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Google and invisible text
I always thought they detected this.
rencke




msg:172187
 2:41 pm on Jul 21, 2002 (gmt 0)

Time and again I stumble across a small company that has managed to achieve phenomenal rankings, typically in the top 5, for two frequently used two word phrases. In an extremely competitive environment, they are beating over 100 big competitors, the top third of which have clearly used professional SEO services for their sites.

A quick inspection reveals the oldest trick in the book: Hardly any text at all on the page, except "keyword1 keyword2, keyword2 keyword1" with the font color set to #FFDEAD against a background set to - guess what - #FFDEAD. The result: an invisible keyword density of 29%.

It has always been my understanding that this is an extremely dangerous practise, carrying an automatic death penalty if you are detected. Or at least, sufficient demerits to place you on page 500. The issue has been discussed for years here at WmW and everybody seems to agree on the danger. Is this no longer the case? How could Google miss it?

 

mack




msg:172188
 2:44 pm on Jul 21, 2002 (gmt 0)

I dont think google will penalise it until it is pointed out. Invisable text was one of the options of the complaints form at google.com

KakenBetaal




msg:172189
 9:28 pm on Jul 21, 2002 (gmt 0)

I've a competitor that has hidden text with keywords exactly like this. No penalty, and no response yet from Google after using the complaints form.

Pity, really, as IMO hidden text is stepping well over the bounds of acceptable SEO. Luckily the competitor is a bit clueless on SEO, so I've been able to beat him on many phrases, and equal him on the rest.

mack




msg:172190
 9:40 pm on Jul 21, 2002 (gmt 0)

KakenBetaal.

It's always good to beat a cheat using legitamite SEO.

well done. :)

henki




msg:172191
 1:26 am on Jul 22, 2002 (gmt 0)

Hidden text sounds rather ugly, I would call it spider information text. For spider eyes only.

WebGuerrilla




msg:172192
 2:19 am on Jul 22, 2002 (gmt 0)

It has always been my understanding that this is an extremely dangerous practise, carrying an automatic death penalty if you are detected.

Welcome to the world of spam control PR. (And I don't mean PageRank).

95% of all automated detection filters that search engines have claimed exist don't. If they have actually paid programmers to write an automated tool to catch and penalize things like hidden text, then they should all be fired on the spot.

The truth is that the majority of common spam techniques are not automatically detected and penalized. They simple mount a PR campaign that is designed to convince the majority of honest webmasters that they can automatically detect and penalize such tactics.

Since the majority of webmasters are not hard core professional spammers, they believe the hype and play by the rules. That eliminates 90% of the problem.

The diehard spammers could care less about the threats of automatic detection. They continue to flood search engines with the most prehistoric spam techniques that exist. They are not detected and penalized, and they achieve top rankings.

All the recent cloaking hysteria is a perfect example. Search engines spend so much time publicly speaking about the evils of cloaking because they do not have the ability to automatically detect and penalize the tactics most commonly used by cloakers.

When you cloak a page that contains the entire body enclosed in an <h1> tag, the search engine looses the competitive spam police that will view the source code and report the violation.

henki




msg:172193
 1:04 pm on Jul 22, 2002 (gmt 0)

Well said. It has allways been more talk than actions from the SEs side. Google still being the most aware and agressive has also failed to combat all tactics used by webmasters.

This is not a big question for SEs. It is not directly connected to their income and thus has low priority. I actually doubt that they even discuss it i n the border room. It is handed down to technicians and not given priority.

PR -campaignes are run to show off. You never know if they actually would ban your sites, but many are discurraged from trying.

Brett_Tabke




msg:172194
 1:12 pm on Jul 22, 2002 (gmt 0)

Give away the farm would ya WebG! :) (could I post edit that and put it in white on white? HA!. seems appropriate. j/k)

Anyone ever try to write a simple invisible text detection routine? It's near impossible. Consider the code variations:

- image backgrounds.
- page backgrounds.
- table backgrounds, image backgrounds.
- word colors vs hex colors.
- css fonts, backgrounds, regular fonts, and css @media's.
- and wrap it inside of a javascript doc write.

Imagine all the combinations you could come up with from the above to create hidden text. The amazing thing, is that they catch _any_ of it at all.

Besides, there isn't much on the page algo at Google - it's 75-80% pr...

Weblamer




msg:172195
 2:31 pm on Jul 22, 2002 (gmt 0)

While we are on the subject....

What about text that is set so small that it is not normallly detected? Stay i had a style that said this:

H3
{
Font-Family: Arial, Helvetica, Sans-Serif;
Font-Size:5%;
Font-Variant: normal;
Font-Weight: bold;
Font-Style: normal;
}

any words under H3 just looks like a buncha little dots. Any idea of this is caught?

soapystar




msg:172196
 3:22 pm on Jul 22, 2002 (gmt 0)

its true...google couldnt give a flying fart if everybody decided to post a blank white page with the same word repeated 6 millionb times in invisible h3 as per above and hidden in white font!....like everyone else i have reported it many times over..just to watch those sites acheive a HIGHER pr next update!....but make a genuine site....and slip up over bad links or something silly and watch your site tumble!....will they be happy when every search results in the user recieveing a blank page..and only veiwing the cache will show there highlighted search words!...yep!..google is the spam engine of the the future!!!!!!god help us all!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Rugles




msg:172197
 3:30 pm on Jul 22, 2002 (gmt 0)

I used to play the hidden text game. Worked for about 6 months until Google deleted those pages and the domains from their index. It is ok though, because now I am clean on most sites and I still manage to rank well.

The hidden text pages still work on some of the other SE's. So I would say Google is the best at detecting hidden text. Perfect? Maybe not.

ciml




msg:172198
 3:43 pm on Jul 22, 2002 (gmt 0)

Brett:
> The amazing then, is that they catch _any_ of it at all.

I worry about getting caught by inappropriate filters. For example, a P element may have " background: #000000 none; " in an external CSS file, while the same element may have " color: #FFFFFF; " inline.

Yes soapystar, link farming seems more likely to get penalised than hidden text. That may be in part because link farming is more likely to inflate rankings than hidden text.

EliteWeb




msg:172199
 3:57 pm on Jul 22, 2002 (gmt 0)

Hidden Text is annoying. I love scrolling down the page and selecting all seeing dozens and dozens of keywords. I dont complain to the SE's I just use their keywords into my site and take the rank because i obtain better links and content :)

IanTurner




msg:172200
 1:19 pm on Jul 23, 2002 (gmt 0)

Why worry about hiding the text? Neatly done you can get just the same sort of KWD by writing good straplines all over the page!!

engine




msg:172201
 1:46 pm on Jul 23, 2002 (gmt 0)

Clever application of visible page content satifies both the search engine and the site visitor.

Inappropriate use of invisible text only serves to deliver poor quality, unqualified traffic.

Focus on the quality of the visible site, then go and focus on the quality of the visible site. ;)

paynt




msg:172202
 3:14 pm on Jul 23, 2002 (gmt 0)

If we were here only for the SEO’s then ok, but we’re also here for the little guys and they might take a step out and first consider the potential risks of getting caught. If you’ve put all your money into one site, paying for directory listings and working on your linking then I would caution restraint. If you have the dollars and a disposable site then play with it if you will. I guess most of my advice and comments here on the board are suited to the small to mid-size businesses that are working to build a presence that stands the test of time. There was a time though, a few years back, when it was a great deal of fun to play around with this stuff and sometimes I do miss it ;)

I’m all about targeted, focused traffic. A new client surprised me recently by asking me to just bring in traffic. They didn’t care if it was targeted or focused, they just want traffic. Who knows, maybe I’ll get to play the game again, lol! Of course then it’s, “How much money do you have to play around with? And, “What’s my accountability at the end of the road?”

rencke




msg:172203
 5:10 pm on Jul 23, 2002 (gmt 0)

>Welcome to the world of spam control PR.

Thank you very much WebG for depriving me of my last illusions. So: considering the enormous amount of energy spent on discussing this issue over the past three years, what you are saying is basically that the members of WmW is a bunch of paranoics, who sleep badly at night for no reason at all. And Brett seems to agree, by pointing out the formidable obstacles that face an SE trying to protect itself from spamming.

Invisible text is a question of ethics then. An effortless no-brainer way to spam yourself to the top in any engine sensitive to keyword density. I can see that I am not the only one now having to fight with conscience. Let the other guy get away with pushing highly relevant content-rich sites out of sight or to take arms against a sea of troubles. Hamlet's choice was no easier than this one.

I'll think about it. Meanwhile, I will practise my skills at invisible text.

miles




msg:172204
 5:41 pm on Jul 23, 2002 (gmt 0)

Simple math in the spammers domain.

$20.00 for domain.
Product price 25.00 per sale.
4000 visitors per day for 6 months.
10 sales per day.
Adverage days in a month 30 = 180.
25 x 10 = $250.00
30 x 6 = 180 days
180 x 250 = 45,000
450,000 - 20 = 44,980

So whats the problem with getting banned by Google or any other search engine, when you make that kind of money. Like I said simple math.

paynt




msg:172205
 5:54 pm on Jul 23, 2002 (gmt 0)

Oops miles but for the small to mid size site they might also consider -

$ design
$ SEO
$ technical
$ copywriting
$ hosting
$ directories
$ vertical portals for link pop

I know my clients certainly consider those costs as well as others.

Who knows though, maybe this is what we should promote around Webmaster World, disposable domains with the possibility of a possible big pay off. So, instead of our new forum "New To Web Development" we should have "New To Web Spamming".

Isn't it like Day Trading in some ways? Not for everyone certainly but a big rush for some.

ciml




msg:172206
 6:00 pm on Jul 23, 2002 (gmt 0)

> Isn't it like Day Trading in some ways? Not for everyone certainly but a big rush for some.

A very nice way of putting it, paynt.

When it comes to Google, just repeating a bunch of words 500 times on the same page doesn't get good rankings without PageRank. If you've spent months or years building up a well linked domain or network, you might not want to have to start again.

rcjordan




msg:172207
 6:05 pm on Jul 23, 2002 (gmt 0)

To paraphrase an old t-shirt slogan, "Good webmasters go to Heaven, spammers go everywhere."

Marcia




msg:172208
 6:18 pm on Jul 23, 2002 (gmt 0)

>like everyone else i have reported it many times over..

Not everyone else, I for one certainly don't report them, as I'm sure many others don't. The longer I'm around the easier it gets to spot good SEO work when I see it, and it's not always noticeable to the casual observer or those who don't dig to see what's under the covers.

What I've seen at Google (which is cleaner than most, imho) is not so much what I've seen hidden affecting keyword density, but as part of the artistry that's been developed for effectively manipulating Page Rank. Sometimes it's buried in invisible text, but more often not.

I do not report them, I'd just as soon they stay around for a while in order to observe them over time. What does amaze me is the number of sites that were hit with PR0 penalties for cross-linking, which is what a lot of the paranoia is about, including my own, though I'm careful not to cross-link. I think we're paranoid because we "believe" there's a mechanism for detecting it, which is unfathomable to me when looking at some of the sites I keep in my "collection" to watch that have worked their way to the top with multiple sites within certain sectors through what appears to be not a whole lot more than working the PR system. It's not done with hidden text at all in these cases, though others do in fact use hidden text to do it.

There's not only one instance. I'm seeing it on a larger scale being done with sites done by a company that spammed me by email only months ago. They're doing exactly what a lot of people around got hit with PR0 for, and flourishing with it. Those aren't the only ones in the "collection." There are more found every week, all getting away with it and seldom obvious at all.

>>To paraphrase an old t-shirt slogan, "Good webmasters go to Heaven, spammers go everywhere."

There are literally Page Rank farms out there, with the crops very artistically planted. Like paynt, I won't use anything involving potential risk with client sites, but the more I see the more tempting it gets to plant some seeds over on the dark side. It may not be Heaven, but could we say it's the beautiful side of Sin?

[edited by: Marcia at 6:22 pm (utc) on July 23, 2002]

miles




msg:172209
 6:21 pm on Jul 23, 2002 (gmt 0)

paynt Have you seen some of the spam out there. No just messing around, but here is the sad part. The hard core spammers find a site and steal the text, images, and anything else they can use. The small mom and pop web sites are honest and just looking to earn a buck, they will pay to have a site designed, promoted, and then fixed again. Generally they will not make much money and they are out all the money they blew on the internet and have nothing to show for it. On the other hand you have a large corporation who has $80,000 for marketing and get a web designer who has no clue how to build a search engine friendly site for $20,000 dollars. Now that site looks good, but will not make sales and the company wonders why. So they hire a company that charges them an outragous ammount of cash for cruddy search engines and massive dumptruck submitters, and still the company makes no money. So now their web site sucks, there out most of their marketing money and still have nothing to show for it. In most cases those are some of the best customers because they are not interested in making sales just number of hits to their web site and could care less if they are making money. You could sell them just about anything. Bottom line Spammers are getting smarter and more tricks in their bag of goodies. If the hidden links still work and so do some other old school tricks. If it aint broken dont fix it.

I guess this has been my experience since I have been doing this work.

Training Day was a good flick. Hard to believe Denzel can play a bad guy.

WebGuerrilla




msg:172210
 6:32 pm on Jul 23, 2002 (gmt 0)

what you are saying is basically that the members of WebmasterWorld is a bunch of paranoics, who sleep badly at night for no reason at all.

Well, I'm not saying using hidden text doesn't put you at risk. What I'm saying is that the level of risk is determined by the likelihood that a competitor will see it and report it. Not by whether or not a top-secret hidden text, spam-busting bot shows up and crawls your site.

agerhart




msg:172211
 6:35 pm on Jul 23, 2002 (gmt 0)

>>>>What I'm saying is that the level of risk is determined by the likelihood that a competitor will see it and report it

And believe me, if anyone here is your competitor, they will see it, and rather quickly.

rcjordan




msg:172212
 6:35 pm on Jul 23, 2002 (gmt 0)

>Bottom line Spammers are getting smarter and more tricks in their bag of goodies

Absolutely. But let's not limit the spammer's arsenal to stealing "the text, images, and anything else they can use." I know some that hire designers, graphic artists, content writers, and even buy high-$$ stock graphics and photos. They produce extraordinarily upscale, sophisticated websites by the dozens with assembly-line speed.

<added>
All it takes is one "gusher" and they can pay for a whole bunch of dry holes.

miles




msg:172213
 6:47 pm on Jul 23, 2002 (gmt 0)

"Well, I'm not saying using hidden text doesn't put you at risk. What I'm saying is that the level of risk is determined by the likelihood that a competitor will see it and report it. Not by whether or not a top-secret hidden text, spam-busting bot shows up and crawls your site."

I agree with WG. How many pages are in googles index, about 2,073,418,204. The probiblity of them just finding it seems to be fairly slim, even if they have their (SSSS) super secret spam spider. Its more likely that you would get reported by a competitor not found by a (SSSS).

paynt




msg:172214
 6:58 pm on Jul 23, 2002 (gmt 0)

Hahaha miles, you’re making me smile.

Again, when we talk about spam we in the industry don’t even agree to what that means. In all honesty I’m of the school that we’re all spammers, in the theoretical sense. We’re manipulating the results. My concern is with the lurkers here at Webmaster World, particularly the newbies to SEO. Sure, we’re having some fun here…

"Good webmasters go to Heaven, spammers go everywhere." – rcjordan

and he’s right.

And it isn’t ethics either. My spam is better than your spam! Spam happens! If it smells like spam, tastes like spam, feels like spam then it is spam!

I just want to be sure that newbies who have come to trust us understand that these types of practices should come with a warning label or something. This spam is offered but take it at your own risk. Like Marcia suggested, many ma and pa sites were hit with PR0 and GoggleGuy said oops, we didn’t mean that to happen. Sure, right now it’s unlikely that Google can actually catch invisible text with their automatic spam filters so who’s to say they might not try and in the process a bunch of smaller sites go down, oh well!

When it comes to clients I like them to know right up front what options I offer and the risks. I assume we’re all doing that professionally so that’s not my issue here. My issue here is for the folks reading this debate and not understanding all the concepts and ideas involved, going out and throwing up a bunch of invisible text or some other ‘advanced’ or perhaps ‘risky’ technique and being the site that does get busted. I’m not suggesting professionals not do this or even that it’s not right or ethical.

Air




msg:172215
 4:44 pm on Jul 24, 2002 (gmt 0)

IMO Anytime SE's have tried automated spam detection they have always thrown out the baby with the bathwater. The current approach of encouraging competitors to spot and report spam also overburdens the system, but it's intent is not to catch all spam it is simply intended to raise the 90% WebG mentioned to 95%.

What is spam? it is a magnification of accepted SEO, more H1 tags, higher keyword percentage, etc., in other words ways to exploit the algorithm. Ethical SEO is simply a spam treaty, exploit the algorithm but only to 5-7% density, one heading tag, and for goodness sake don't hide any of it or how will I know if you have violated the treaty? Both approaches are considered annoying (spam) to search engines, both work.

Professional spammers on closed domains, do not attempt ;)

Mark Candiotti




msg:172216
 6:53 pm on Jul 24, 2002 (gmt 0)

jeez, brett, you've got a lot of nerve talking about giving away the farm!!!!!! :-) :-) :-)

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