If you've ever thought about hiring a professional search engine optimization (SEO) consultant or read about SEO as a subject then you may have seen the term "black hat" mentioned. Let's take a closer look at what black hat SEO really means.
To begin with, we'll revisit what is meant by the term search engine optimization (SEO). SEO referers to methods that improve search engine rankings for a particular website. Techniques can vary but will often involve making the most of the website by ensuring that its content and structure appeal to search engines, as well as visitors.
There are various schools of thought on how best to carry out such optimization. As far as the major search engines are concerned, there are ethical methods of improving search engine rankings and unethical methods.
Within the professional search engine community, ethical techniques are known as "white hat", while techniques that are viewed as unethical have been labeled "black hat".
White Hat SEO involves making the best use of the structure and content of the website to improve rankings. Black Hat techniques will often involve trying to fool a search engine into believing that a particular website is more relevant or highly regarded than it actually is.
Examples of Black Hat methods may include cloaking, which is where a search engine is effectively shown a different version of a website to visitors. Other techniques would include employing hidden text and links.
Although Black Hat SEO can have some impressive results, the major search engines are constantly trying to clamp down on such methods, banning websites who employ them.
For long-term results, ethical White Hat methods are the most effective.