The case of the idiot web developer: how your designer can get you banned from Google in less than 3 weeks.

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Services for Real Estate Pros with Go Beyond MLS - weblog.

Things to watch for when dealing with your webmaster.

Original content by Mary McKnight

Back to the conversation about hidden text.  Recently I have seen 3 sites banned (completely de-indexed) from Google because a web developer thought they could artificially boost the SEO of a site by injecting hidden text into the template.  This is what I call, Case of the Idiot Web Developer.

What is hidden text? 

Hidden text is text you place on your website that is typically keyword rich, invisible to a user but evident to a search engine.  Hmmm... sounds a lot like spam, huh?  Well, that is exactly how Google sees it! SPAM!  And what happens to spammers in Google?  They get banned - i.e. de-indexed. 

Read also: Is Your Real Estate Blog Keyword Spamming Behind Your Back?

What are the most common ways you or your web developer can place hidden text in your website or blog?

  • 1. Make the text the same color as the background
  • 2. Set the CSS for the text to display:none
  • 3. Make the text tiny timey like a 1-3pt font

How do you check if your site is spamming and/or has hidden text?

Use This Tool to Check for Keyword Spamming:  spam detector tool

***FYI: CSS attributes with visibility set to none are very common today as more and more sites are CSS driven, this is not always indicative of spamming and should be ignored like the tools own disclaimer notes.  However, if the CSS attribute contains text - especially keyword rich text, IT IS SPAM!

Example of what a site spamming with hidden text and keywords

*Please note, this site has since been fixed!

What does Google do to sites with hidden text in them?

Hidden text is considered a spamdexing tactic And Google has long banished sites with hidden text from its index.  Back in the 90s it was common to inject hidden text into sites and see huge gains in search engines as this text could artificially boost the keyword density of a page and therefore make it seem extremely relevant to a user's search criteria.  But this tactic has been a no-no for years.  In fact, it has been

Case study of how an idiot web developer got one blog banned

The sad story of a Pasadena real estate blog:

In late July, Irina Netchaev received an email from Google about her blog.  Imagine her shock when she found that Google was going to de-index her for spamming with hidden text.  Well, Irina called up her web development company and asked what this was all about.  The receptionist initially told her that Google didn't send the email.

Pasadena real estate blog

This is the exact email Irina received from Google:

Dear site owner or webmaster of pasadenacarealestatehomes.com,

While we were indexing your webpages, we detected that some of your pages were using techniques that were outside our quality guidelines, which can be found here: http://www.google.com/webmasters/guidelines.html

In order to preserve the quality of our search engine, we have temporarily removed some webpages from our search results. Currently pages from pasadenacarealestatehomes.com are scheduled to be removed for at least 30 days.

Specifically, we detected the following practices on your webpages:

* The following hidden text on pasadenacarealestatehomes.com:

e.g. Pasadena, San Marino, Monterey Hills, San Gabriel, South Pasadena, Monterey
Hills, Arcadia, Alhambra, Altadena, Sierra Madre, Highland Park, Temple
City, Duarte, La Canada

We would prefer to have your pages in Google's index. If you wish to be reconsidered, please correct or remove all pages that are outside our quality guidelines. When you are ready, please visit:

https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/reinclusion?hl=en

to learn more and request a reconsideration request.

Sincerely,
Google Search Quality Team

Sounds pretty official to me, what about you?  I'm thnking I must be a real detective because the Google.com email is what tipped me off to this email being the real deal (the subsequent deindexing was the clincher, though).  When Irina called her web development company, Develement, LLC, the receptionist made assertions that there wasn't spam in her site.  So, Irina called me.  A simple look inside the code showed obvious spam included with the following tag <H2><SITE:TAGLINE /></h2> which translated to a list of keywords being injected in an H2 tag that was set in the CSS to display:none. I took her index html file and made the change which was simply either taking out the tag alltogether or setting the CSS to display the text visibly.  I sent the file to Irina and she sent it to her development company - this was their response:

Hi Mary,

Just had a call from Tom Balletta who advised me that he will NOT upload the file that I sent to Nicole.  He said that it was a proprietary file worked by "someone" outside of his office and it can maliciously damage my site.  I pressed him on it and he still refused.

He claims that his programmers made the necessary fixes to my site and that he doesn't know why Google flagged it, but there were as he calls it "inappropriate" key words that were not relating the content.  He refused to tell me which keywords he was referring to and was quite arrogant - quite a character!

Not sure if you had a chance to take a look at the way the site looks now and if it's okay to resubmit. 

Let me know your thoughts.

Thank you,

Irina Netchaev

Now, of course, all these "programmers" (I take offense to people who only know graphics, HTML, CSS, Flash and just enough Javascript to be dangerous calling themselves "programmers" as any idiot with a computer can make a webpage, but that is another post for another day) did was change her title tag but never set the CSS to visible or removed the tag.  Not exactly a fix in Google's eyes.  Nevertheless, Irina's site was banned from Google.

This is what a site query of a banned website looks like:

Pasadena Real Estate Blog with 0 indexed pages

Did Irina's web company choose to help her after the ban?  NO.  They let her twist in the wind (continuing to charge her, of course, for their stellar service and expertise!)  while she watched her leads dwindle to 0.  So, Irina, came to me to get her site fixed.

How do you fix a banned site?

  • 1. You fix the offending code
  • 2. You join Google Webmaster Tools
  • 3. You request reinclusion
  • 4. Then you wait however long it takes for a human being at Google to review your site and re-include you. This can take several weeks
  • 5. At the same time you request reinclusion on the banned domain - you bring up a sister site alongside the banned domain that will be indexed. In Irina's case, we brought up another Pasadena site alongside the banned one. This site looks exactly the same as the old site with all the same content sans the offending code. You might recall when I used this same tactic for Cyndee Haydon when one of her sites experienced a Google penalty back in December. This is the key to getting your leads back in short order while you wait for Google to re-index the banned site.

To help Irina, link to her sister blog at www.pasadenaviews.com

Things to do while awaiting reinclusion:

  • 1. Add new content to the new clean domain
  • 2. Build 10-100 backlinks to the new domain to let Google know it is trusted (start with ActiveRain and Localism and your various social profiles, make sure you post all new content to Twitter)
  • 3. Force a site-wide ping of the new domain to put you back in Google's good graces.

 Things not to do while awaiting reiclusion:

  • 1. Do not redirect the banned domain to the new clean domain while awaiting reinclusion
  • 2. Do not add new content to the banned domain - it is a waste of time

So, while this post may have been harsh, it shows exactly how an idiot web developer can cause your site to get banned through no fault of yours and why you need to stay on top of your site structure and coding.  If you have a Dev Element blog, you need to start checking for spam tags, we have found that they have been injecting spam into their sites for at least the past 2 months.  My recommendation to these "programmers" - don't play with SEO if you don't know what you are doing - leave that to the big kids - go back to your box of crayola's and draw! While you are playing in the sandbox with your fingerpaints, why don't you look up how to read obfuscated JavaScript, I hear you also can't do that!  FYI - real "programmers" can.  Want a lesson?  I'd be happy to put together a remedial class, but be sure to wer your helmet - the short bus ride to the tard factory can be bumpy.

 Yes, Devidiots, I mean Develement... I'm pissed that you caused good bloggers this kind of heartache, took their money and refused to help when you had the chance.  You can't even clean up your own mess.  I think the industry term for that is irresponsible parasite.

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Comments (1)

C Tann-Starr
Tann Starr & Associates, Inc. - Palm Bay, FL

Wow... that was very interesting. That's for sharing this. :-)

Sep 27, 2008 11:21 AM