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invisible links
do spiders follow image map links that are transparent?
McVicker




msg:711214
 12:50 pm on Mar 24, 2005 (gmt 0)

We publish a magazine and sell content for a living. The content is valuable. It's a lot of work, and we expect to be compensated for producing it. This causes a big SEO problem: to promote the magazine we need decent rankings, and to get rankings you need to post content. But for us, posting free content is not an option. It's the same as "giving it away for free."

Here's an idea that was recently proposed: Keep the main site lean and focused on subscription sales. From the main site we could post invisible (ie. transparent) image map links that would lead to significant content pages. The idea is that the googlebot would think that we have a lot of content on the site, but the normal visitor would never see it.

By the way, posting sample "teaser" articles doesn't work. We've tested this repeatedly and each time the visitor gets his "belly full" without subscribing. And why not? If you can get it for free why pay for it? We've also tried posting content that is partially obscured so the visitor can't read it. This has just pissed them off. Obviously, an argry visitor isn't what we want.

Anyway, what do you think about the invisible links idea? Would it work? Is there a downside?

Thanks for your feedback.

 

The real simon




msg:711215
 3:56 pm on Mar 24, 2005 (gmt 0)

I am not sure it would work and even if it does it is not
considered as an acceptable practice by google.

As many informations website are doing it, I would in your case put a little descriptive text of the article, or perhaps only the 400 first characters. This way, you would attract visitors without breaking any google guidelines (could do more dammage at the end)

Wizard




msg:711216
 6:39 pm on Mar 24, 2005 (gmt 0)

You could be penalized by Google, and users would be able to find the way to content pages if they were crawled.

jcoronella




msg:711217
 6:41 pm on Mar 24, 2005 (gmt 0)

I agree with the above, that is a very 'short term' thing to do. Currently, like hidden text, it will work until you are reported by a competitor or disgruntled employee or until someone at Google sees it.

Eventually, and perhaps currently on a spot checking basis, this will be done programmatically.

nileshkurhade




msg:711218
 6:46 pm on Mar 24, 2005 (gmt 0)

many companies I have seen solved this problem by uploading the older articles and still keeping the newer ones as a paid subscription. I hope even you have outdated stuff that still counts as content for Search Engine but little value for visitors.

maccas




msg:711219
 6:48 pm on Mar 24, 2005 (gmt 0)

Why not just show a keyword rich abstract of the article to visitors and the full article to people that sign up.

vincevincevince




msg:711220
 6:59 pm on Mar 27, 2005 (gmt 0)

I'd say this is a big no. You'll likely lose all your search engine rankings, at least in Google.

You would do much better to invest in some good quality cloaking - something which can't be proven or noticed too easily by your competitors. Ensure that you use nosnippet and nocache.

jomaxx




msg:711221
 7:10 pm on Mar 27, 2005 (gmt 0)

And what's supposed to happen when these pages get indexed in Google and start drawing traffic? Are you going to intercept us non-robots and redirect us to a subscription page? That's guaranteed to generate complaints to Google.

mrMister




msg:711222
 8:05 pm on Mar 27, 2005 (gmt 0)

A lot of major subscription sites do the following...

Their content is subscription based, so users can pay a subscription to see the articles. Usually a few articles are offered for free as a tempter. Sometimes the opening paragraph is offered free and users can subscribe to see the whole thing.

On each of the content pages, there is a script that only displays the full contents of each article to subscribers that are logged in (a cookie of some sort is the usual way of doing this).

If the user is not logged in then a message is displayed saying that the page is only avaliable for subscribers with links to the login page and the subscription page.

Now with this setting as it is, Google will see (and index) the non-subscribers version of the page. What you need to do is give Google a free pass. To do this, as well as the cookie detection, you also do an IP detection. If the IP address of the user is one that belongs to Google (lists of Google's IPs are available), then you treat the access as if it was a fully paged subscriber.

This way, Google will crawl and index all of the content and you will be ranked accordingly in the SERPs.

You also need to add the no-archive meta tag so that users can't access your content by looking at Google's cache.

You will not get penalised for this. Despite what some people would have you believe, as long as cloaking is not used to unfairly gain an advantage in the search engines, this kind of cloaking is fine. As long as the pages you're showing to Google are the same as what you are showing to your subscribers then you are in the clear as far as penalties are concerned. There are a number of subscription sites that do this with great success.

If you have any questions on how to do this then sticky me.

nippi




msg:711223
 10:28 pm on Mar 27, 2005 (gmt 0)

load teasers, with the keywords.

create pages for the entire articles, with links to these pages.

only show the full article if

a. logged in or
b. article is >6 weeks(or some other date) old.

Page names should stay the same so gt higher pr.

This is what most mags do.
It works.

IM me, I will send you some examples.

BigDave




msg:711224
 1:22 am on Mar 28, 2005 (gmt 0)

You will not get penalised for this. Despite what some people would have you believe, as long as cloaking is not used to unfairly gain an advantage in the search engines, this kind of cloaking is fine.

What you are suggesting *IS* using cloaking to unfairly gain an advantage.

It will get you better rankings, but not for long, as it annoys enough people like me that will complain to google about it. I rarely see these sorts of pages keeping their good rank for more than a month.

surfgatinho




msg:711225
 9:43 am on Mar 28, 2005 (gmt 0)

You will not get penalised for this. Despite what some people would have you believe, as long as cloaking is not used to unfairly gain an advantage in the search engines, this kind of cloaking is fine.

Yeah, I'd happily report a site if I found it doing this. There is a check box on the spam report form for hidden text/links.

As a slight aside, does anybody know what weighting Google gives to image map links. I.e. are they equivalent to normal links?

mrMister




msg:711226
 3:23 pm on Mar 28, 2005 (gmt 0)

You will not get penalised for this. Despite what some people would have you believe, as long as cloaking is not used to unfairly gain an advantage in the search engines, this kind of cloaking is fine.

What you are suggesting *IS* using cloaking to unfairly gain an advantage.

Not at all. As long as you are showing googlebot the exact same content that subscribers see then there is no problem.

Cloaking penalties are almost always manual penalties. It doesn't matter how many complaints Google get. When the Google rep checks the site manually, they will see that you're giving Google access to subscribed content and not trying to cheat the search engines.

If you were to create new content just for the search engines and not your users then you will be in trouble.

A lot of major newspapers use this technique. I don't see any getting downranked because of it.

BigDave




msg:711227
 7:23 pm on Mar 28, 2005 (gmt 0)

A lot of major newspapers use this technique. I don't see any getting downranked because of it.

Really? Google allows them in Google News, but I just don't see subscription only articles in the SERPs.

Google's goal is to make the searchers happy with the results. Searchers are not happy when they click on a search result and get a subscription page. Therefore Google is not happy with the results.

mrMister




msg:711228
 9:30 pm on Mar 28, 2005 (gmt 0)

I see subscription only pages for quite a few searches.

Frequently, an abstract version (some sites let Google index both) will crop up higher if the keywords are in the abstract, but that's only because the keyword desity will be higher if there's less content.

I certainly don't see any penalties being applied.

cabbie




msg:711229
 1:49 am on Mar 29, 2005 (gmt 0)

Its a big challenge to have your cake and eat it as well.
You want google to rank you on all your content but at the same time deny google's customers to have free access to it.Maybe your site doesn't belong in the free serp pages but in adwords.

I personally think you need to work on your teasers a bit more.Its quite posible to have teasers ranking for every kw you wish.I work in a teasing industry and it really is quite an art to make the lure compelling. But when it works, it really works.
Another alternative that I can think of is to give free access to your content and sell advertising.

tedster




msg:711230
 2:34 am on Mar 29, 2005 (gmt 0)

I rarely pay for subscriptions, but when I do it's because I have a sense of how good the content is for my interests - and of course because I found it, by some means.

So that means teaser text as others have said ... with good inbound links (and link text) to each teaser page, especially to the highest quality stuff. Then it's just like giving out free samples at the produce stand. Publishing just a few free articles in full could also do wonders. If you squeeze too hard on the money machine it breaks - but a bit of priming gets the flow going.

McVicker




msg:711231
 3:07 am on Mar 29, 2005 (gmt 0)

Thanks everyone, for your comments so far. MrMister, I appreciate your long and detailed suggestion about giving Google a free pass to subscriber only areas.

Here's what we've done so far: We've put a "photo" of the article on the page with a one-paragraph description below the photo. The resolution is such that visitors can see the article and read the headlines, but they can't read the text.

This approach has worked well for non-competitive keywords, but for the really tough keywords a single paragraph isn't getting it done.

Putting complete sample articles online is definately NOT going to happen because we've proven (repeatedly) that they read them, get their bellys full, and then click away.

Here's another idea that's been proposed: make it look like the article is finished, with a "home" link at the bottom. But below the home link (far below it) would be posted another link to real content. The user would have to scroll down past what he thought was the end of the page to get to that "hidden" link. What would be the downside of this approach?

The real simon




msg:711232
 9:48 am on Mar 29, 2005 (gmt 0)

Again the problem is that the link displayed for the search on google will redirect to the article. What you need is a link to some articles without people being able to read them in full, therefore the best solution is the cookies one.
I do not think though that this is "really" bad practice.

Our SEO (I'm nice, not going to name them ;-) but one of the big five UK one) wanted me to do this less than 6 months ago. :D

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