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Installing Honey Pots

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 Cloaking Links
Author: M.Pellegrini   (25 Jan 05 8:29pm)
I'm wondering if maybe the type of links you are suggesting may not come back and bite me in the ass, later.


<a href=""><!-- motley-handicapped --></a>

I got into trouble with google some time ago for cloaking - it was harmless, I was just using it as a quick and dirty was around for some formatting problems - but google didn't diferentiate, and I was de-listed for months.

From Google's webmaster info: "...actions such as cloaking, writing text that can be seen by search engines but not by users, or setting up pages/links with the sole purpose of fooling search engines may result in permanent removal from our index."

How can I be assured that the sort of links you are suggesting will be overlooked by google and the other search engines? Obviously this whole project is something google would stand behind, but how do I know they will differentiate between these links? The whole thing seems to run 100% against their stated policy.

My site has finally been listed again and I'd like to see it stay that way.

Thanks. This whole thing is a great idea. I hope it works.

Mike Pellegrini
 Re: Cloaking Links
Author: M.Prince   (25 Jan 05 10:17pm)
That's a good question, and something we've thought about. I talked to some coders at Google about it at a party and they thought it wouldn't be a problem. That's, of course, not the official answer, but it's encouraging.

While I think the risk of any Google punishment is low, I think the versions of the links that are the least likely to cause a problem are the ones that use CSS in order to be hidden from humans. For example:

<a href="" style="display:none;">Link-Here</a>

Why is this less likely than other techniques? Because there are perfectly legitimate reasons to do this. For example, if you have a drop-down menu you might use this CSS in order to hide the menu, and then use a Javascript-based rollover in order to display it. I don't think there have been any reports of Google punishing people using dynamic menus, so I'd be surprised if they did so which this kind of hidden link.

One important note is that you're not trying to promote the site that you're linking to. While Google may punish sites promoted by some artificial linking schemes, I wouldn't think they'd punish the site containing the hidden links. The more likely outcome, I'd imagine, is that Google will simply ignore the hidden links -- which is perfectly fine.

Obviously we can't guarantee what Google or any other search engine will do. We've talked with some of the higher-up folks within Google's Blogger division about helping them with comment spam. I'll try and get in touch with someone in the search engine department in order to make certain that what we suggest doesn't run afoul of their ranking schemes.

For what it's worth, Unspam's site contains several honey pots itself with a number of hidden linking schemes and our PageRank has shown no ill effects. Quite the opposite, actually.
 Re: Cloaking Links
Author: M.Prince   (25 Jan 05 10:20pm)
One more thing I thought of. If you're worried about this, maybe you could consider inserting the new Google rel="no-follow" tag into the links. Google claims that, as a result of that tag, they will not index those links. While the intent of the tag was to remove the reward for certain links, maybe it would also be a way to avoid punishment. This would be the format:

<a href="" rel="no-follow"><!-- blah blah --></a>

Again, I think the risk here is low. But, if you're worried, this is something you may consider adding to any of the suggested formats.
 Re: Cloaking Links
Author: I.Roiban   (4 Feb 05 10:58am)
That's scarry. Even for those donating MXs. I would't risk my sites ranking even if the cause is as noble as this, there has to be another way of doing this, there has to...
 Re: Cloaking Links
Author: L.Holloway   (23 Feb 05 8:53pm)
As Matthew pointed out; any link that uses a style to hide itself should be safe (or exists in a div styled to be hidden)

We'll speak with google and see if we can learn more about what formats are PR safe.
 Re: Cloaking Links
Author: L.Holloway   (25 Feb 05 5:21pm)
I spoke with Matt at Google about 'cloaked' links. He said the following formats do not count toward page rank:
* Commented Links: <!-- <a href=link>link</a> -->
* Links with no content or little content: <a href=link>.</a>
<a href=link></a>
* Links with nofollow attribute: <a href=link rel=nofollow>link</a>

He generally frowned about display=none, but did not say they negated page rank. It seems they dislike that tag in general. (Which makes some sense from their standpoint, but there can be legitamate uses for that style.)

Using Javascript to toggle a style display to none should be OK as well.

Post Edited (25 Feb 05 4:24pm)
 Re: Cloaking Links
Author: J.Yard2   (23 Apr 07 12:39am)

Author: I.Roiban (4 Feb 05 10:58am)
"That's scary. Even for those donating MXs. I wouldn’t risk my sites ranking even if the cause is as noble as this, there has to be another way of doing this, there has to..."

Two words for you. Transparent Image

<a href="/somedir/"><img border="0" src="/transparent.gif"></a>

Only way to tell is visually by human eyes, or the bot will have to download the image and evaluate it.

Could also use an image the same color as the page background, or containing several imperceptible shades off to make harder to programmatically detect.

Also what about using the z-index to hide a Honey Pot link image behind one of the ordinary images.
 Re: Cloaking Links
Author: C.Schultz   (23 Apr 07 1:51am)
We've also talked about this at Google's Webmasters Tools forum and came up with the same thing, it won't cause a problem mainly because the link is not something one could benefit from.

It would help in any event though to add an exclusion in your robots.txt file so that bots won't even try to crawl the linked to page. Not that I have included the honeypot mage in any of my robots.txt but just to be triple sure, go ahead and add it.

Beyond that, I have had the honey pot on one of my sites, since it first launched on the 2nd of January of this year, 2007 and it hasn't cause any problems at all even though I have a cloaked URL on every page of my site. And, virtually every one of the pages on my site are not only indexed but show up in the first page of SERPs for applicable search queries.

If one were to run into a problem, **** happens, using Google's Webmasters Tools, file a re-inclusion request and include a link to Project Honey Pot and if the cloaked link was the only problem, you should be restored soon.

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