Welcome to black hat web design. My name is Shawn and I will be your guide into the insanity that is designing web pages to game the search engine and the user. I have been building websites since 1995 and have run across the entire gambit of bullshit you can imagine.
Most recently I spent two years working for a ‘social media marketing’ company that ran bot services for social media. Want to buy some twitter followers? No problem! How about some YouTube views, wanna buy them? We got you!
I’ve been in the ‘black hat’ side of design for about 6 or 7 years and I think it is time to stop. Feels like I left my soul back somewhere in 2012.
What is ‘black hat’ web design, anyway?
I’m happy you asked, h2.
To explain what black hat web design is you have to understand some terminology and a little history. First there are three “hats” within web design, SEO and digital marketing in general. Black Hat, White Hat and Gray Hat.
These hat colors stem from old U.S. “westerns”. Every person had a stetson on, it was the wild west after all. The bad guys wore black hats and the good guys wore white hats.
In the days of black and white tv, this was pretty, well black and white.
The internet being the thing it is, we have adopted those ideals to marketing, design and development professionals.
The Black Hat
This is the bad guy. He doesn’t care about what his actions do to others. The typical villian who will exploit any weakness in any system he can find for personal gain. These guys are the worst, they make the entire internet a worse off place. I was one of these guys for too long.
The Gray Hat
This is your typical day-to-day marketing professional or web designer. Honeslty there are so many small little exploits that could be considered “bending the rules”, we all fall somewhere here in this gray hat area. A stereotypical gray hat is someone who won’t actively look for black hat techniques, but isn’t opposed to gaming the system a bit in their favor. Not technically a rule breaker, but not a strict rule follower, either.
The White Hat
These are a lot more rare than you would image, pure rule following folks. These are the type of people that find the black hat guys and stop their exploitations. These are the security techs at Google who do everything they can to root out spam and the NulSec guys who do Pen testing for companies and give them their weaknesses. A lot of ex-black hat guys wind up here after they have the “hey I’m a human and should not be doing this” epihany.