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New form of search engine deception?
Disabled scroll bars
HenryUK




msg:109578
 8:11 am on Aug 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

Sorry if this has been raised before - I couldn't find it using the site search...

I found a site that has what was to me a new way of "hiding" the text that had got it to #1 on quite a competitive search.

The text is not hidden, but it is "below the fold" - ie you can't see it when you load the page initially. It would be visible if you were to scroll down - but the scroll bars are disabled. You can still get to the "hidden" text by clicking and dragging, but the average punter would not see this.

I put in a spam report - anyone else seen this or have any views?

PS if it isn't banned it might be a short-term way of getting to the top. I shan't be using it however!

 

beebware




msg:109579
 10:41 am on Aug 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

> anyone else seen this

Yes, we have - by one of our competitors (incendentially, where the majority of our customers come from: so it can't work _that_ well).

The instances I've seen are just that of keyword spamming on the front splash page: enough to get a site/page banned by default - the hidden scrollbars are just trying to hide it from human review.

dickbaker




msg:109580
 3:37 pm on Aug 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

I'm guilty of this, although not for the reasons stated above. Each of my pages has a redirect page in front of it that has the identical text. I've placed the text far down on the page, so that when the redirect happens, the viewer won't see the text.

Also, I've put plain html links way at the bottom of the actual pages, far further down than most viewers would scroll. I did this because many of my links on the menu are in Flash or javascript.

Hope this doesn't make me a Bad Guy.

HenryUK




msg:109581
 3:59 pm on Aug 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

I think that when you are genuinely trying to cater for different types of browser you are fine.

Whenever you are putting text on a page that no ordinary user is ever going to see, but will be picked up by a search engine spider, then I'm guessing that this will be considered some kind of cloaking.

even if it is from the best motives.

Personally I hope Google starts counting it as spam.

H

robertito62




msg:109582
 4:25 pm on Aug 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

Sometimes it's wise to take into account honest mistakes. This one doesn't seem like one, but silly things happen.

On a "find and replace" I once inserted linkable gifs on all popups. The gifs couldn't be seen. They were out of the popup frame.

I only realized of the mistake because I found the popups as referrals to sites they were not linking to. It was that one gif that someone had found by opening the popup in a full page and clicking on it.

Anyone could have thought I was hiding links.

ooops.

mil2k




msg:109583
 4:39 pm on Aug 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

Sorry if this has been raised before -

Don't worry. If its raised before it wouldn't pass the pre mod scissors ;)

anyone else seen this or have any views

They are in a grey area. They would feel extremely stupid if their site gets a kicked out of index bcoz of this issue ;)

dickbaker




msg:109584
 10:38 pm on Aug 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

"even if it is from the best motives.

Personally I hope Google starts counting it as spam."

I hope not. This is the only way I know of to have two versions of a site--one for high-speed connections and one for dialups--that have the same text content but differing quality of visuals and Flash.

So as not to seem like I'm spamming, I set up the robots.txt file to disallow the pages that viewers would be redirected to. Thus, the SE's only index the .html pages, and not the pages with graphics and Flash content.

paytoncooke




msg:109585
 11:12 pm on Aug 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

I have seen this on many sites as a way to load a repetition of keywords into the hidden area.

Unfortunately, in all cases they rank very well in Google, Inktomi, FAST and just about any search engine index.

Another case of the abuse of a useful layout technique.

allanp73




msg:109586
 1:28 am on Aug 21, 2003 (gmt 0)

I can never figure out why people go to such lengths to hide text. It seems like a waste of time.

HenryUK




msg:109587
 3:53 pm on Aug 21, 2003 (gmt 0)

I can never figure out why people go to such lengths to hide text. It seems like a waste of time

In this case the "offending" page is #1 for a competitive and I think fairly lucrative commercial keyphrase. That's why.

I hope not. This is the only way I know of to have two versions of a site...

Er, there aren't two versions. There's one version. It's not in a noscript tag or anything like that. There is no Flash on the site.

What there is is "scroll=no" in the body tag! And then a load of <h1> and <h2> tagged text below the "bottom" of the page.

I still say it should be banned. I'm not hot under the collar about it, first post was just pointing out what was to me an interesting new variation in trying to fool the search engines.

love to all

H

michael heraghty




msg:109588
 4:06 pm on Aug 21, 2003 (gmt 0)

It seems like this is definitely a way of hiding text from the user, but not from Googlebot.

However, the user experience on a site with no scrollbars is very bad... so even if they get high rankings, they are not going to get visitors who stay, let alone come back.

HenryUK




msg:109589
 4:23 pm on Aug 21, 2003 (gmt 0)

User experience doesn't really enter into it on this particular site - the page looks nice, there's a brief accurate description of what the site is, and a link saying "Enter Site" - on the rest of the site scrolling isn't disabled, just those few pages to hook in the SE referrals.

To be fair, the site does cover what is being searched on - it isn't random spamming - but instead of having their ordinary pages indexed and found on say page 3 or 4 of the results, they are #1.

It's neat, it's low-key, it's imaginative and it's currently successful...

mavherick




msg:109590
 4:31 pm on Aug 21, 2003 (gmt 0)

I would be surprised that keyword stuffing or more specifically on-page factor alone can bring you from result page 3 or 4 to #1, it sure is helping, but off-page factors like anchor text from outbound links and such are probably playing a bigger role, especially in competitive areas.

mavherick

dickbaker




msg:109591
 6:31 pm on Aug 21, 2003 (gmt 0)

HenryUK, I wasn't saying the site you're talking about had Flash elements. I was referring to my site.

That said, I think that hiding a bunch of h1 and h2 tags "below the fold" is bordering on being questionable behavior. If those same tags don't show up on the real pages in the site, then it's definitely questionable behavior.

George




msg:109592
 6:34 pm on Aug 21, 2003 (gmt 0)

Why Bother? There is a risk you might get banned, and if the ENTER HERE link is above the fold, who will scroll down? I never understand that mentality.

dickbaker




msg:109593
 4:02 am on Aug 22, 2003 (gmt 0)

George, why bother?

Without addressing again the particular site that HenryUK is talking about, I'm trying to do something for my friend/client. He wants to have a version of each page on his site that will load in a reasonable length of time (15 or so seconds) for dialup users, and another version of each page on that site that will load fast for broadband users. Eventually, he'd like to have more Flash elements and other animated elements on the broadband portion of his site, but not turn off the dialup vistors.

After reading through months and months of threads here on Webmaster World, I stlll cannot tell if I'm breaking some sort of Google rule or law by constructing this site as I have. That, to me, is the most ridiculous of circumstances: when you cannot know if you're a "criminal" until you're punished for being so.

As I said, the site that HenryUK describes seems suspect, because the h1 and h2 tags are hidden below-the-fold, and apparently aren't matched by similar h1 and h2 tags on the real pages.

I'm new to all of this (websites and SEO), so please fill me in on what constitutes unacceptable behavior. With 26 years in the advertising industry, I'd be surprised if there was something that didn't resemble something I've seen before. Certainly I've seen no mention of providing drugs to prominent site clients, or prostitutes to those client/visitors who spend X amount of dollars. If nothing else, that's an incentive for me to move away from the traditional ad industry and into website work.

John_Creed




msg:109594
 4:32 am on Aug 22, 2003 (gmt 0)

Trust me on this one, no site is beating you solely because of hidden text or cramming info "below the scroll." That's simply an excuse.

Report them to Google and if they ban the site, good for you. If not, than Google may not view it as spam.

Chris_D




msg:109595
 4:33 am on Aug 22, 2003 (gmt 0)

Like this Dickbaker?

[google.com...]

deanril




msg:109596
 6:13 am on Aug 22, 2003 (gmt 0)

I like the why bother aswell.

You are hiding text? I guess I can see if you want an ultra clean look for whatever reason you may want to do this, I have competitors doing this, they also have hidden links down there, they are just waiting to be booted..... What I always wonder is does the owner of the site know what the putts of a webmaster is risking for him?

The whole SEO thing, keyword stuffing has a purpose if done correctly. Its called providing good content. My site is stuffed and information rich and has great content. My customers love all the information I have provided, and in doing so have built confidense in my customers that we are a reputable ecommerce site.

So to take 5 minutes and stuff keywords effortlessly I think is a waste, when you can take 10 minutes and stuff, but provide good info and content. It requires a little bit more time but the benefits are 2 fold, customer likes it so does Search Engine, a win win situation...

cottage




msg:109597
 6:58 am on Aug 22, 2003 (gmt 0)

Don't do it. I have had a series of sites penalised that used this - a very painful experience.

Instead, use a genuine noscript (not keyword crammed, but simple links leading in past the flash page). Then, start link building, but with some of these links pointing not to the flash home page, but to the non-flash site content.

Once spiders find their way into the main site content, you are away.

I've done this and it does work fine.

If your whole site is flash, bolt on some non-flash pages where you can focus your SEO work.

seofreak




msg:109598
 7:18 am on Aug 22, 2003 (gmt 0)

One of my web designing competitors is using it. I incidentally found it and he had atleast 15 to 20 lines of mocked words like web designing etc.. and at the bottom he linked to his pages, websites like zdnet, microsoft, all popular and linked all of my PAGES as well! i was furious by seeing this and called them immediately to remove it .. they say they had no idea .. they hired a seo to do this ..

I thought they are trying to get me banned or something, why would they do this? Any idea?

Last month they were pr0 but now they are in google directory with pr3! that site is like more than 2 months old and still it hasn't gone banned!

percentages




msg:109599
 8:30 am on Aug 22, 2003 (gmt 0)

My name is Percentages and I was addicted to hidden scroll bars ;)

One day I read an article that said hardly no one looks below the page fold.....so I thought I would try getting rid of the hidden scroll bars, just to see if I could overcome my addiction.

Guess what? No one looks below the page fold as long as the banana is above it.....so removing the scroll bar is really a waste of time...and maybe one day it will incur a penalty!

For all those hidden scroll bar addicts out there.....I would advise ditching them now.....they are pointless and can potentially do some harm in the future.

HenryUK




msg:109600
 8:50 am on Aug 22, 2003 (gmt 0)

Trust me on this one, no site is beating you solely because of hidden text or cramming info "below the scroll." That's simply an excuse.

I agree. As I said earlier, it's a relevant site. However, position in results is a result of a combination of factors, as we all know. This factor, which I don't think is particularly fair, or useful to the user, is making a difference.

I have reported it, and I am not whinging, I don't think it's some kind of terrible injustice, and I am pretty happy with my own traffic! The reason for posting was that I thought it was interesting and hadn't seen it before.

What you suggest - reporting perceived spam, getting on with improving your own site etc - is good, standard advice, and it's what I am doing anyhow. But if everybody did that and never posted about things that they had seen, then this would be a much less interesting site!

cheers

H

the_nerd




msg:109601
 12:19 pm on Aug 22, 2003 (gmt 0)

pls correct me if I'm wrong ...

There's no point in reporting people who are misbehaving. They probably know what they do and they are ready to live with the potential consequences. And - AFAIK they break no law. (They make me sick, but that's my problem)

No Search engine will ever have the manpower to check all those reports and then check if it was done on purpose .. So all they can do is change their algs so all that spamming is rendered useless.

What would you do if you ran a SE? I would regard an element as very important that is unique on every page and will always be displayed (title). Obviously the SEs do this.

Then there's page description. If you put in garbage and it's displayed, nobody will click on it.

Anything else is very hard to detect, so it won't work in the long run, meaning everything else that's relevant for SE listings will have to be found off-page, but not neccessarily off-site.

curryrivel




msg:109602
 12:43 pm on Aug 22, 2003 (gmt 0)

I would heartily encourage all of my competitors to use noscroll, and stuff very heavily with keywords :-)

HenryUK




msg:109603
 1:25 pm on Aug 22, 2003 (gmt 0)

There's no point in reporting people who are misbehaving....all they can do is change their algs so all that spamming is rendered useless.

Hmm, not sure how those two statements go together...

The point of reporting pages (not people) that are (in your opinion) gaining some unfair advantage is NOT specifically to get them banned, but to get Google to consider the behaviour, decide whether it is indeed unfair, and if so then to tweak their algorithms to punish, penalise or exclude sites that behave in this way.

If you don't report the behaviour - especially if it is something new - Google won't necessarily find out about it. They don't know everything! Which is why they encourage users to report results with which they are dissatisfied.

H

the_nerd




msg:109604
 2:06 pm on Aug 22, 2003 (gmt 0)

@HenryUK

I do agree 100% with you.

What I meant, but did not write, is:

It's no use reporting others in order to get them banned immediately. But of course reporting helps SEs to improve their algs.

It just very often sounds like "teacher, teacher, Bullyboy hit me - you should put him into detention". -- (so I can date his girl-friend)

In another group about 90% of postings come from people complaining about spammers.

Then someone mentioned he has built an agent that reads recently used keywords and produces tons of pages from them. You wouldn't believe how many wanted this guy's email-address.

So there's just many hyprocrits around who'd do anything if they could be sure nobody saw them.

4eyes




msg:109605
 2:39 pm on Aug 22, 2003 (gmt 0)

Google can't detect hidden text efficiently.
The new hidden text filter only picks up the 'badly done' hidden text.

Some time ago, after a similar discussion, I put up a test site with some hidden text using an external css file stored where google can spider it. I used a simple technique (not just setting divs with negative positions or display = none, but not much more sophisicated)

I then spam reported myself.

I promise will let you all know if it ever gets banned.

HenryUK




msg:109606
 3:50 pm on Aug 22, 2003 (gmt 0)

thanks thenerd, i understand.

I'm straying from the original point a little, but I personally think it is better to go crying to teacher than to keep on getting hit round the head by bullies!

I have reported sites that are blatantly spamming. For some I am still waiting to see any action. Others have actually disappeared from the index. You can't know what is cause and effect, but I am pretty sure that spam reports are taken seriously.

4eyes




msg:109607
 3:23 am on Aug 24, 2003 (gmt 0)

I am pretty sure that spam reports are taken seriously.

Sure they are - but Google have stated that they try to deal with them by tweaks to the algo.

The current consensus seems to be that they run the new 'hidden text' filter over sites that are spam reported - hence my test.
(If anyone has evidence to the contrary, please let us know)

If you want to hide text there are plenty of ways you can do it that cannot be detected by the algo.

Of course, if you get a hand inspection you would be penalised, but these are few and far between.

For all those spammers who are prepared to 'crash and burn' a few domains, hidden text is an easy option and will remain so until Google are able to hand inspect every spam report.

My test site has been up there for months without being banned - if it had been a real site selling a product, I would already have made enough profit to justify the risk.

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