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Old 01-13-2006   #1
cajun67
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Single Pixel Links

Does Google penalize for transparent single-pixel links? I'll place these on the bottom of the pages on my sites when my navigation is Flash-based, so that Google will index all of the pages. If I search directly on the domain, I can see that Google does, indeed, index them.

In the HTML code, I'll take out height and width specifications so that it's not obvious that the image is a single pixel. But is there any evidence that Google looks into the actual image to determine height and width?
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Old 01-14-2006   #2
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Yes, there is. I've seen sites banned for it.

If it's clear that you are only doing it to adjust for flash, then you might get away with it, but there are better ways to handle this issue. You can embed the links in the Flash code in a completely compliant manner that SE's index just fine.

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Old 01-14-2006   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mcanerin
Yes, there is. I've seen sites banned for it.

If it's clear that you are only doing it to adjust for flash, then you might get away with it, but there are better ways to handle this issue. You can embed the links in the Flash code in a completely compliant manner that SE's index just fine.

Ian
Ian,
What site have you seen banned just for linking a 1 pixel gif? I can point to thousands that do it with no consequence. Almost every site using StatCounter has one (and there are A LOT of them, giving statcounter.com the oh so coveted PR10)

On its own, I have a hard time believing a link from a 1 pixel graphic, colored or transparent, will have any effect.
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Old 01-14-2006   #4
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Quote:
On its own, I have a hard time believing a link from a 1 pixel graphic, colored or transparent, will have any effect.
It's not automatic. But try adding some keyword laden anchor text and see how long it takes. Sometimes it will take forever (ie nothing will happen) but I've personally had clients who were banned for it (before I took over, of course).

As with all things, the intent and specifics of each case is looked at, but hiding links can get you banned or penalized. As a concrete example, most of the Traffic Power clients that were banned a couple years ago had some sort of hidden links (either invised gifs or via javascript).

But claiming that "On its own, I have a hard time believing a link from a 1 pixel graphic, colored or transparent, will have any effect" implies that it's perfectly OK. And it isn't. This isn't a black and white issue.

There are lots of examples of invis gifs being used all the time. I used them back in the old days as spacers all the time. Once in a while, I would find leftover gifs that used to be part of a link and got missed in a delete, and I was never banned.

But if you hide a link and stuff keywords in it for clearly SEO-only purposes, you run a real risk of a penalty or ban. Not an automatic risk, but a real one nonetheless.

I simply don't see the point of doing so - it's a simple, validated and completely workable fix to just add the alternative text/links where they are supposed to go - in the object tag. It's bad design and bad programming to not do the right and easy method and choose to to a more risky method instead. I don't get it. Why would anyone use 1x1 gifs to SEO flash? there are far more easy and effective methods.

Hiding links is risky. Showing one thing to a search engine and another to visitors is risky. I've seen sites banned for it, and I've worked on sites that had been banned due to hidden links. It's not a myth. I'm not sure how much more clearly I can say it.

Feel free to so it all you want. It's not illegal or anything. But if you do it on a paying client and they are banned/penalized as a result, don't say you were not warned.

As for page trackers, etc - these are the reason the penalty/ban is not automatic - there are legitimate reasons to use web bugs. There is that dumb million dollar page that guy made, etc. But SEO isn't one of the legitimate reasons, IMO.

http://www.google.com/webmasters/guidelines.html

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Old 01-14-2006   #5
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I do feel that when webmasters started using 1x1 transparent images a few years ago to hide links, that Google programmed into their algorithm the ability to detect these types of links and discount them if not penalize a site for using them.

I have not seen evidence to support that Google can “automatically” detect hidden links related to transparent images that are larger than 1x1 or in which they cannot detect size but that does not mean a human can get involved and find hidden links especially when someone does a "spam report" on you.

I had my own site banned from the Google index for over a year due to 1x1 transparent gif image inbound links. We had to get all those links removed and please for re-inclusion before our site was let back in. Having gone through that experience personally, I feel that it is just not worth it. While it is true that many do get away with it whether their intensions are good or deceptive, there is always that chance that one will get caught.

Why can't a flash into have a copyright info at the bottom as well as a link to a site map - in html text? That way it does not detract from the artistic integrity of the page and search engines can still find a site map and the links that are contained therein.
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