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  1. #1
    eCommerce specialist hotnuts21's Avatar
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    Colleagues Website Spamming dilemma

    A friend of mine has just moved into some nice new offices, along with some other technological companies. So I decided to do a bit of research into the other companies and now wish I had not.

    One of them has recently had their website built by someone else within the same office complex all working with my friend. This new website that has been built has the following.

    The home page is just a logo and javascript button to enter the site, a splash page! Thats bad enough.

    But under the big logo and button is a around 8-10 paragraphs of white 1px height text, it makes sense if you read it, but in essence its not there for the human to read. I only found it by looking at the source code. The class of that text sets the text to white. Interestingly there is no body or general background colour so if you had your browser set up to a different colour than white, the text would show.

    They actually have quite a good PR, and show up quite well for searches even though its a new site. Google doesnt seem to have penalised them for having hidden text, just for them. This may be because of no background colour set, googles algorithm has not worked out its hidden, or tiny!!

    Now to me this is black hat SEO and not very good at all!! The site is full of issues, lots of javascript for menus, images for menus, no alt tags, nested tables for layout!!

    My Dilemma is, my mate is now working in the same complex as both the 'client' and the 'developer' of the website and he wants to obviously make a good impression as he might get a lot of work through them. I do consulting for him, and dont want to get him into any bother. But do I mention this to the client, who might mention it to the developer who might get all uppity about it!!! Its a case of gently gently catchy monkey we dont want to be starting to make waves.

    Or should I just leave it??

    Also is this still a bad thing to do, any thoughts why they seem to be doing well and not getting penalised or do you think its just a matter of time!!
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  2. #2
    In memoriam gold trophysilver trophybronze trophy Dan Schulz's Avatar
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    I'd tell the developer that what he's doing is going to get the site banned and could potentially expose him to a lawsuit if the client were to find out. Then I'd point him right here to SitePoint, have him browse through the articles and forum threads here (especially the Search Engine Optimization FAQ) and then tell him that if he doesn't straighten his act out, you're going to tell the client what the developer did.

  3. #3
    eCommerce specialist hotnuts21's Avatar
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    So just annoy one of the businesses, not both of them good idea. The set up is that the office complex has a number of business advisers, I was tempted to talk to one of them about it and get a feeling for the two businesses concerned, some people just dont like to be told!!

    But overall you agree, that this type of web design/coding is pretty bad black hat!
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  4. #4
    In memoriam gold trophysilver trophybronze trophy Dan Schulz's Avatar
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    Black hat, inaccessible, pointless, stupid, DeeDeeDee (to quote Carlos Mencia), retarded...

    Yeah. Pretty much.

  5. #5
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    How have they set the font height to 1px without it being in the code somewhere?

    Search engines can read CSS so I don't see how they're getting away with that?

  6. #6
    Word Painter silver trophy Shyflower's Avatar
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    Search Engines don't read css files. They read only what the user sees on the page.
    Linda Jenkinson
    "Say what you mean. Mean what you say. But don't say it mean." ~Unknown

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    Quote Originally Posted by Shyflower View Post
    Search Engines don't read css files. They read only what the user sees on the page.
    What? Of course they do, how else would they pick up on BH techniques like this one?

    Everyone and their dog would be creating text that users can't see if se's couldn't read CSS files.

  8. #8
    Word Painter silver trophy Shyflower's Avatar
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    Apparently, as the OP posted, the search engines haven't picked up on this one or the site would have been penalized if not banned. Take a read of the Google Webmaster Guidelines. They state that search engine bots read only what the user reads on the page.

    It might be more accurate to say that the bots can read what any screen reader can. That's how they find tiny text, hidden text, and other black hat techniques... not through external css files, which any black-hatter is smart enough to put in a no-index robots text directive.
    Linda Jenkinson
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  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shyflower View Post
    Apparently, as the OP posted, the search engines haven't picked up on this one or the site would have been penalized if not banned. Take a read of the Google Webmaster Guidelines. They state that search engine bots read only what the user reads on the page.

    It might be more accurate to say that the bots can read what any screen reader can. That's how they find tiny text, hidden text, and other black hat techniques... not through external css files, which any black-hatter is smart enough to put in a no-index robots text directive.
    What's confusing me is that in the SEM kit produced by this site, it says the opposite, that se's can read CSS style sheets (Page.88).

    If you noindexed your CSS, wouldn't Google get suspicious? It wouldn't occur to any white hatter and if you're on the site you can get the CSS very easily so what would be the benefit unless you were up to something no good?

    Since I joined a few hours ago, I've read at least 5 posts made by people like yourself who appear to be very knowledgeable that directly contradict what's in the Sitepoint SEM kit.

    Whos' right and who's wrong? I'm getting a bit bamboozled..........

  10. #10
    Word Painter silver trophy Shyflower's Avatar
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    I don't believe the bots have the ability to make judgements about robots text files. What should be index-able and what should not.

    I don't know when the SEM (which is Search Engine Marketing and has some differences from SEO, Search Engine Optimization) kit was last updated but SEO and SEM are two rapidly changing technologies (?). What works today and is right today is often not valid tomorrow. The one constant in both SEM and SEO is that if you create your site to give your user the best experience possible, your site will do well with both search engines and your goal... the conversion of your visitors.

    Attempts to manipulate Search Engines are either found out by the bots or reported by dissatisfied users and/or competitors. As long as you're making the site for the user, the site will be okay.
    Linda Jenkinson
    "Say what you mean. Mean what you say. But don't say it mean." ~Unknown

  11. #11
    eCommerce specialist hotnuts21's Avatar
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    This is an interesting thread on SE and hidden text
    http://www.seomoz.org/blog/guide-to-hidden-text

    Someone said above that smart black hats would hide the text in css file hidden by robots.txt, these people are not that smart, the styles are in the main sytlesheet. In fact the main stylesheet doesnt contain, body or the normal css styles, just a selection of styles called.

    Tinytinytxt
    tinytxtred
    tinytxtblack
    smalltextblack

    See a pattern emerging!! Interestingly as I pointed to in my original post, there is no background color set, so even if SE can read CSS files and I think they do maybe look at some styles, like color, the article I posted to suggests that google see if any font color is the same as the background color. But if that background color is not set, how can they compare it!!
    Maybe these guys arent as stupid as i first thought!
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  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shyflower View Post
    I don't believe the bots have the ability to make judgements about robots text files. What should be index-able and what should not.
    You've misunderstood me, I wasn't saying that they do. I was saying why would anyone hide a CSS file unless they were up to no good. Google aren't stupid and will have worked that out.

    Quote Originally Posted by Shyflower View Post
    I don't know when the SEM (which is Search Engine Marketing and has some differences from SEO, Search Engine Optimization) kit was last updated but SEO and SEM are two rapidly changing technologies (?). What works today and is right today is often not valid tomorrow.
    Of course, but it's unlikely that sitepoint themselves would have reported that search engines can read CSS style sheets and it be true at the time, and then for that to change to them not being able to read CSS.

    Either they can read them or sitepoint were completely wrong about it in the first place and I find that hard to believe.

    Search engines probably scan text css files just like any other file and if they see the kind of commands that are associated with hiding text or setting it to tiny font sizes they'll flag it as potential cloaking. I think it's safer to err on the side of caution and assume that Google can read external CSS files becuse it's such an obvious opportunity for spam otherwise.

    And until we're sure what Google considers spam, I think it would be safer to avoid trying to fool the google bot with CSS.

    On the other hand, if you're right and they don't read external CSS files, that would be support that I can't see any instances of googlebot calling the CSS file in my server logs, I can't find any direct evidence other than what it says in the sitepoint SEO kit.

    I did come across this thread though - http://forums.digitalpoint.com/showt...696#post633696 and this interview with Matt Cutts -

    "Eric Enge: Let's move on to hidden text. There are a lot of legitimate ways people can use hidden text, and, there are of course ways they can illegitimately use hidden text.

    It strikes me that many of these kinds of hidden text are hard to tell apart. You can have someone who is using a simple CSS display:none scenario, and perhaps they are stuffing keywords, but maybe they do this with a certain amount of intelligence, making it much harder to detect then the site you recently wrote about. So, tell me about how you deal with these various forms of hidden text?

    Matt Cutts:
    Sure. I don't know if you saw the blog post recently where somebody tried to layout many different ways to do hidden text, and ended up coming up with 14 different techniques. It was kind of a fun blog post, and I forwarded it to somebody and said "hey, how many do we check for"? There were at least a couple that wasn't strictly hidden text, but it was still an interesting post.

    Certainly there are some cases where people do deceptive or abusive things with hidden text, and, those are the things that get our users most angry. If your web counter displays a single number, that's just a number, a single number. Probably, users aren't going to complain about that to Google, but if you have 4,000 stuffed words down at the bottom of the page that's clearly the sort of thing that if user realizes it's down at the bottom of the page, they get angry about it.
    "

    (EDIT - found this - Googlebot fetches external CSS file - I'm going to check through my logs more thoroughly)


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