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  1. #1
    SitePoint Zealot JK_Bowman's Avatar
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    Hello Gang,

    I'd like to post some thoughts about hidden links and hopefully get some feedback from as many as you as possible. Forgive me for the length of this post, but this is actually a very large subject.

    Hidden Links

    First, using a 1x1 transparent gif on your page has long been considered a standard way to 'hide' a link. There are many reasons for doing this, but one main one is that search engines typically do not like pages that 'stand alone' such as a doorway page. Also, you want to take every chance you can that a spider will deep crawl when it visits a web page and index all the other pages on your site. Consequently, by placing hidden links to your doorway pages on all of your main pages you overcome these problems.

    Now, the common convention has been that if you are going to use a hidden link (a 1x1 transparent graphic) you should make sure that you do not define the dimensions of the graphic in your code. This could possibly be detected by a spider and the link could be ignored.

    I've heard a few arguments on the other side which say that it makes no difference if you define the dimensions or not, but it seems obvious to me that the safest route is to not define the dimensions. Consequently, when using a 1x1 transparent graphic for a hidden link I personally don't define the dimensions.

    That said, I try NOT to use 1x1 transparent graphics for hidden links. My reasoning is that if it is possible for a spider to ignore a link that is defined as 1x1, would it not also be possible for a spider to ignore a link because of a low file size?

    That said, I try to make my 'hidden graphic links' some other size. Perhaps I might make them 5x5 or 4x4. If they are placed in an obsure area of the page they are still hard to detect.

    But what if I don't want to make them hidden at all? The term 'hidden' kinda implies 'spam,' and that bothers me a bit.

    Well, one way to possibly overcome that is to create a border which resembles a horizontal rule out of links.

    Here is a sample page of what I am talking about.

    http://mardi-gras-beads.net

    Scroll to the bottom and notice the purple border. What looks like a nice graphical ending to the page is actually a series of links to other pages on the site.

    One could make the argument that these are also hidden, but since they are all a different color than the background and they also contain ALT text which identifies them as a link, I think that would be a hard argument for a search engine to make.

    And if I were still worried about this, all I would need to do is place some small text near the border that said "Links To Other Pages On This Web Site."

    Certainly, that would please even the toughest search engine.

    Anyway, if any of my fellow SEO types out there can add any ideas or commentary to the above, that would be great.........

    -------------------

    Other ways to hide links.

    Hiding links in your text.

    Now, we all know that keyword text links gain you some extra credit with the search engines rather than graphic links. I think that's fairly an industry recognized standard. But, you don't want to make a visible link out of the keywords in your content.

    The answer?

    Well, with a little CSS you can remove the rollover color on the link. You can remove the underline. And you can even make the pointer not change into a hand when the user mouses over it.

    Bingo! You now have a keyword link that is perfectly hidden!

    I've been searching around the web for commentary on this technique, and so far I have only been able to find one negative comment. I found one person who reported that his web site was banned from Google for using this technique.

    If any of you have any similar experience you can share, that would be great!

    ------------------------

    Some people also try to to hide links by making periods links or individual characters links as well, but it seems to me that if you have the time the hidden keyword text link along with a little CSS might be the best way to go.

    That is, of course, if this poses low risk to you for spamming.

    ------------------------------

    Anyway, I would appreciate any comments from anyone on any of the above techniques. I am visiting several forums on the web for info on this, and once I get a concensus I'd like to write a tutorial on what to do - and what NOT to do.

    So, what do you think about 'hidden links?'
    Editor, J.K. Bowman
    Spider-Food.net

  2. #2
    One website at a time mmj's Avatar
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    Ok in my opinion

    99999 times out of 100000 most of the above techniques would work.

    On the 100000th time, a human from the search engine will visit your site and might notice that you've done something spammy.

    That is probably what happened to that other guy.

    I think the dots you have at the bottom are fine.

    I know that sometimes if you have CSS that tries to hide stuff lots of people get angry (including search engines, ad networks, trackers, etc...) because there is a possibility you are cheating.

    But I don't think there is any human or search engine in the world which would find a 600x1 graphic or a 5x5 graphic, if it is non-transparent, to be spammy.

    So I think you're in the clear. As long as what you have looks (code-wise) like you are not trying to conceal something.

    If the links are to relevant pages anyway, then even if a human from the search engine find them then they've got nothing to complain about.

  3. #3
    SitePoint Zealot Wilmot's Avatar
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    I think any type of hidden links, or links placed specifically for the purpose of cheating the search engine algorithms is wrong and unfair to everyone else. Imagine if everyone used these techniques. Getting a top listing in a search engine would would just be a competition to see who could put the most bogus links on their web pages.

    Instead of spending time finding ways to cheat the systems, how about using this time to improve the content of web sites and linking to other useful information, rather than doorway pages and other useless pages of links.

    Apart from this side of things, the methods you have used and proposed can only be bad for business. There are not too many things more unprofessional on a web page than hidden links or unexplained links like you have in the purple dots. This will only confuse your visitors and waste their time.

    Especially in your case, I can't see any reason for hiding these links as you have. Why not just have a bottom navigation bar, with the links to different sections on your site, which consist of explanitory text or buttons. For example "Posters", "Site Map"... It will serve the same purpose on the search engines, and you will be helping your visitors navigate your site.

    Try not to underestimate the importance of good navigation. Improving a sites navigation can increase sales and use dramatically. Incorporate a standard navigation system on all pages in your site, and you will most likely be linking legitimately to the major sections of your site from each page anyway!
    Brad Culbert
    SQL Server 2005 Books
    www.SQLServer2005Books.com - Reader-rated SQL Server 2005 Books

  4. #4
    SitePoint Zealot totenmaske's Avatar
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    ...sometimes you just want to link to a page that you want the spiders to find that you don't want your visitors to have access to.
    For instance...I use a 1X1 pixel with the dimensions removed to link to spider-friendly versions of my "TABLE OF CONTENTS" page. I use a visible text link so my visitors can find the eye-candy version of this page but I wanted a spider-friendly version without all the excess html getting in the way. This "TABLE OF CONTENTS" page contains links to EVERY PAGE of my site that is important.

    Some of us with legitimate content are fighting tooth and nail against the porn sites with their deep pockets because we have sites that feature celebrities. This is not an easy task and I will use any legal means at my disposal that I FEEL is ethical to promote my site and increase my position(s) in the search engines.

  5. #5
    SitePoint Zealot Wilmot's Avatar
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    maybe the search engines could specify a html tag which their spiders look for that indicate where the actual content starts and ends on a site.. For example

    <body>
    <table>
    <tr>
    <td>
    <content>
    Actual content of page located here.
    </content>
    </td>
    </tr>
    </table>
    </body>

    That way, for sites utilizing the content tag, they could ignor all the other stuff outside the <content> tag which is most likely formatting and navigation parts of the page.

    Good idea in theory, wheather or not it would work in practice is another story.
    Brad Culbert
    SQL Server 2005 Books
    www.SQLServer2005Books.com - Reader-rated SQL Server 2005 Books


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