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Mouseovers and Google

Does Google penalise mouseovers for affiliates?

     
2:02 pm on May 1, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Hi folks,

Just had a sponsor contact us regarding a problem with Google. They claim that Google will grey out the PR of any sites which are using a mouseover to hide affiliate links.

They claim that Google will penalise both the sponsor and the referrer in these cases.

Eg. [a href="affiliate link" onmouseover="window.status='destination URL you want them to believe they are going to'; return true"]

This may also apply to any scrolling text on the status bar too?

Can Googleguy or anyone please confirm or deny this before we have to change an large amount of code. :(

3:09 pm on May 1, 2003 (gmt 0)

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the first clue I would have would be the fact that the word "hide" is used. This would tell me that you are trying to hide something from the user and not the spider.

I am naive? I am fairly new at this game, but the word "hide" would make it sound suspicous.

3:12 pm on May 1, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Mouseovers are used for a variety of javascript events including the status bar trick. I wouldn't worry about Google as Commission Junction offers the mouseover for all their affiliate links and they are doing pretty darn well!
3:23 pm on May 1, 2003 (gmt 0)

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brummie,

I don't think there is any chance that is possible!

ALL of the merchants on the internet would be greyed out.

3:26 pm on May 1, 2003 (gmt 0)

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I heard the exact same thing in a very reputable paid newsletter that went out today.

Althought they don't mention a grey bar or penalizing both sites.

They say Google will be beginning to penalize (in terms of PR) any site that uses onmouse over Javascipt.

The amount of the penalty depends on how many links use mouseovers (ex. on one page, 1 mouseover out of 5, would have a slightly less PR penalty than 4 out of the 5 etc...)

I wish Google guy would say if this is absolutely true as I have a crap load of links to fix also! :(

A penalty for mouseovers seems pretty crappy to me, but it seems it might be true (it's a new thing they say)...

3:30 pm on May 1, 2003 (gmt 0)

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well, that would seem to be a pretty big deal. Don't most people use onmouseover. I can't see that kind of thing happening.
3:33 pm on May 1, 2003 (gmt 0)

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I was shocked myself, but it was from a very popular (yet paid) newsletter and SEO firm. They would not make this up. I bet they are talking about this in the PAID private WW forum?

Googleguy, PLEASE reply as we should know if this is bogus or not.

3:38 pm on May 1, 2003 (gmt 0)

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There are lots of legitimate reasons to use an onmouseover behavior. Perhaps that in conjuction with some other indicators could be used to identify something tricky, but by itself I can't imagine it causing a penalty.
3:46 pm on May 1, 2003 (gmt 0)

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They do say...

"It appears that they object to hiding the target of links in any fashion."

But also that this is a very early stages of research.

If it is somehow true, it would have an impact on a HUGE amount of sites. I do believe if the penalty is true, it is a slight one (does not mean you can't still rank well). But for competitive terms the slightest edge can mean a BIG boost in rankings.

OK, I'll shutup now :)

3:54 pm on May 1, 2003 (gmt 0)

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The CJ links don't seem to include "hide" in them, but man this is going to be a tedious job. Better get going!
3:55 pm on May 1, 2003 (gmt 0)

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From what I've seen it's related to a combo of "a href" and onmouseover combined with large affiliate domains in the href.
4:00 pm on May 1, 2003 (gmt 0)

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If they are looking specifically at code that masks the URL (as opposed to general onmouseover code), I guess I could see some logic there. Certainly, though, it seems like it might penalize lots of innocent bystanders experimenting with javascript, i.e., putting "View My Resume" in the status bar instead of the URL. Now if they looked at sites displaying a properly formed but inaccurate URL... you are starting to home in on potentially deceptive behavior.
4:07 pm on May 1, 2003 (gmt 0)

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This seems very doubtful to me, although if the JS effect was being used deceptively to conceal hidden links, or to make a link appear like it goes to site A when it takes the user to site B, I can imagine it falling within their general guidelines.

But penalizing sites for using it on affiliate links? Why would Google bother? It doesn't have any substantive effect on the user experience. This canard about Google wanting to penalize sites with affiliate links has been around for years.

4:11 pm on May 1, 2003 (gmt 0)

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I am in the middle to migrating my sites from the CJ provided 'onmouseover' links to a redirection script, which I will exclude using a robots.txt. Is this considered a "safe way" to handle affiliate links? Any potential red flags I might have to worry about?
4:18 pm on May 1, 2003 (gmt 0)

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a) google adwords use this technique
b) Most dodgy internet sites seem to use this also (pattern match i guess)
c) There's a million ways to write a JS function, so at the end of the day it's not that spiderable / detectable (it would be a little OTT to just track onmouseover)
d) Loads of legitimate sites must use this tech too.

I would imagine that a clever / correct algo like this could isolate quite a large number of deceptive pages / links. Didn't G say they were focusing on JS more lately?

BTW. You're not meant to call GG's name in vain, forums rules and what-not.

4:21 pm on May 1, 2003 (gmt 0)

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I think that any algorithm change comes down to one thing - are the results presented to the user better or worse after the change? If, for example, slightly downgrading sites with heavy affiliate link concentrations seemed to generate a more useful set of SERPs in the majority of cases, I think Google would do it. IMO, fairness doesn't really enter into it - it's about the results.
4:28 pm on May 1, 2003 (gmt 0)

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This is the type of coding I am talking about.....

[[a href="http://sponsorxyz.com/?myaffiliateID" onMouseOver="status='http://www.sponsorxyz.com/'; return true;" onMouseOut="status='';">CLICK HERE FOR XYZ</a]]

Although this is deceptive, I would only be hiding the "?myaffiliateID" from the surfer. Because surfers feel safer clicking on a link that looks normal in their status bar.

:)

4:40 pm on May 1, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Just had another thought. If the use of mouseovers becomes a no no with Google, then a lot of online businesses may see a considerable drop in revenues.

There are a lot of good, information rich sites out there which need to pay their bandwidth charges, and sponsors are the best way of doing this.

You can't blame webmasters for trying to make the sponsor link as attractive on the status bar as it may be as a page banner.

5:41 pm on May 1, 2003 (gmt 0)

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It was suggested that concentration and/or number of links might play a role. Presumably, a really good content site with a few affiliate links (but plenty of other links) might fare better than one with a high percent/large number of affiliate links.
5:44 pm on May 1, 2003 (gmt 0)

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That's a normal way to keep our visitor clicking the
affiliates. I think it's ok
7:09 pm on May 1, 2003 (gmt 0)

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I just can't see this happening. Google is only now starting to look at JS and I really don't see stripping mouseovers as being a big serps enhancer. Besides, there are so many ways to change the way a link looks and works etc I'll stick my neck out and say it is all pie in the sky.

Er,... anyone know where I start queuing for Google deathrow?

12:38 am on May 2, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Hello

I have also received this warning from 2 affiliates now. The message went like this:

"Hi Everyone
This is for whowever has not seen it today.

Google has made steps to remove sites within 48 hours if you use mouse overs

heres an example
<a href="Affiliate Link" onMouseOut="window.status='';return true" onMouseOver="window.status='http://www.affiliatename.com';return true">

Or scrolling text instead of the URL surfers are about to be directed to.

This should be taken as an urgent request to remove if you have it on any of your pages

If not removed your will get your site removed from google and our site

Please can you make the changes before the 7th of april

Many Thanks "

Should I be worried and change all the mouseovers I have that hide the affiliate codes?

2:25 am on May 2, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Good point hitckhiker, Google does this themself, so it has to be acceptable.

I would say your best bet, and safest way, would be to do it like Google does where it returns:

"go to thesite.com"

rather than the deceptive:

"http://www.thesite.com"

Where it makes it look like you are going to thesite.com but upon further investigation its really thesite.com?affiliateID=43456

5:14 am on May 2, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Now it's going to happen within 48 hours? Where is such specific information coming from? This is starting to sound like an urban legend.
7:56 am on May 2, 2003 (gmt 0)

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If it wasn't for the affiliate links, we wouldn't have a site in the first place.

This really does need clearing up. Please can anyone from Google comment about URL+mouseovers. :)

8:13 am on May 2, 2003 (gmt 0)

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It is NOT a trick and it is NOT deceptive. Actually it helps the user by removing session IDs, affiliate IDs etc. which confuse the destination of the link.

Its very much easier for a user to see and understand a link points to www.selling-widgets.com then some horrendous www.affiliatemanagaer.com?AID=lskjvncalksnc&SessionID=LKJBHC)*&"YEWd\sdjbcjhbsd blah blah blah.

Or course some people may abuse the possibilties, but I don't think we should be labelling this as deceptive practice and such, its to help the user not trick them.

8:23 am on May 2, 2003 (gmt 0)

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I am wondering how many surfers are going to click on my sponsors without mouseovers. As the real URLs are via a third party CC processor whose URLs are long and ugly.

But without the regular income from the sponsors, we may have to start looking for new jobs here :(

I agree it is not a trick, we are 100% honest about the URL they are about to arrive at. We just remove the ugly code; the end result is that they get the same domain they saw in their status bar before they clicked.

Please help!

9:00 am on May 2, 2003 (gmt 0)

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I removed a load of mouseovers last night and my sales in the last 24 hours = $0.00

Sorry to keep posting about this, but I need to know :)

9:02 am on May 2, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Google will give everyone who uses a mouseover a PR of 0 and lifetime penalize not only your site, but all your sites. They will get you ;)

Come on wake up, Google is not the only search engine.

[edited by: SEOPTI at 9:04 am (utc) on May 2, 2003]

9:04 am on May 2, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Googlebot reads javascripted links? I thought not.
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