First of all we’d have to talk about how I define black hat. Being a member on BlackHatWorld doesn’t make you a black hat at all. In general it’s not a reputation you should try to achieve in my opinion. A ‘real’ black hat is doing illegal things to make money usually by scamming other people or companies/services while ruining lives and operations on the go.
When I was younger I didn’t think as much about it, at least when it came to companies. Over 15 years ago, I had a website which was offering downloads for tools that made it possible to cheat surfbars and other paid4-services. Back then it was a big thing to install a surfbar which covered a good amount of the way smaller monitors, and get paid a share of the revenue paid by advertisers whose ads were running in the bar. The tools were emulating the surfbar and surfing/clicking patterns. There were also other tools to record mouse-movement so you could run the surfbar while sleeping and simulating activity.
In the end, all of these companies went bankrupt. I never ran any of these tools on my own except for testing. But I obviously contributed to this because I made them available to a whole new audience. The Board I was running could be seen as one of the predecessors of what you may know today as BHW – just several years ahead 😉
Black Hat SEO
Then there are ‘black hat SEOs’ – I don’t know what about SEO is black hat at all except for not playing by the rules a company set for ranking on their search engine. By their definition, if you ever posted a link to your blog in a comment or anywhere else, then you are a black hat or at least a grey hat already. If you want to stay a white hat, you should only do onPage SEO and ONLY that.
I don’t know how any crawler or user is supposed to find your website without even linking there from somewhere else but well I wouldn’t call myself a SEO anyway. Except for a page that received ~50,000 uniques per day (additionally from google to the regular traffic) a few years ago without doing any optimization (except for link-exchange which was done for traffic purposes), I never had any good positions or even tried to.
If there is anything coming close to black in SEO I would say it’s this: Scrape content, recreate it to thousands of pages, then stuff links everywhere. Trick google for a few days/weeks until they find out and adjust their algorithm or simply block those domains. A friend of mine sold a script ~15 years ago that was doing it automatically, he was charging ridiculous prices (from the point of view back then) but still sold a lot of licenses. He simply didn’t sell cheaper because it was worth it.
Creating good unique content, then setting up PBNs to get listed is white hat in my eyes. It’s to get the crawlers look at your content because google made it hard for new websites to rank and the decline of quality blogs or the willingness to share links (besides social media) does it’s own part. If your content is shit and doesn’t help anyone searching for it, I’d consider it grey hat at worst.
Then what am I? Where am I going? And what’s the meaning of life and all that?
I would say I’m a bit of a grey hat if at all. I play by the rules of the networks I work with. There is no cheating on clicks, impressions or anything like that. Running my own service, I’m trying to be as helpful as I can, pay out as fast as possible. Paypal usually the same day, WU, Moneygram and Wire transfer the next working day after request received. I don’t cheat or polish statistics to make me/my service look better. I’m nothing like any of these that do it and still can’t call myself white hat.
Somewhere you always make your hands dirty and be it just your fingertips. While I don’t do anything black on my own, I can assume that some of my users do. However I have never been contacted by anyone about anything and haven’t seen proof of a user doing something like that. In the end that would be grey hat too because they wouldn’t play by the rules of a profit-oriented company. Remember: a companies terms of service are not the law 😉
Using illegal tactics (illegal by law) to make monetary gains. Spammer (soliciting unwanted advertisement), Scammer (promoting CPA’s without full-filing the promise), Botter (simulating clicks, views = fraud) etc
Using loopholes and other tactics as leverage for exposure. Gaming algorithms of services to stay ahead of the game (doesn’t mean cheating).
I’m not sure if there is at all online. The closest may be websites/blogs with a userbase that don’t need to advertise anymore. That don’t have any affiliate/referral/sponsorship programs. Maybe offline there exist real shiny white hats…