Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Hidden text links in comments

I was searching for "how blogger generates comment urls" for my post about duplicate title tags/meta descriptions, when my eyes stumbled over the heading of this post - not because it was particularly relevant to my query, but because I eventually did it myself for my blog - style author comments.(This guy came out with JavaScript method though, I do it with raw templating & CSS).

The blog, unfortunately, seemed pretty abandoned. Scrolling through spammy comments, I've noticed this particular one:

What was that rectangle to the right? I mouse-overed it with FireBug - it was link-infested:

Of course, when I turned off Highlight Nofollow Links in SearchStatus, the comment looked perfectly ordinary:

But how can it hurt me, if these links are nofollowed and even non-clickable?
  1. These links are hidden, thus subject to violating guidelines for Google-friendly sites, which can even result in automatic removal of your page from search index
  2. These links slow down your page . The described above link-pack was 5kb - compared to 30kb original post. Take 6 commenters like that - and your page will load almost twice longer.
  3. It can (needs more testing) change the keyword density of your site. (It's not caused by this particular comment, but two most popular keywords on that page are "Viagra" and "Tramadol", making 20% of page content. If you were an indexing robot - what would you think that page is about?)

How to fight it?

It would be possible to make these anchors visible using CSS (for example, specifying padding and background color for <a/> tags), however, everyone who visits your page would see them - and even worse - will be able to accidentally click them - which is not exactly what we need. Instead, have Highlight Nofollow Links or similar feature turned on - and once a spammer is detected - fire at will.

P.S. FireBug and SearchStatus are two great Firefox addons. No competent web developer/SEO can imagine his life without them.
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