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What Google thinks about hidden and paid links

If you are a regular reader of our newsletter then you know that we only propagate ethical search engine optimization methods.

While it is possible to temporarily get high rankings with shady optimization techniques, search engines will ban your web site sooner or later if you try to cheat them.

Among other things, unethical SEO techniques include doorway pages, cloaking and hidden links. In a recent blog post, Google's anti-spam engineer Matt Cutts commented on hidden and paid links.

What are hidden links? Can Google detect them?

Hidden links are links that can be seen by search engine spiders but not by human web surfers:

  • White text on a white background (or any other text that has the same color as the background).
  • Links that have been changed with CSS so that they are extremely small.
  • Linked periods in the middle of a paragraph.
  • Links in invisible CSS divs.

If you use links like these on your web pages then you violate Google's quality guidelines and you risk being banned on Google by using these links.

It's likely that Google can detect most hidden links. While some hiding techniques still might work, Google's anti-spam team will probably be able to detect them very soon.

What are paid links? Do they work with Google?

Paid links are simply text links for which the webmaster of the linked site paid. Paid links can be used to advertise your web site on other sites.

Most webmasters buy links to increase their search engine rankings. Unfortunately, Google doesn't like paid links.

Google is currently working on an algorithm that helps them to detect (and downgrade) paid links. Last week, Google asked webmasters to report web pages with paid links to the Google spam team.

What does this mean to your web site?

If you use hidden links or other hidden content on your web pages, you should remove these web page elements as soon as possible from your site. The more spam elements you use on your web site, the more likely it is that your web site will get a ranking penalty.

Paid links to your web site won't hurt your website rankings. However, it's likely that paid links also won't help your rankings anymore with Google's new algorithm change.

Inbound links are very important to get high rankings on Google. That's why Google works so hard on filtering the wrong kind of links. If you want to succeed on Google, you have to build the right links that will help your search engine rankings.

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April 2007 search engine articles