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Hidden text - Google wants to remove our site

     
4:37 am on Jan 7, 2006 (gmt 0)

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We received an email that the people over at Goog want to remove our site because our webmaster had placed hidden text beneath our flash site. We removed the hidden text within 2 hours of that email. The email was sent yesterday. Currently, we are still listed. Does anyone have any experience of what happens when you remove the hidden text that quickly? Do they still remove the site or is there another process where the robots check for hidden text and not remove the site if the hidden text is gone?
4:46 am on Jan 7, 2006 (gmt 0)

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> We received an email that the people over at Goog want to remove our site.

This may be a rather obvious question, but are you sure that the e-mail was from Google? -- I mean, did you look at the full message headers and verify that it originated on a Google corporate server?

They're usually too busy chasing other problems to 'warn' anybody...

Jim

4:57 am on Jan 7, 2006 (gmt 0)

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I read, here I think, that they are going to start warning webmasters of compliance issues with their sites.
4:58 am on Jan 7, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Check the headers, it's them.
4:59 am on Jan 7, 2006 (gmt 0)

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its from the corp.google server.
6:04 am on Jan 7, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Matt Cutts talks about Google alerting webmasters here:

[mattcutts.com...]

[edited by: tedster at 8:25 pm (utc) on Jan. 7, 2006]
[edit reason] fix side scroll [/edit]

6:12 am on Jan 7, 2006 (gmt 0)

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I assume you are also serving up a non-flash version of the page(s) to visitors with flash disabled?

If not have your webmaster set this up so you are still spiderable.

Freq---

6:28 am on Jan 7, 2006 (gmt 0)

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The email is stating they have already deleted the site, and have a link for a re-inclusion request. My question is since we have removed the hidden text already, will they still remove the site? We got the email yesterday, as of right now, we are still listed prominently.
7:08 am on Jan 7, 2006 (gmt 0)

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I don't believe this is possible!

Can someone from Google please confirm this is now the actions Google are taking?

In my experience with Google they will either ban you or leave you alone, they will not warn you of a future problem!

To warn of a future problem would be a great enhancement on G's part, but, I don't see any evidence of it actually happening!

7:38 am on Jan 7, 2006 (gmt 0)

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There has been previous discussion here on ww about Google sending warning messages to selective sites. Make sure the site is completely clean and re-submit.
8:45 am on Jan 7, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Sounds like a good idea, but who's the email going to go to? If it goes to webmaster@ that's fine for those that run their own sites, but what about outsourced sites? Either you get the client to rewrite any webmaster@ to you, or, e.g., Google could add a <webmaster> tag to the sitemap.

Another incentive to use sitemaps.

10:23 am on Jan 7, 2006 (gmt 0)

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It doesnt sound like much of a 'warning' if they have claim to have already deleted your site though - make sure you keep us posted on what happens now you've fixed the problem (whether the ban makes it to the active index of not)...

Have you already submitted your re-inclusion request?

3:26 pm on Jan 7, 2006 (gmt 0)

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They send the warning. It says you are deleted, and two days later.... you are.

This has been discussed already, and Google also have had feedback as to which email address is best, and what to include in the message.

Check the blog entry and previous WebmasterWorld threads.

8:12 pm on Jan 7, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Specific question: How much hidden text was in the page, extremegolfer? What was its purpose? How did it relate to the content of the page?

General question: How much hidden text (number of words, or percent of text on the page, or some other measure) leads to a site's being deleted?

Background: I have hidden text on my pages: my copyright notice is contained in HTML "comments" in the coding and in white-on-white text on the page, and some site-usage terms are in the HTML HEAD of the page. Why? Because these trivial "security" measures have actually been fairly successful in helping me get illicitly duplicated content taken down. Most of the people who scrape my site are, well, not geniuses, so they tend not to notice things like, say, my white-text copyright notice, even on their blue-background page. And when my copyright notice is visible to the server host on the scraper's page in the HTML coding, in the visible text, and on the graphics, it's hard for the plagiarizer plausibly to claim authorship for himself.

This hidden text is on nearly every page of my site, and has been for years, during which my site has maintained a fairly good ranking within its specialized field. So I don't think the "hide text -- get deleted" problem is just a matter of having any hidden text at all; I think the problem is probably the volume, the content, the context, and/or the use being made of it.

Any thoughts? Am I out in left field? Have I just been really lucky? Or might I be on the right track?

Eliz.

9:00 pm on Jan 7, 2006 (gmt 0)

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HTML comments are not hidden text. They are simply ignored.

I am under the impression that hidden text issues might be flagged automatically, but are then reviewed by a human. Something like a copyright notice might get by depending on who is reviewing it.

9:16 pm on Jan 7, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Pay attention folks.

Google already has the site scheduled for automatic removal, correct the problem and follow Google's reinclusion procedure.

[webmasterworld.com...]

12:05 am on Jan 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Any hidden text, where you are trying to optimize for keywords is being banned. In my opinion, it is ridiculous because our site is in Flash. Is google going to pay for our new web design? The keywords that were hidden are exactly what we offer. It is just another ploy from Google to make us pay them using adwords. Currently, we do not use adwords at all, and we are ranked very prominently in the natural search results.

My orginal question was, since we removed the hidden text already within 2 hours of receiving that email on Thursday morning, are we still going to be removed? The post above mine gave a link to a thread where the web designer could not find any hidden text, but they were there. As of right now, our site is still listed.

12:41 am on Jan 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

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I would also check the reinclusion url as well. Maybe someone wants to you click it and it will actually remove your site from the index instead of reinclude it.
1:18 am on Jan 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

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If the warning letter is a real one, just thinking, does it mean that if i dont get a letter, my sites are ok?

I dont think google can email everyone about the site being nasty or nice. but god knows.. or google knows..

I feel that if google actually wants to do the policing, it can setup a small section ( as a part of sitemaps or a new section ) of auto validation of sites. or maybe manual validation with or without a nominal fee.

1:29 am on Jan 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

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It seems they are targeting sites that are prominently ranked (not to say your site is not). They are counting on forums to get the word out about cleaning up optimized sites. By cleaning up, I mean removing hidden text. If you have javascript re-directs or cloaked sites, you should clean that up also.
2:05 am on Jan 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

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from Matt's site:

That depends on when Google reviews the request and on the type of spam penalty you have. In the days of monthly index updates it could take 6-8 weeks for a site to be reincluded after a site was approved, and the severest spam penalties can take that long to clear out after an approval. For less severe stuff like hidden text, it may only take 2-3 weeks, depending on when someone looks at the request and if the request is approved.

What he is saying is this...

Even for less severe stuff it may take 2-3 weeks depending on when they get a chance to look at your request (and it's doubtful this goes to the top of anyone's list). That's a month right there. Then you've got to get spidered again and then start ranking all over. He hints that "spam penalties can take that long to clear out." Meaning that even after you're reincluded there is still a hit to SERPs. In fact, the hidden text probably was giving you a boost in the SERPs anyway.

It's my opinion that this is going to take 2 - 4 months (and as Matt says above - "if the request is approved.") If not, the cycle starts all over again.

[edited by: tedster at 7:41 pm (utc) on Jan. 8, 2006]

2:34 am on Jan 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

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From matt's blog:

Matt Said,

November 3, 2005 @ 1:29 am

Russell, the email program has been successful so far, and we’ve been sending emails to more site owners. If you’ve removed the hidden text, you can submit a reinclusion request without waiting the full 30 days.

Thus implying if you remove the hidden text, you can get your site listed before 30 days. If you actually read the other post matt made in WW, you will see, he himself filled out the re-inclusion request, and got the site re-listed in a few days.

Here is that thread:

[webmasterworld.com...]

The site should get re-listed in a few days if it is just hidden text, as long as you remove it or make it visible. Hard to make it visible in a flash site...

[edited by: tedster at 7:43 pm (utc) on Jan. 8, 2006]

4:51 am on Jan 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Any hidden text, where you are trying to optimize for keywords is being banned. In my opinion, it is ridiculous because our site is in Flash. Is google going to pay for our new web design?

Of course they won't pay for your website redesign. Why should they?

It's your site, do with it as you will. Google has even defended in court a website's right to put what they want on their own website.

That of course, includes Google's right to not list your site for whatever reason that they choose. They came up with a list of reasons not to list sites. You don't have to agree with those reasons, but if you want to be listed, it is a good idea to take into consideration what those rules are.

I have a policy that I won't link to any flash sites, other than those that provide entertainment. That is my choice. I don't owe you a link, and neither does google.

6:17 am on Jan 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Google is like a hockey game.

If you want to play dirty, you'll end up in the penalty box sooner or later.

6:58 am on Jan 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Am I the only one who thinks that this email scheme is a good idea. We've had months of people posting that they don't know why they've been banned ... I would have welcomed a tip off from Google.

I think that Google have just started to realise that in the past webmasters have really had to cheat to get anywhere near the top. Since the introduction of cheap reseller accounts, the mass production of interlinked and boosted sites have become prevalent. Sometimes you're competing against millions of sites just to het listed for your own company name. I think Google have recognised the problem that even non-spammers got involved in a bit of chearing ... just to survive. They're giving them a second chance ... what's wrong with that?

Good on Google for not being too official for once ... I'm starting to like them again :-)

All the Best

Col :-)

9:57 am on Jan 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

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It'd be neater if Google kept sites with hidden text in the index but did not list them in SERPS by default.

Anyone who wanted to see a page with hidden text, could simply trundle over the the Google Advanced search page and click the "Show pages with hidden text" option.

That way, surely everyone would be happy :)

9:58 am on Jan 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

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I have suggested this on their blog site many times; have a "penalty notififier" so people can check their URLs and see if there are any problems. The hidden text was on our flash site for nearly 4 years! Google was fine with it. Why threaten to remove our site now? Quite honestly I'm hoping Google is not evil and they have a policy that gives you at least a couple of days to remove the "offending code." Most people will gladly do it. We removed the hidden text with 2 hours of that email. This way they will not even have to delete the site. By the way, as of right now, nearly 60 hours later, we are still listed.
11:35 am on Jan 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

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I think the penalty notifier would be a good thing. I think the advanced settings would maybe mean educating the average searcher in the finer points of spamming / cheating.

I think that maybe a sin bin that could be accessed to see you site waiting to be re-introduced to the serps. Why not a high-lighted page showing where the problems lie within the offending page.

As said - I think that google are actually trying to help webmasters with this technology. Thumbs up ... if they can get it right.

Cheers

Col :-)

1:51 pm on Jan 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Anyone who wanted to see a page with hidden text, could simply trundle over the the Google Advanced search page and click the "Show pages with hidden text" option.

That way, surely everyone would be happy :)

OMG Brilliant! How about adding "Show all doorway pages", "Highlight all affiliate links" and "Highlight all auto-generated links" while they're at it? ;)

3:41 pm on Jan 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

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>>>
Thus implying if you remove the hidden text, you can get your site listed before 30 days. If you actually read the other post matt made in WW, you will see, he himself filled out the re-inclusion request, and got the site re-listed in a few days.
<<<

extremegolfer,

In that case yes, did you read the part about browser artifacts or just what you wished to see.

You however still need to request the reinclusion, wether you get back in the index in less than 30 days will be up to Google, in particular if they buy your reasons and your corrections as found on the reinclusion request.

A hint for the unwise they don't always grant reinclusion requests.

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