The phrase 'black hat' originates from old western movies where the good guys were differentiated from bad guys by wearing 'white hats'. But I think the term when applied to SEO is misleading since it portrays an image of someone that lacks morality or ethics. 'Black hats' don't go around stealing, committing cardinal sins or defrauding the state. What they are doing is attempting to game the search engines by using techniques that are frowned upon by search engines and some industry folks. They are impatient and want to increase their traffic and rankings, now.
I am not endorsing black hat techniques nor am I implying that you should use them, I just wanted to touch on the some of the most common ones:
- Buying an old well-established website or expired domain and using it for backlinks to your own site/s
- Hiding text and links in the same colour as the site's background colour
- Using cloaking scripts which serve one thing to search engines and something different to humans
- Link farming which involves creating lots of websites with low quality content and linking them together
- Spam commenting on blogs using automated software like Scrapebox
- Stuffing keywords into Meta tags is probably one of the oldest techniques
In my day to day travels around the web, I have seen plenty of anecdotal evidence which shows that some black hat SEO techniques do work. So the question you should be asking is not whether they work or not, but will they still work tomorrow? Instead of playing a game of cat and mouse with the search engines, its far better to build a solid long term strategy, with no concerns about whether the next algorithm will penalise your website or not.
Finally, I think its relevant to mention that in his dishonesty research, Dan Ariely, the author of Predictably Irrational found that most people WILL cheat in small ways if they believe it can go undetected, and SEO is no exception!
What do you think about black hat SEO, or are you more of a grey hat