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How can I tell Googlebot that my background image is white?
Black background, black text over white background image = penalty?

 9:16 am on Jul 10, 2003 (gmt 0)

Looks like Google has penalised my site, as it has gone from a PR1-2 to a white bar.

There is no spam or intentionally hidden content and nothing that is deliberately breaking rules, so I can only assume that it is because of my site layout:

A wide-screen style design, black background with a white strip across the middle, which is a background image & black text over the top. There are some other images that overlap on the same line as the links, so I can't set the table with the content in it to have a bgcolor of #FFFFFF.

I noticed the drop or penalty this morning. Problem is that I have 2 sites with the same layout (promoting different products)

Anyone got any ideas how I can get googlebot to realise that I'm not trying to hide stuff and that my image is white, so that I can get off this penalty.



 9:01 pm on Jul 10, 2003 (gmt 0)

Assuming there is a penalty, and assuming it's due to your background color, putting your background color in an external CSS file should do the trick.


 7:58 am on Jul 11, 2003 (gmt 0)

And google bot will definatley pick up that value in the CSS file and over-rule the value in the page source?

I'll try it anyway as I nolonger have any rank to lose!


 8:02 am on Jul 11, 2003 (gmt 0)

I think NEO means get rid of the black background value from your page completely and use CSS to define that background color. It would probably be a good idea to do the same with your on-page text as well, just for ease of updating.

I don't think google bothers reading CSS to check such things.. I believe (and I may be wrong) that the only way they would penalize someone for any dodgy CSS tricks is by doing a manual check. Someone may be able to correct me on that one.


 8:28 am on Jul 11, 2003 (gmt 0)

I disable image-loading by default, so your pages aren't going to work very well for me!


 8:38 am on Jul 11, 2003 (gmt 0)

I have defined it on the CSS file now. The text and links were already in the CSS file. tbh, I didn't think about changing the body style in my CSS :P

danny: why do you disable image loading? surley the majority of websites would look all messed up to you?


 3:04 pm on Jul 11, 2003 (gmt 0)

I think NEO means get rid of the black background value from your page completely and use CSS to define that background color

That's exactly what I meant, didn't make it very clear though. :)

I also don't think Google checks CSS files, i've never had it call for one of my external CSS files.

Not that hidden text is particularly valuable, but if you did use CSS to hide text, your competitors will see it, and while Googlebot may not find it, a manually review certainly will.


 3:11 pm on Jul 11, 2003 (gmt 0)

>>danny: why do you disable image loading? surley the majority of websites would look all messed up to you? <<

I'm not danny, but i do the same as him. It saves a heap of time and memory especially if you are some serious browsing, and if pages have been coded reasonably and you are using the main browers it does not mess up the layout. You just see white spaces or "broken mirror" images.

Some browsers, admiteedly very low in usage but good for surfing fast, like Lynx, also do not show images.

Best way to surf the web for me!


 3:17 pm on Jul 11, 2003 (gmt 0)

I have a related question. I am using CSS to set the page background to white. However, all the text on the page is white contained in tables with a blue background. Will Google see this correctly? Or will it think I am spamming by not reading the table as having a different bg color than the page?


 3:32 pm on Jul 11, 2003 (gmt 0)

Maybe a silly question, but if you are putting a white graphic over the page, why not just set your background white as well, or some neutral color so as not to cause the issue?



 3:43 pm on Jul 11, 2003 (gmt 0)

This is a broader issue than just Googlebot: it affects older browsers (Hi, Netscape 3!) as well as badly broken non-browser-integrated-parts-of-the-operating-system, browsers on low-capability systems (cell phones, etc.)

But the solution is simple.

1) Use CSS for everything. The background color doesn't always work.

2) If you have text over an image, set the background color to match the predominant color in the image.

3) Everywhere you set the text color, set the background color in the same place--and vice versa. If you override one of them, override them both.

This approach will work on any tool that is capable of recognizing text color wherever it recognizes background color, which includes Lynx, ancient Netscapes, and probably even browsers for B&W cell phone screens (perhaps not ancient IEs, but pre-IE-5 versions were too crippled for even the monopolistic power of M$ to get anyone to use -- you won't see one in 10,000 users on them)


 3:45 pm on Jul 11, 2003 (gmt 0)

Well, in my case the design of the website was 2 black sections,(top & bottom) that have come apart from each other to reveal a white background image in the middle.

I did try to make the black top & bottom as a table, but I couldn't get the bottom table to stretch to the bottom of the page.


 3:48 pm on Jul 11, 2003 (gmt 0)

Isnīt that silly? People must discuss the right interpretation of the canon because of Google world police with its PageRank (TM) and its behavioral rules. Google will soon become a hatred symbol just as M$ became. Googol, 10^100, isnīt that a computerized devil?


 3:55 pm on Jul 11, 2003 (gmt 0)

Aye, it would not be a good thing if Google were to dictate how we design sites... especially if the designs needed for good indexing didn't work on some browsers.


 4:12 pm on Jul 11, 2003 (gmt 0)

Really guys.. google does NOT dictate how you design sites. Only if you **choose** to design them in a way that suits their indexing procedures. That's your decision, not google's nor any other search engine.

There are so many sites that use same backgorund color text over graphics and background table colors, that i really doubt it is a problem. I dont think we have ever seen any incontrovertible evidence that hidden text like this has caused a problem - only suspicions and conjecture. On one site we have had white text on black background tables (with a white background overall) for years, and still rank highly.


 6:26 pm on Jul 11, 2003 (gmt 0)

I also used to browse with images off quite frequently before I got broadband at home. Even with images on, it's a real drag running into sites with text that is unreadable until all the images finish loading.

Anyway, there are just so many ways around this problem if you use some imagination. I haven't seen the site, but one possibility is to put the text in a table-within-a-table, so that the TD can have the correct background color. That works fine with virtually every browser since MSIE 2.0. Or put the text in a GIF image, which is no less user-friendly than what you're doing now. You can also write the offending text using Javascript, or to use CSS alone as previously mentioned, but those won't work for all users.


 6:56 pm on Jul 11, 2003 (gmt 0)

I doubt this is his problem. I still see plenty of high ranking sites using the basic white-on-white, or black-on-black hidden text trick.


 12:12 am on Jul 12, 2003 (gmt 0)


I would like to add that white background is bad anyway.

[edited by: Marcia at 1:07 am (utc) on July 12, 2003]
[edit reason] No URLs, please. [/edit]


 2:18 am on Jul 14, 2003 (gmt 0)

I would like to add that white background is bad anyway.

I like white backgrounds.. I generally find them easier to read than most 'coloured' backgrounds that I have seen. Just make sure to get some colour on the page.

Pricey, you should persist trying to get rid of the image though. Just a suggestion: create one large table and declare the width 100% and the height 100%. (I know it's not 100% recognized, but it is by the majority of browsers). Then vertically center another table inside that one with width 100%. You should be able to do whatever you like with that one.. use bgcolor, CSS or anything! Do try to get rid of the image though - it's not really necessary and the people browsing without images are a worthwhile consideration.


 2:58 am on Jul 14, 2003 (gmt 0)

You missed the point: Internet layouters should not define any color at all. Then, recipients like you can use white and recipients like me can use light-grey. [Grassomusic.de...] gives details.

About tables: Big nested tables are not performance-wise. Still many people surf with Pentium 100 or even smaller systems (old notebooks, poor countries). Even 500KHz machines can show 100% CPU use for some seconds if the loading page is long or uses special features.


 3:56 am on Jul 14, 2003 (gmt 0)

Googlebot doesn't care about your background image because googlebot does not look for hidden text. Hidden text detection is totally seperate from crawling for the index.

If your site is at the PR1-PR2 level you could very easily drop out of the index periodically if you lose an incoming link or two. White bar just means PR < 1.

It is my understanding that the hidden text penalties are grey bar penalties and you are totally removed from the index.

I think you just jumped to the wrong conclusion.


 11:16 am on Jul 14, 2003 (gmt 0)

So if its not a hidden text penalty then wth is it?

I have found nothing else wrong with my site, yet it has crumbled from its PR1-2 to a whitebar.

Odd though, I checked today - still white bar and it appears #1 on the keyword it is optimised for, and beats another site with a PR3.


 3:22 pm on Jul 14, 2003 (gmt 0)

About the problem with the background image:
There are many ways to solve this. You can use tables or frames to divide your page in sections with different colour schemes (some people is reluctant to use frames, and it is true that a bad use can anihilate your PR easily). You can also re-design your page: Is so important the white background? If not, I recommend you to set a dark colour (#606060 or darker).
You can also set a tipicall scheme in your HTML and repaint it with scripting (but this is very bad seen among webmasters and programmers)
And surely there are many other ways to solve it. It's well known among sciencists and programmers that there are always many ways thet lead to the same result.

About the background colors:
It is true that 100% white backgrounds have a problem. But instead of saying that they are bad, I'll say why they are bad:
Almost all screens use light to represent colours. They use, normally, the format that we know as RGB. For each pixel on the screen, there is assigned a value for its Red, Green and Blue components (the primary colours) that tell how much must glitter each point.
When the greatest part of the points in the screen are shinning with their maximum brightness (this is, a white background), the eyes take a great amount of light, and they get tired easily. The less eye-tiring background is the black one. And the best option for a web, when this is possible, is to be customizable like this site.


 4:11 pm on Jul 14, 2003 (gmt 0)

Aye, black is better on the eyes.

My site has a very small ammount of white as the text table is a set size. The rest of the page is black, so naturally I chose a black background. Then I have black text over the white area. This is what I thought got me a penalty... but I'm not so sure now.

I'm going to have to check deeper into my site to see if I accedently broke some SE rules!


 5:21 pm on Jul 14, 2003 (gmt 0)

You asked:

So if its not a hidden text penalty then wth is it?

It is nothing, as I already told you when I said

If your site is at the PR1-PR2 level you could very easily drop out of the index periodically if you lose an incoming link or two. White bar just means PR < 1.

According to several members around here, the toolbar PR display is not up to date. So right now it is best to ignore the little green (or grey or white) bar and worry about the important thing . . . your results.

You said you were showing up #1 on your keyword. If you only have PR0-2, and you are getting #1, it certainly sounds like you don't have any sort of penalty.

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