grey hat techniques

Bad SEO: Black and Grey Hat Techniques to Avoid

Trying to get a page to rank high on Google? Ever thought of using a shortcut, rather than following the traditional, analytical process to succeed in organic searches?

On-page content, link-building, and keyword research count as the most effective SEO tactics today. That said, there are ways to work around the traditional, organic methods to get quick and dirty results.

These are black and grey hat techniques. Some are only frowned upon by the community while others are downright discredited by search engine giants like Google and Bing.

Which SEO strategies will end up hurting your rankings instead of helping? Here is a quick dive into 9 shady tactics you should avoid.

Buying Backlinks

Purchasing a backlink is among the most common grey hat techniques out there. It’s not as bad as some of the other methods listed here but it can lead to severe penalties once discovered by the Google Penguin algorithm.

The issue here is that you didn’t earn rank points by providing good content. You paid someone so they would feature a link to your landing pages on their site.

On the same note, selling backlinks is also a grey hat method. Don’t offer to feature links to other sites only if they bribe you with cash payment or a “free” product.

Spam Content

SEO spamming is arguably one of the worst techniques to utilize. Every now and then you’ll spot it in the comments sections of a video on YouTube or Facebook.

These are comments that have nothing to do with the video. They’re nothing but links to a landing page and more often than not it’s quite obvious that they’re copy-pasted content.

In the worst occasions, bots and other black hat SEO apps post these instead of people. This reduces the manual labor and makes them even less related to the original content.

Duplicate Content

Plagiarizing the content of one site and then posting it on yours is a quick ticket to getting more penalties. Google’s algorithm updates constantly work on identifying plagiarized content. The search engine giant won’t rank you higher because you’re trying to leech off the hard work of someone else.

The Google Panda update will identify plagiarized content and flag them down. Search engine crawlers will ignore these pages and your overall ranking will decrease.

Invisible Keywords

Another black hat template is to hide keywords in plain sight.

Most web pages are white and if you make your keywords white too, they become invisible. Users won’t see them but search engine crawlers will. At first, those crawlers will think the keywords relate to the content in a natural, organic way and this means the page will rank high for a bit.

However, always remember that Google can and will spot these instances. It won’t take long for Google to notice people aren’t clicking those keywords and that they may have nothing to do with the rest of the site’s content.

Article Spinning

This method often creates unintelligible content. The original article may have been amazing but spun articles twist those words and phrases in an attempt to seem fresh and new. More often than not, however, the end result is a mixed garble of words.

Article spinning becomes even worse when people use programs to automate the process. Not only is the creativity gone but so is the cohesion that binds the idea of the article together.

Even well-spun articles can lead to penalties. If Google recognizes the concept is similar to another site or page, you’ll get flagged for plagiarism. This is why tools like Copyscape exist.

Keyword Stuffing

Gone are the days where you can stuff a keyword 20 times in a 500-word article for it to rank high. The Google Panda update and subsequent algorithm changes made sure that content creators don’t abuse keyword placement for better SEO results.

Instead, identify which areas search engine crawlers look into and place a few, select keywords in those spots. These include the title tag, meta description for the page, a few headers, and the introduction of your content. This makes it read more naturally compared to spamming the word repeatedly throughout the piece.

Link Spamming

The practice of abusing link directories faded away a few years ago but some black hat SEO experts still do this. They’ll use third-party link directories or link farms – even Twitter sometimes – to do nothing but spam links to landing pages.

Without context, engagement with the audience, or timing these posts do nothing but float on the Internet. They exist solely for search engine crawlers to find them and index them as doorways to a page.

Using a shady link generator also ties into this practice. These tools shorten your URL and change the words to bait people into thinking they’re entering a page only to discover it’s not related to their needs. Avoid this and instead, rely on a reputable link building agency to work on your backlink profile.


Of the different black and grey hat techniques listed here, this counts as one of the nastiest due how it tricks not only search engine crawlers but users as well. Cloaking is when the SEO expert presents a version of a web page to the crawlers but a different version to users.

This means Google and users don’t see the page in the exact same way. The page could rank high for a keyword like “free kittens” but in reality, it only shows pictures and blogs of cheap e-cigarettes to visitors.

Doorway Pages

Got a website that sells shirts for men but you notice the keywords you want to rank high on are too expensive or tight competition? A black hat technique is to create doorway pages and this is another horrible tactic that can lead to severe penalties.

For the example given above, this means creating a landing page that uses a keyword like “cheap kittens” instead of anything related to men’s shirts.

A doorway page is a site designed solely to bring in traffic. This means it’s over-optimized, using low-competition keywords that are easy to rank for, but the page itself has nothing useful for visitors.

Avoid Black and Grey Hat Techniques, Rank High the Right Way

Don’t resort to these black and grey hat techniques. If you want to succeed in organic searches, take time and use widely-approved methods like guest posting, reaching out to influencers, and improving site speed.

Need help building a strong backlink profile and better organic SEO results? We’ve got you covered at Backlinks!