Is it a good idea to hide links to another site on one of my sites?
July 7, 2004 10:11 AM   Subscribe

So, I manage a fairly high traffic website. But, there are a couple other websites that I'm involved with that I would like to link to off of my day job site for spidering reasons. If I just include these links on a couple of pages and hide them via comment tags, will the spider still go to them? Is this not up to search engine ethics? Are there search engine ethics? Thanks in advance.
posted by trbrts to Computers & Internet (11 answers total)
I am not an expert on the way search engine spiders work, but I doubt they will index content listed in comments. Also, be forewarned that both Google and Yahoo! warn against employing content designed to appear differently to search engines than it does to users. They will ban you if they catch you. The type of tactics you're suggesting don't strike me as particularly eggregious, but there is a lot at stake. I wouldn't chance it.
posted by alphanerd at 10:19 AM on July 7, 2004

Oh... The cloaking link was probably slightly off-topic, but this page is pretty clear about it: number one under "Quality Guidelines - Specific Recommendations" is "Avoid hidden text or hidden links".
posted by alphanerd at 10:22 AM on July 7, 2004

Yeah, I don't think my little scheme is going to work. I can probably just put some real links on there and nobody here at the office will even see them. Thanks for the input.
posted by trbrts at 10:48 AM on July 7, 2004

A link wrapped around a transparent one pixel gif, or a period set to the same color as the background should do the trick as far as hiding the link is concerned. Although the text surrounding the link is also looked at by google.
posted by zeoslap at 11:02 AM on July 7, 2004

If it did work, I think it would be unethical, since the link is arbitrary, not based on any content relationship, and the only reason you'd be putting it there is to capitalize on an unrelated site's existing traffic. If you're not willing to show the link on the highly-trafficked site, then there's probably zero real relationship between them. Do I have that right?
posted by scarabic at 11:27 AM on July 7, 2004

Well, from what you said in your last comment, I'd be more concerned about the other end of things--whether anyone back at the office is going to care if their company's site links to these other projects of yours.

I'd really recommend that you apply the "light of day" rule--if it's something you could bring up with them, then you should bring it up with them before you add the links. If it's something you'd feel uncomfortable bringing up with them, I'd seriously think twice about doing it. No matter whether you get along with them really well or not, it is the company's site.

I don't want to be preachy, but even out of self-interest, you should be careful. Just about anyone would reprimand a webmaster who did this on their site, and I'm sure a lot of places would take it even more seriously. Just be careful.
posted by LairBob at 11:50 AM on July 7, 2004

There are search engine ethics, at least, Google has defined some search engine ethics.

It's quite easy to set up a site that serves as nothing but a Google bomb, and this is how some search engine optimizers work. Unfortunately (and I think I heard about this through AskMe) such tactics can get your site banned from Google.
posted by o2b at 11:58 AM on July 7, 2004

Thanks guys. You guys are my concious. In one case the site is very relevant. In the other cases they are not. The relevant one is the one that really needs the bump. They even know I do this, but, the boss is a big fan of making people pay for links and banners. I'll think I'll follow the group concensus and go with a more legitimate way of building traffic.
posted by trbrts at 12:27 PM on July 7, 2004

under "Quality Guidelines - Specific Recommendations" is "Avoid hidden text or hidden links".

This is not exact advice. Google *does* pay attention to "title" tags in hyperlinks and "alt" tags in image links. It even shows them as the excerpt in its search results. However, use them wisely, accurately, and appropriately. Putting the contents of a dictionary in a title tag is not a good idea.
posted by Mo Nickels at 12:47 PM on July 7, 2004

Basically, any time you have an idea of the form "Gee, this is a nifty way to mess around with search engines and it's something they probably won't catch", you're contemplating placing a time bomb on your web site. Just ask WhenU or Traffic Power. I believe WhenU's infraction was using Server Side Includes or something similar to direct spidering robots to content-rich web pages and to direct users referred by search engines to their main site, while Traffic Power used obfuscated javascript to redirect users to the main page on mouseover. I may be a little paranoid after my company's experience with Traffic Power (which o2b might have referenced), but Google is very good at what it does and is adapting constantly. Even though hidden links don't strike me as being as much of a problem as cloaking, my assumption now is that Google will eventually catch up with tactics that run afoul of its policy and penalize sites that use them. I imagine that text the same color as the background, one pixel .gifs, etc. are not going viable in the long term for concealing links.
posted by alphanerd at 2:28 PM on July 7, 2004

We're your conscience and your spell-checker, too! ;)
posted by scarabic at 4:07 PM on July 7, 2004

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