Heaven's Gate Still Spamming Google Even After Mass Suicide

Nov 26, 2013 • 8:38 am | comments (15) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization
 

Heaven's Gate Logo/>A <a href=Hacker News thread points out that heavensgate.com is still live after 16 years. Heaven's Gate was a religious group/cult where 39 members of the group who had committed mass suicide on March 26, 1997. It was all over the news back then and the web site is still live.

The interesting part is that it ranks in Google.

Google's Matt Cutts was the first to respond in that thread saying:

And the page still has hidden text at the bottom of the page.

Truth be told, this is one of my favorite examples of hidden text, because it shows that people don't always use spam techniques for making money.

I haven't had much luck contacting the maintainer of that page to ask them to remove the hidden text.

Indeed, here is an animated GIF showing the hidden text:

heavens gate hidden text

We know hidden text is against Google's webmaster guidelines. One example is the reverse of what this site is/was doing, "using white text on a white background."

Does it matter if it wasn't for "making money"? It was for recruiting.

Should this site rank? Of course, if people search for the site, it should come up, right? Or no, because it is a blatant disregard for Google's guidelines. The only issue, no one is around to fix it?

hidden text ranking google

Forum discussion at Hacker News.

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Comments:

Megan Pritts

11/26/2013 01:48 pm

Oh that is really interesting! I am surprised that it ranks because of Google's guidelines but, I suppose, if there is no one there to fix it (and that is public information), and the text isn't manipulative, then it should rank. Thanks for sharing this. Its a challenging thought...

Daniel Sanchez

11/26/2013 01:58 pm

Seems like it's domain registration ends on Dec 17th of this year. Wonder if it was paid until then or if someone has kept it up for memories? Either way the hidden text is pretty funny.

ethalon

11/26/2013 03:38 pm

Doesn't this group still have active members? I am pretty sure that I saw a documentary about this group and that there are still people out there (the two interviewees seemed upset they missed the big transit to the ship behind the comet). The doc was, I think, from the late 90s/early 00s Not sure if they are actively maintaining the site or if the group still exists as a collective.

Durant Imboden

11/26/2013 03:58 pm

Makes sense to me. It would be stupid for Google to ignore heavensgate.com in a search for "heavensgate.com," with or without hidden text on the home page. If the search was for "how to get into heaven" or "heaven's gate suicides" or "crackpot religious cults," it would be a different story.

PM Fiorini

11/26/2013 04:29 pm

Love the title of this post: " Heaven's Gate Still Spamming Google Even After Mass Suicide" - funny

Barry Schwartz

11/26/2013 04:30 pm

Thank you.

StevenLockey

11/26/2013 04:45 pm

Have to agree, seems the best thing to return when its a direct search for the URL. However it does rank at #5 on a search for 'Heaven's Gate' which is far higher than I expected.

RyanMJones

11/26/2013 04:57 pm

I'm of the firm belief that regardless of what a site is doing, it should still rank for its domain name and other strictly navigational queries. If a user is clearly looking for that site, violations of webmaster guidelines should not come into play. The user already knows of the site and has made their intent to go to it clear. The site isn't benefiting from their "seo tricks" in the case of navigational queries. The user already knows of the site somehow from (likely) non-search reasons. Now, for non-navigational queries, the penalty should 100% apply and the site should never show up. They should NOT benefit in that area.

RyanMJones

11/26/2013 04:59 pm

Side note: Of course the hidden text is still there, who's going to remove it? [I'm going to hell]

Mon

11/26/2013 05:02 pm

Site is still maintained according to this article http://newsfeed.time.com/2012/05/07/fifteen-years-after-the-suicides-who-is-running-the-heavens-gate-website/

Mon

11/26/2013 05:12 pm

Its ranking for a few terms too, not great though. "kindom of heaven" position 19

st-peter

11/26/2013 07:01 pm

That´s not hidden text. That is the secret code to the main door of the mother ship. Now you have exposed the code there will be no room for the second coming. Spoiler!

xoxo

11/26/2013 10:51 pm

google guidelines, xoxo ... Problem what web not will adapt for broken google search. Only money makers will adapt. Soon google will found what able to rank only monemakers, but not the real web. And it now like "brands/wikipedia thin content pages MFA doorway engine". Just a hugest blackhat in the world :)

Srikanth Gattu

11/27/2013 07:47 am

Ranking for it's own url. no big deal.

Faiz Raza

12/05/2013 08:15 am

As per as the google gueidence for google ranking it's all against them but if there is still live and ranked then It's not fair for google.It's just an unfair thing for other people how are following the Google guidelines and not getting rank even not in any where in near searches so there's a question on google strategies...?

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