to a website might make it seem weird to readers, that something changes every time they visit and Google might also see it as suspicious activity.
Why consider it – Google likes fresh content and by constantly updating your website with little adjustments, you can make everything seem fresh. This can give a boost to your SEO because Google then re-crawls your site to register the changes.
There’s some question as to how much counts as small changes. For example, Moz believes that changing just a single sentence won’t gain you any benefit while others have tried changing something like the fonts and even the navigation bar to give the website a boost.
Make doorway pages with lots of value
The problem – doorway pages are seen as a trick to increase traffic while offering little actual value to the reader. Examples include creating a page for a phrase but that doesn’t provide the kind of content that the user is looking for.
Why consider it – if you make good content rich doorway pages around a keyword that are readable and offer something useful to the reader, then they may be worth considering.
Use social bookmarks
The problem – too many social bookmarks can land your website with a spam penalty from Google because it is one of the ways to link build that the search engines dislike.
Why consider it – social bookmarking allows the users to add, edit and share bookmarks of web documents and there are a number of sites that give the example of them. There is evidence that they can drive a lot of traffic and could even be a number one traffic source.
But how does it work? You create accounts on several social bookmarking sites and then either bookmark content to earn credits or even just buy some. You add some relevant tags and a category for the bag then save it and it will then reach the websites over the following few days.
Use article spinning or not
The problem – article spinning runs perilously close to the duplicate content issue that Google will deeply penalise your website for. The idea is that you take a content and spin it a little to make it different using synonyms, swapping around the formatting and rephrasing some sentences.
Why consider it – each article will have more value and you can then post it on multiple sites to gain backlinks to your website. There are even programs that you can use such as The Best Spinner that help you easily change the elements you want to in order to create the new piece.
There are a few key points to remember if you do try this tactic. Make sure you change the headings on the piece and alter the formatting so if you have bullet points, use numbered lists instead and similar tactics. Change important phrases so that the piece reads differently. And ensure each version of the article that is created is different from the others to avoid those duplicate content penalties. For this is something I would not use, but that's your decision.
Submit to article directories
The problem – directories are designed for search engines rather than for real people and this is why Google and co dislike them. Their focus is all about the human users.
Why consider it – using this tactic alongside other SEO tactics can help to improve the ranking of the website. But you do need to be selective about the kinds of directories that you link to – look at their PageRank’s to get an idea if a link from the site is going to help your overall ranking or not. Find the sites with the highest PR and focus on those for your submissions if you are going to try this tactic. But don't do this on it own.
Using risky SEO techniques is a personal choice – as a business owner or manager, you need to weigh up the potential negative effects of any technique before putting it into practice. Not all of these ideas would even work for you and you should never use all of them at the same time. Strategic use of these techniques can have a benefit to your website, improving the ranking and driving more traffic to the website.
Not all of these ideas would even work for you and you should never use all of them at the same time.
Strategic use of these techniques can have a benefit to your website, improving the ranking and driving more traffic to the website.
One top tip is this – when you use these tactics, make sure you offer some sort of value to readers even if it is just a small one. Search engines are obsessed with value for readers so even if you are only adding a small bonus with the techniques you are using, there’s a better chance that Google won’t penalise you.
Many top SEO experts have used some of these techniques with positive results but all point out that they should be used alongside good, solid white hat SEO techniques as, without these, you will never get the benefits you desire.
I'm Paul Gordon an SEO freelancer who has spent the last 16 years helping businesses expand and grow through effective SEO strategies.