White hat SEO (or ethical SEO if you like) is often argued to be not as successful as ‘black hat’ SEO. Proponents of black hat optimisation have even gone so far as saying that using black hat they can easily out rank any white hat SEO site.
Whilst it may be true that Black Hat techniques certainly can have a more rapid and dramatic effect on raising the Google ranking of a site, this has to be weighed against the fact that if discovered the site may well be penalised, or banned altogether.
This is not even considering any moral issues with black hat SEO. Even if the shady SEO techniques used are not detectable by Google at present, some black hatters seem to take that to mean that they can get away with dodgy dealings…
This argument is flawed! Sooner or later the chances are that Google will detect their exploits, and act accordingly. Recently for example, Google decided to try to target people that are selling links for the purpose of manipulating PageRank for their clients. Many people have since lost their own PageRank because of this.
Link selling is often considered grey hat by many, so imagine what would happen to a site that got caught committing what Google would consider real black hat! (Such as cloaked pages etc)
Even if white hat SEO techniques may take longer to have an effect, long term ethical SEO is the best option for most sites. Positions gained through ethical SEO are more likely to be maintained for longer, and bring you better quality traffic. – But that’s just my opinion as a white hatter.