Google Slapped -- Likely Hidden Text For Cosmetic Reasons

by RustyF
16 replies
  • SEO
  • |
I recently had a site get Google slapped. After a little grumbling and moaning, I decided to make it a learning experience. I've been trying to figure out why. This graphic should help avoid the question of "Are you sure you got slapped?"



Yes, I've done some grey hat backlinking, not paid links but not far from it either. A couple of tools I bought through Warrior Forum, I'm not going to mention their names because I don't think they had anything to do with it. Though at first, I did. That good old human tendency to blame someone else.

I'm getting ready to re-publish the site on a different domain and I'd like to avoid doing it again.

Here is what I THINK happened. I used the product name/number for my site title. I thought it was a little risky as it might draw the ill will of the company but my domain name was generic. I'm not going to use the model number in the title this time. That was an experiment and the results were not so good.

Because I have a header graphic that would look like crap if I displayed the title of the site in the header I used a a transparent graphic that hid the text. My purpose wasn't to do anything underhanded but it is hidden text.

The site was finally listed on page one, getting around 150 visits per day but converting at nearly 4%. It had made nothing for two months and then boom, 8 affiliate orders in about 10 days. It had been ranking well for about 2 weeks total.

After the slap, I was getting 2 visitors per day. Totally killed the site.

So my question is, is there a way I can avoid the Google slap for hidden text?

If I edit the graphic and put it on the graphic will that appease Google? My guess is, that it will not but there has to be many sites doing that.

It was in a niche that a lot of "big dogs" are in and the experts told me not to go after that niche because it was too competitive. I can't help but wonder if some of my competitors helped point it out to Google and got it reviewed. Sites like PC Mag and Cnet cause i was beating them. Probably a smaller competitor that actually went after me. It could have been just bad luck too?

It made too much money in those few days for me to give up on it.

I also wondered about the number of affiliate links I had on each product review. I was "taught" to do four. I always wondered about that. Seems like it would increase the odds of "affiliate thin site." No, yes? Will using a url shortener help with that if I make the links no follow? They were no follow before.

I'd post the link to the site but I took all the articles offline while I get ready to clone the site to its new location. I don't want all the articles to show up at once at the new location.

Though I think it was the hidden text that most likely nailed me, I also wonder if getting PR4 to P6 backlinks for a 10 page website might look a little odd. Yes, no? I didn't get a lot, less than 10 of them. Still, how many two month old sites will get 8 PR 5 backlinks?

This was my first serious try at affiliate marketing in many years because I learned the old school ways in the 90's and they quit working for me a long time ago.

If you managed to read all of this. Thanks and thanks for the help.
#cosmetic #google #google slapped #hidden #hidden text #reasons #slapped #text
  • Profile picture of the author doorkicker13
    Did you make sure your site has been de-indexed by Google? (search "site:yourdomain.com" without the quotes in Google).. I don't think you can rely on the analytics data alone to determine if Google has de-indexed you. Could just be the Google dance..

    As far as the transparent text, just remove that entire code from your theme. There's no need for transparent text.
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    • Profile picture of the author RustyF
      Originally Posted by doorkicker13 View Post

      Did you make sure your site has been de-indexed by Google? (search "site:yourdomain.com" without the quotes in Google).. I don't think you can rely on the analytics data alone to determine if Google has de-indexed you. Could just be the Google dance..

      As far as the transparent text, just remove that entire code from your theme. There's no need for transparent text.
      It was not de-indexed. It was penalized. It went from page 1 to page 53. I should have mentioned that.
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  • Profile picture of the author kindsvater
    It's hard to draw any conclusions at this point. I've had websites, years old, suddenly drop off the face of Google for a week or two at a time. Then they're back with their top rankings like nothing happened.

    Give it some more time. Adding some (not thousands) of QUALITY (not forum profile) backlinks certainly won't hurt.
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    • Profile picture of the author RustyF
      Originally Posted by kindsvater View Post

      It's hard to draw any conclusions at this point. I've had websites, years old, suddenly drop off the face of Google for a week or two at a time. Then they're back with their top rankings like nothing happened.

      Give it some more time. Adding some (not thousands) of QUALITY (not forum profile) backlinks certainly won't hurt.
      I know, can't know for certain the reason but will putting the hidden text on the graphic help at all? I'm pretty sure that was the reason. That is my main question. I know Google will put the smack down on you for that if you get caught.

      I don't have thousands of links to that site, not even hundreds but the high PR sites might not make sense.
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  • Profile picture of the author RustyF
    Doorkicker there was a good reason for the text being covered by a graphic. It would have put the text right over someone's face.
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  • Profile picture of the author RustyF
    Let me explain the hidden text a bit more. It is a Wordpress site, so, by default it puts the title and the tagline in the header.

    My theme allows me to upload a transparent logo so that it hides the title and tagline. Otherwise it fouls up the header graphic.

    But does that count as hidden text? Now, I'm not so sure. Yeah, I think it would be since that title gets an H1 tag on the page.
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  • Profile picture of the author RustyF
    One other thing I failed to mention. It was not an autoblog. It had more than 2/3 original content but some of it was copied from Amazon. Product specs and partial reviews.
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    • Profile picture of the author JustRachel
      I'll be honest with you - I don't think this 'slap' had anything to do with you or your site, or hidden text. People are going to disagree and tell you that you did something wrong and Google didn't like it, but I just really don't think that's true.

      On the 24th of April I had the SAME thing happen to 10 of my sites. If you look over on backlinksforum.com, there are plenty of people there who experienced the same thing. It seems to be happening in different niches every 2 weeks or so.

      The weird thing that happens, is right BEFORE the slap, you'll have the best 2 weeks of your life. Then you'll get slapped to the Google nether regions and think you did something. Just the fact that it's happening all over the place, and everyone says the exact same thing tells me it's not us. It's some kind of algorithm switch. And it doesn't seem to be related to anything (not related to certain backlinks, or certain niches, or certain types of sites, etc, etc). It's happening randomly, all over the place, to all sorts of sites, with all sorts of linking structures.

      Anyway, I wish I had some sort of advice for you, but I really don't. Just wanted to tell you that it happened to me too (and lots of other people). My sites are kind of/sort of bouncing back. But almost none of them are where they were before it happened. I'll be interested to see if switching your content to a different domain works (if it does please PM me and let me know, okay?? That's the one thing I didn't try yet).

      PS - Can't you just erase your site title under your Wordpress settings and bypass that all together, so that it just shows the image and there isn't text there? Just a suggestion. Even though I don't think that's what caused your site to get slapped.
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  • Profile picture of the author RustyF
    Hi Rachael, thanks for the input.

    That site title is extremely important for SEO. I'm going to get rid of the tagline next time though and go ahead and show the site title. I thought of a way to make it small so it wont look so bad.

    But lots of sites, especially non wordpress sites don't have their site title on their website.

    It may be just bad luck and it could be many things. That idea just hit me tonight. Perhaps that's not it at all.

    I didn't have a lot of links so if major site linking to me went down or got penalized, then that could explain it too. Could be many things. I don't know who was linking to me as I was not watching the site very close.

    PS, if I can remember I'll let you know how the new domain works out. But I have zero memory, I can't remember where I put it.
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  • Profile picture of the author RustyF
    Not only is doing that hidden text it is a hidden link. Looking at the source for the site: <h1><a
    href="http://sie.org/">SITE TITLE HERE</a></h1>

    If that is not showing on the site and you're unlucky enough to get a human review, you're done.
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    • Profile picture of the author JustRachel
      True, but hopefully a human reviewer would notice that it's a Wordpress site and that's there by default. Who knows though! If you figured out how to make it smaller and not hidden, then that works too!

      You could also add the site title to your header image alt text, which would help with SEO if you want to remove the H1 text.
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  • Profile picture of the author Chucky
    Hey,

    I personally don't think it's the 'hidden text' in your particular case. But if it bothers you, why don't you take out the Logo/image thing? I'm sure it has a branding/cosmetic effect, but what's the point of having all that without rankings? So if I were you, I'd get rid of the image/logo/header that's hiding the title and still keep the title and tag line for SEO effect.

    What I would do more than anything else is add good genuine original unique content (few pages/posts). In addition, I would also rewrite the content that you copied off of Amazon.

    I wouldn't worry about the high PR links you got.

    About transferring to a new domain? I would not try that before trying to revive the site a little more. Besides, if you put the same content on all pages, would it look like duplicate content in Google's eyes? Are you going to shut down your current site?

    I would keep adding fresh content and fresh high quality backlinks. I believe press release backlinks are as white hat as backlinks get. Also if you built backlinks using just one anchor text, I would build a few with different anchor text (at least to inner pages if not homepage). Also hard URL backlinks without any anchor text will also give you some variation. I don't think any of these could have caused the problem, but you can at least rule things out one by one, if nothing else, as a learning experience!

    We can speculate all this; but the bottom line is that your site is only 2 months old; so it could very well be a simple Google dance. New content always rank higher because of the 'freshness' factor.

    The most important thing is NOT to be discouraged by this. Give it a few tries and if all fails, build not one but 5 more and try to be as white hat as possible at least as far as ON PAGE factors are concerned!

    Keep us posted!
    Chucky
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  • Profile picture of the author yukon
    Banned
    OP, what your calling hidden text, I doubt very much is an issue/problem.

    Your site is doing a Google dance, happens all the time.
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  • Profile picture of the author RustyF
    There is no duplicate content penalty for different sites containing the same content. I've had the same article rank in top 10 on both Ezine and my website for over a year.

    A hidden H1 link is a very bad thing if you get a human review. Of course there is no way to know happened but I wont be hiding any H1 links any more. Just to be on the safe side.

    I changing the header up a bit.

    Thanks all.
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    • Profile picture of the author yukon
      Banned
      Originally Posted by RustyF View Post

      There is no duplicate content penalty for different sites containing the same content. I've had the same article rank in top 10 on both Ezine and my website for over a year.

      A hidden H1 link is a very bad thing if you get a human review. Of course there is no way to know happened but I wont be hiding any H1 links any more. Just to be on the safe side.

      I changing the header up a bit.

      Thanks all.
      A hidden <h1> isn't bad.

      The default blogger/blogspot templetes have hidden <h1< tags, Google owns blogspot.

      I've been running the hidden <h1> tag on those templates for almost 5 years now, never had a problem.

      I also run them on my self hosted Wordpress sites.

      Again, I doubt very much that hidden <h1> is a problem.
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  • Profile picture of the author RustyF
    You MAY by right Yukon but I read it as a toss up.

    I wonder, just because Google does it, does that mean we can?

    Here is what Google says on the matter:
    Hidden links are links that are intended to be crawled by Googlebot, but are unreadable to humans because:

    The link consists of hidden text (for example, the text color and background color are identical).
    CSS has been used to make tiny hyperlinks, as little as one pixel high.
    The link is hidden in a small character - for example, a hyphen in the middle of a paragraph.
    If your site is perceived to contain hidden text and links that are deceptive in intent, your site may be removed from the Google index, and will not appear in search results pages. When evaluating your site to see if it includes hidden text or links, look for anything that's not easily viewable by visitors of your site. Are any text or links there solely for search engines rather than visitors?
    Hidden text and links - Webmaster Tools Help

    So it isn't as damning as I thought but it could raise eyebrows. Perhaps the site will move back up eventually.

    Page 1 to 53 is kind of drastic. lol

    Well, one never learns if they don't do something.

    I put the new site up. I'll keep working on the old one but new content will go on the new site. I found a better domain name any way.

    Thanks for the input.
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