Is your vendor bleeding your page rank?

Just a word of warning to marketers: I have seen a distubring resurgence of SEO black hat chicanery by agencies and software vendors that I thought died out a few days ago. In the past week I have seen websites where either a design firm or a web analytics company put a hidden link back to its home page on each and ever single one of its clients’ pages. 

There are a couple of reasons why companies should be wary of this: 

  • Links out to third party sites send page rink (i.e. “link juice”) to other sites. This is fine when you intend to link somewhere, but less so when every one of your pages has a hidden outbound link. 
  •  Google warns not to do anything with your site that is explicitly meant for bots or to try to game page rank. Hidden links in noscript tags certainly fall into this category. 
  • If you vendor is doing this, what else are they doing that you should know about. I’d head for the door at the first sign of this sort of practice.

Not all web analytics code is created equal. Be sure to take a look at it and understand what it means. If there is a link to your agency or vendor’s homepage buried into it somewhere (especially with alt text in it) there is like no reason for it other than to game the search engines. 

Granted in the recent cases I saw, this was done by smaller vendors, perhaps looking to get a leg up on their competitors in the SEO game, but I have to believe that black hat tricks like this will ultimately penalize them.

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2 Responses to “Is your vendor bleeding your page rank?”

  1. Jep Castelein January 24, 2009 at 8:57 am #

    Care to share some names Adam? Anonymous gossip is so boring

  2. Adam Blitzer January 24, 2009 at 7:03 pm #

    Hey Jep. I’m not going to out anyone but suffice it to say that none of the major analytics companies or agencies are doing this. How on earth would you explain this to your clients if they called you out on this? That would be an awkward conversation.

    If your tracking code (angle brackets replaces with # for purposes of this comment) includes something like what is below, you are pretty suspect:

    #a href=”” target=”_blank”#
    #img src=”http://some_meaningless_image.jpg” alt=”Vendor’s Keyword” border=”0″#

    I actually first noticed this when doing some inbound link analysis on several companies. One of them (much less well-known that the others) had 35,000 inbound links! Hilarious. What is sad is that Google does not yet seem to penalize for this. I have to imagine they will eventually. Best not to engage in any of this black hat shenanigans.

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