Google Says You Can't Hide Links With Disclosure

May 23, 2011 - 9:15 am 7 by

Cat HidingI spotted an interesting thread at the Google Webmaster Help forums on the topic of placing links within widgets.

A site that offers a widget to users that places a "hidden link" within the widget code is negatively affected by these links because of the hidden link. At least, Google's JohnMu pretty much confirmed it by replying to this webmaster saying:

In particular, if you're aware that you were providing hidden links like that to webmasters to embed on their sites, then I think you should work as hard as possible to contact all affected webmasters and to work with them to have those links removed. I realize this is not an easy task, but it was you who provided them with content that goes against our Webmaster Guidelines, potentially causing issues on their sites as well, so I think it would only be fair to help them to resolve an issue like that.

The site in question is and it is currently offline for me. But it was offering a widget to webmasters with hidden code. There are two interesting pieces to this story:

(1) The webmaster's claim to innocence, which reads, "links were included in my widget that i myself have coded and it was clearly written "THIS MODULE INCLUDES HIDDEN LINK." I was not aware that this was against google guidelines."

Since I disclosed that I am hiding something from the webmaster and from Google, how is this my fault? You see the rational there?

(2) The webmaster does have a good point in that there are thousands of sites and widgets that do this. You place a widget, badge, poll, etc on your web site and often there is code that is in an iframe or noscript tag that shows where the poll or widget came from. I do not see all those sites suffering from hidden links within widgets.

I personally did not see the widget in question here, so it is hard for me to be that specific. But I found the thread interesting enough to share with you all.

Forum discussion at Google Webmaster Help.

Image credit to Aftab Uzzaman on Flickr.


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