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Old 04-10-2006   #1
briandoakes
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Hidden Links On Colgate-Palmolive Site

Hello..

In Reading the following Google Page:
http://www.google.com/webmasters/guidelines.html

it says:
"Avoid hidden text or hidden links."

This is something I have always practiced, not showing hidden links.

Recently someone whose knowledge of SEOs I trust has shown me this following corporate page:
http://www.colgate.com/app/Colgate/US/HomePage.cvsp

If you look at the bottom, they have a link to "Show AlL Colgate Products", which displays on the same page a visible layer of extra text links.

Does anyone know how Google views something like this? Yes at first glance the text is hidden, yet it is not hidden in the sense that a user has no option to look at it.

I would like to deploy something like this, however I have some concerns...

Any feedback would be great.

thanks,
Brian
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Old 04-10-2006   #2
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Well, any time you see questionable pages of any kind, open up Firefox, because it's easy and quick to use to disable CSS and Javascript - and look at the pages like that, first thing. Then go on from there.
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Old 04-10-2006   #3
briandoakes
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great thank you.....

how would that help me know if the practice is a bad one?

thank you for your help!
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Old 04-10-2006   #4
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Doing that shows what's there with other than a fully enabled browser - not like a text-only browser, but still shows something.

Quote:
how would that help me know if the practice is a bad one?
You just compare what you can find with interpreting what the guidelines say, even though it's not always clear-cut. The safest thing is, if in doubt - don't do it, even if others do.

Added:

Just my own opinion, but I've long believed that there's an "immunity level," a point that some sites reach when they can get away with a lot more than Average Joe's website can.

Last edited by Marcia : 04-10-2006 at 06:01 PM.
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Old 04-10-2006   #5
glengara
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I looked at the text-only cache on G, seems pretty "clean" to me....
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Old 04-11-2006   #6
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Someone pointed that out to me recently. First, I should mention we have a no spam reporting policy on the forums, covered in our FAQ. This is one of those cases where we'll allow an exception, since we're talking about an extremely well known and large site.

On this page, there's the Click Here To View Other Colgate-Palmolive Products link. If you click on that, the page expands to show you all the products listed below it, Oral Care, Personal Care and so on. So I personally wouldn't count that material as hidden, since any human user can easily get to it.

But now let's go to that text-only cache:
http://66.249.93.104/search?q=cache:...en&lr=&strip=1

Again, you see the products, each product is a link. But then you see descriptive words, "gingivitis" or "sensitive teeth" are also made into links -- in fact, the same links that lead to the products.

There's no good reason for this. It raises a red flag that someone said just link to our products from descriptive words and we'll rank better.

Still, that's not necessarily against the guidelines. It's your page -- you can link as you think makes sense. But go back to the non-cached page and open up those links again. Now notice how the links from descriptive words are hidden, a specific style change done so the words with links don't look like they are hyperlinks, while the product names that are links DO look like links. That's where I think it likely tips the scales into being a hidden link and against Google's guidelines. Expect them to be banned for a long period of time, anything from 48 to 96 hours.
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Old 04-11-2006   #7
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Expect them to be banned for a long period of time, anything from 48 to 96 hours.
LOL, that was a fun surprise ending.
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Old 04-11-2006   #8
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*That's where I think it likely tips the scales into being a hidden link and against Google's guidelines.*

I suppose since they clearly become links on mouseover they could argue that they're masked rather than hidden ;-)

So has the text-only cache put the kybosh on CSS spam?
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Old 04-11-2006   #9
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Personally - I think the main issue relates the use of the <no script> at the top of the page.

The noscript element is used to define alternate content (text) if a script is NOT executed.

The script content, for which the <no script> element is provided as alternate content, is 4 links in a flash animation with revolving product images.

The 'alternate' content provided in the <no script> is:
Quote:
<noscript>
<h1>Colgate-Palmolive- Trusted brands for personal care, household cleaning and pet nutrition.</h1>
<p>Colgate Palmolive- Trusted brands for personal care, household cleaning and pet nutrition. Throughout the world, people like you trust our family of brands to care for the ones they love. From toothbrushes and toothpastes to bar soap, household cleaners, and even pet food, every day our products improve the quality of life for consumers worldwide.</p>
<p>Colgate Oral Care- Trusted resource for <a href="http://www.colgate.com/app/Colgate/US/OC/HomePage.cvsp">dental health</a> information and dental care products.<br>
Colgate <a href="http://www.colgate.com/app/Colgate/US/PC/HomePage.cvsp">Personal Care</a> - Anti-perspirant and Deodorant products for men and women.<br>
Colgate <a href="http://www.colgate.com/app/Colgate/US/HC/HomePage.cvsp">Home Care and household cleaning</a> products. Dishwashing liquid, and household cleaners.</p>
</noscript>
The use of the <no script> content would appear to be slightly more comprehensive than the script content....

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Expect them to be banned for a long period of time, anything from 48 to 96 hours.
LOL
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Old 04-11-2006   #10
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Danny, That is the single most entertaining sentence I have ever read.

Thank you!
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Old 04-11-2006   #11
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You'd really think a soap company would run a clean website
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Old 04-11-2006   #12
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I agree with Chris they're using the tag for what it was intended to be used for.

I can only imagine what crew at IHY is going to think about it LOL.
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Old 04-11-2006   #13
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Okay, it's true they are hiding text using the noscript tag. But, who says that is spam? No one. The content within the <noscript> tag is relevant to the site, helpful, and not too lengthy. I don't think that constitutes spam. It's a little suspicious, but in this specific case, I think it's borderline, and not necesarily spam. The CSS and "hidden"/identical links seem to be a style preference, and the links are still accessable with a click from a user. Once again, IMHO this is not spam. Just a style preference. And who says that you can't have the same hyperlink on the page with different anchor text. Again, not spam. IMHO, Colgate will not be banned.
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Old 04-11-2006   #14
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I don't think they're doing anything wrong. They're using design and CSS techniques to display their content. Mouse over those words, and those that are links pop out at you. They provide the link for you to view the content originally not shown. It's using designs like this that allow a site to have a better user experience while still providing those users that want content with content.

Nothing wrong any of those tecniques in my opinon.
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Old 04-11-2006   #15
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As lame as this may seem, I could understand how it happens. When you deal with big companies there are huge hurdles to optimizing their websites. You have a marketing team that doesn't want to have their website's appearance changed at all. These days, there are so many big brand sites that are employing the latest AJAX tricks without even thinking about search engine friendliness. One client I am working with has every product copy written via a javascript docwrite. This type of stuff is typical. Often in these sites every cosmetic change also has to go through a slow approval process too, sometimes taking half a year. Marketing types tend to get all glazy eyed when you explain the reasons why things need to be a curtain way.

Then, often the tech side, the folks you need to talk to to get site structure, and templating changed, is lazy and apathetic AND clueless about optimization. First step there is often to convince them that you know what you are doing. Then you have to educate them too.

To get a big corporation to do optimization the right way is a real challenge. It would be so much easier to just ad some hidden keywords and links to a page.
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Old 04-11-2006   #16
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As lame as this may seem, I could understand how it happens. When you deal with big companies there are huge hurdles to optimizing their websites. You have a marketing team that doesn't want to have their website's appearance changed at all. These days, there are so many big brand sites that are employing the latest AJAX tricks without even thinking about search engine friendliness....
That is exactly why the cloakers stay in business. Hell I'm sure Fantom or Mikkel could send you traffic even if there was red tap that went all the way to the CEO's office.

It'll cost twice as much to get it though, but it's better than losing your corporate site by going a little aggressive.
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Old 04-11-2006   #17
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I tend to agree with shimsand and SanDiegoSEO. I don't think that there is anything wrong with the CSS techniques being used here. It would be different if they intentionally hid the text permanently and never revealed it to visitors, or made it the same color as the background to intentionally hide it. That would be an issue.

However, the CSS technique of hiding text until a user clicks or hovers over something is quite handy. I use it on my site for the FAQs to hide the answer for questions that someone may not want to see, and for CSS drop down menus. At the SES in San Jose last year, one of the panel members at one meeting told us we should be ashamed for using JavaScript drop down menus, and suggested that we use CSS drop down menus instead. It provides the same functionality and looks just the same, if not better. Plus, now the search engines can crawl and follow the links. Sure enough, it helped get more of my pages indexed and moved my ranking up in all of the SERPs.

Now, pointing all of those keywords to the same link, I might have a problem with. Whether it's a problem for the SE's, I don't know.

JEC
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Old 04-11-2006   #18
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IMO, I do not see anything in the page that violates the Google Guidelines for SEO. The use of <noscript> does not hide anything malicious. The <noscript> content provides what the Flash animation on the top displays. So if Flash is not supported, such <noscript> contents will be displayed.

Changing the style on link (I see one or more links that appear similar to normal text) within the description does not deceive anyone. Until it becomes invisible to human eyes.

Sorry guys, but this is my personal take.
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Old 04-12-2006   #19
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I don't consider the text hidden. I agree that anyone clicking on the big "click here for more link" will see it, and that it's pretty obvious it should be considered part of the page. Potentially spam could be hidden this way, but you don't normally invite people to click on stuff that's spam. You make the link hidden.

When you open that text, they do have a spam issue. They have hidden links.

Consider the first line. It looks like this:


Colgate Total
toothpaste reduces gingivitis by up to 88% and fights bad breath

The words Colgate Total are a link and clearly shown that way with a standard underlined link.

But now consider what happens when you turn styles off. Then you see the other words that are hidden links:


Colgate Total
toothpaste reduces gingivitis by up to 88% and fights bad breath

Yes, if you hover over the words, you'll see them change color to indicate they are links. But why would anyone do this? Why make them links if you aren't going to show a human being that they are links? You aren't expecting humans to click on them. You've done it just for search engines. And you've hidden them so as to hide the fact you just want some anchor rich links pointing at the page.

Bear in mind that all three links in that sentence point to exactly the same place. Also consider the style class for those hidden links:

class="stealthLink"

Yeah, someone wants those links hidden, has done it on purpose, and I think the reason is self-evident. Google's guidelines are against hidden links -- this is a violation.

Is it a big deal? Not really. Do we think Colgate's doing better because of this? Probably not. That particular page isn't in the top 10 at Google for those words.

But technically speaking, it's against the guidelines. Those who feel big brands get to do what they want won't like that. For myself, I've never liked looking at spam from a technical view. Is is hidden? Is it partially hidden? Is it poor man's cloaking. What's the intent of something someone's doing. Is the intent harmful to searchers? Here, the intent of doing this is to rank better for those words. That's not necessarily harmful, as these products are probably useful to some degree for them. But since it was done with some trickery, I could see some wrist slapping being in order. Make it an entire week of being banned
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Old 04-12-2006   #20
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Google's guidelines state everything should be for the user, so the question is "how does this help their visitors?"

IMHO this doesn't, it makes it difficult for users to understand, links should be formatted in a standard way within text. I have a website where most visitors are new to the web and having links formatted like this could confuse them. For colegate, their visitors may be more experienced web users and find this more familiar in turn making it for the user but I doubt this is the case.
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