Case Study in Unethical and Deceptive Linking Practices

by admin on April 8, 2006

I found an interesting spin on a link exchange/purchase scam. It’s the first time I’ve seen a site devaluing it’s own links directory pages.

First, a little basic html background. Search engines crawlers do not run javascript code, only html. Therefore any links embedded in javascript are only clickable to humans. Links have value to a search engine as “votes”, and are very important for rankings. So an occasional slimy practice to devalue outgoing links from your site is to put them in javascript, so you get the benefit of a link without having to give anything up.

The site in question takes it one step further and devalues it’s entire links page in the way that it has coded it’s own navigation links to those pages. If you view the source code, it looks like this:

<a href=""  onclick='msgWindow=window.open ("http://www.offsiteurl.com"); return false'>

the href field is normally where a link is found, but that is blank. The link is executed in the onclick field, which is a predefined javascript code.

It’s a very odd and suspicious thing to do. When you add up the additional evidence that a) other internal site navigation links are normal, crawlable links, and b) the referring page on which this link exist contains a very expensive ad placement where the site presumably gets most of it’s money, it’s impossible to believe this isn’t a deliberately deceptive practice.

I can only conclude that it was done to prevent the risk of the big money page getting search ranking competition from the free links page. What’s even worse, is that on this free links page, you can also buy a top “premium listing” (and they aren’t cheap) that suffers from the same page discounting technique.

To be fair, it is possible that one may still get human traffic from these links, and that traffic may have some value. But most people who exchange links do so primarily for the search engine rankings.

**UPDATE After speaking with the proprietors of the site in question, I’ve come to the conclusion that it is reasonably likely that it was accidental after all. It does sound hard to believe, but it seems possible that it was misguided coding, although the story still doesn’t make much sense to me. In any case, I removed the name of the site in question.

About Dave Matson

Dave Matson is the owner and operator of High Steppin' Searches. Dave Matson on g+

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