Could you get away with hiding text like this...
We need to add a link to every page on our site that will assist us with tracking our conversions. The problem is: we don't want the customer to see it.
Obviously our first instinct is to hide the link in the mist of the color of the background. If we added a no-follow tag to that hidden link, would the SEs still penalize us for it?
My gut tells me yes, because they would still know there is some sort of text hidden there. Still, I thought I'd love to hear your thoughts on it.
How would a hidden link help you do anything beyond getting a Google ban?
There MUST be better ways to do what you seek without having to 'get away with' anything.
If you choose to sail this close to the wind now, you may find yourself falling off when the next algo update appears.
Tell us the real problem, and I've no doubt someone will be able to suggest amuch better way forward.
The reason we don't want the link to show is that we don't want non-customers to click on it and pollute our analytics. This is the link that customers who CALL IN and place an order over the phone will be asked to click on, and then they get a thank you page. the reason we want those customers to click is so that we can track that thank you page (by source and keyword) and learn all about customers who call in without having to say, "And how did you hear about us, do you remember which search engine you used, what keyword did you use?"
But people click on anything, and we want to keep this hidden. New ideas we have:
Put it in a picture
Those both seem like pretty good options to me... Is one better than the other?
[edited by: PrattTA1 at 6:52 pm (utc) on July 9, 2007]
you don't really need a link then, you just need something which you can track. anything will do. a lot of stats packages would just include an image.
every time someone downloads the image, you'll know they have visited the page. and because images get cached (you'll have to check how your server is set up, because i think it's possible to set apache up to tell browsers not to cache images), it won't get downloaded on subsequent visits, which might pollute your data. and search engines don't download images either.
 actually, i've just re-read your post and don't think that will do. as i understand it, you want the link on the page, but you only want to make it 'visible' once somebody has already purchased something over the phone.
that seems a bit strange to me. if they have taken time out to telephone you to buy it, then just sell it to them like that and track them like that -- track your phone sales.
sending them back to the website again just to click on a previously invisible link just to aid your stats will seem like a waste of time to them.
you want to make it as easy as possible to buy something, otherwise they won't come back.
Yes, you are right, it is nice to make it so that they can make the purchase online in an easier fashion BUT not all purchases work that way. Some purchases have such a high dollar amount and require so much TLC that customers with the highest AOS make a phone call. And measuring offline purchases is an important part of web analytics.
So ultimately, I come back to the same question - what is the best way to create an invisible link so that I can point it out to some customers, so that other non-customers will not accidentally click on it, and so that the search engines will not ding me for it, since it is not intended for them?
Agree with Londrum, if they pass the order by phone, then just track it by asking to sale agent to record data.
Anyway, you said
who CALL IN and place an order over the phone will be asked to click on
Then, an easy way would be to have a tiny form at the bottom of the page (text + button). Then, anyone placing an order over the phone will be given a password and ask to fill the form. They fill the form, submit it and it's done.
The other advantage of using form and password is that:
A/ You can change password everyday
B/ You can even have a password for phone order (phone_de5236de45), mail order (mail_de5236de45), email order (email_de5236de45) and track all this
at the only condition that your client will fill the form...
I still don't get this; is your telephone person going to read out a URL over the phone, and the buyer has to type that in, then click on a link?
What will that tell you that your telephone operator cannot?
How is the 'hidden link' going to become visible to the buyer - or is it 'pin the tail on the donkey' -
"just go to http - that's http, not https forward slash. No, FORWARD slash - you know, that diagonal line from bottom left to top right. twice. Two slashes. - then www. - three w's - widget.com - forward slash - happy-customer, forward slash, you've got it! - finally.html Do you want to read that back to me? http//www.widget.com/happy-customer/finally.html Oh, yeah, there's a : after the http! Now, click about half an inch above the blue earing on the lady with the red polka dot bikini. No? up a bit? left a bit? double click? Just once! Oh, scrub that - you ordered a deluxe model? Click two inches below the knee of the man on the zebra. His left knee - the right knee isn't visible, is it ..."
Sorry to be so flippant - I couldn't resist it - but there just has to be a better way, probably involving your telephone people adding a wee note to the database.
But if you really are convinced there's no better way, nofollow will be absolutely fine; if you want insurance, you might make the page noindex, and add it to your robots.txt, but nofollow will do the trick.
Isn't this link an internal one, anyway?
[edited by: Quadrille at 1:04 pm (utc) on July 10, 2007]
Thanks everyone for the feedback, and I apologize for all of the confusion. There is no easy way for us to explain this. However, tomda's suggestion for using the tiny form sounds great. I think we are going to try and implement that.
don't hiding text for a long time, for shot time is OK.