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Wednesday, January 3, 2007

DotNetPro’s Search Engine Spam

“Neue Mediengesellschaft mbH” is a German publisher of tech print magazines like Com!, Internet World Business, MacUp and DotNetPro. Fair enough, except for the fact their website (a PageRank 6 site, with about 25,400 pages indexed in Google) happens to use a form of hidden keywords and cloaking the Google webmaster guidelines consider abuse. My friend Markus repeatedly stumbled upon their website searching for things like output caching kontrollieren. While appears on the first Google results page (not on all datacenters I hit, but on some of them), the word “output”, for example, does not appear anywhere within the page or its HTML source when you click on it. Instead, DotNetPro urges you to subscribe to their print magazine to then be able to download a PDF of this article.

Of course, this is annoying for searchers, and a simple click on Google’s cache reveals what happens:

All the “floating” keywords you see at the bottom of the screenshot are Google’s highlights of keywords from the full article – which was presented only to search engines, additionally hidden using a tiny, white-on-white invisible print via <div style="FONT-SIZE:5px;COLOR:white">...</div>.

Maybe Google’s algorithmic anti-spam measurements just didn’t have enough time yet to evaluate DotNetPro’s site? No, it doesn’t seem so – this scheme was already mentioned in this blog’s forum 11 months ago, remaining to be fixed (note that determining what’s a hidden link may not be trivial). And of course, DotNetPro – or whichever agency they entrusted with their websites – is by far not the only spammer in Google’s index who gets away with sneaky search engine optimization. Markus already reported this particular instance, but sometimes only a combination of submitting a report to Google, blogging about it, and alerting the company in question helps. Certainly, that’s more time than an average Google user wants to invest on a daily basis...


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