Black Hat is Search Engine Optimisation work that crawlers like Google, Yahoo and Bing would ban your website for if they realised what you were up to.
And they most certainly are getting better at this. Many sites that relied on copied content (content farms) or were nothing more than directories containing links (link farms) have seen themselves disappear from search results or moved so low in the rankings that they may as well not be there.
This doesn't mean there aren't plenty of Black Hat techniques that do still work. These are often employed by unscrupulous SEO companies who will get your site to the top of Google just long enough for you to pay the bill!
But there are also SEO practitioners who will be open and frank. They will tell you that they do use Black Hat and have current examples demonstrating it's success. JC Penny was just one such incident this year, although not so any more as it has now been spotted by Google. So why not use the hat that's black?
A great deal depends on the purpose of your website. If it is for a music concert in 8 weeks time then why not spam your way to the top? It doesn't matter if you are de-indexed later or shortly before the big day because you will have achieved your purpose of maximum exposure over a short period.
Most people though would prefer their website to stay around longer than that and in this case Black Hat methods are like running a gauntlet. From an online perspective you could quite literally be here today and gone tomorrow.
I have a never ending stream of potential clients who tell me "My website was fine until two weeks ago and then suddenly my visitor numbers dropped". A common diversion is their belief that building more backlinks might be the answer but it never is – the Google axe has fallen.
The answer to this issue, in the Black Hat world, is to spam your way back up to the top using something else that Google is not that savvy to. At the time of writing this article (see the top of the page for a date) Google was wise to link-swapping but not so wise to link-wheels so changing this way might help a website recover … until Google catches up with that.
It all means that a Black Hat reliant website will see it's visitor numbers rise every time it gets spammed up to the top and plunge every time the search engines realise what's going on. If you can live with that, then fine, you'll have your good times ... and your bad times.
At Link2light we steer away from it. A steady but slower climb to the top where the website remains because it truly deserves to be there is a proper solution and more rewarding for both us and the clients we would prefer to deal with.
I'm sure Black Hat will remain attractive because it always seems cheaper than White Hat and it is ... in the short term. Link wheel systems, article spinning and all those other sinful practices that can be done by computer automation make many optimisation jobs possible at the click of a button.
But it's a false economy if you're planning to stay on the web for years to come. After you've Black Hatted your site up the rankings for the nth time it soon becomes clear that over the long term White Hat would actually have been cheaper and the constant crests and troughs of your rankings (along with visitor numbers) at unknown moments just aren't worth it.
Tell me I'm wrong ...