May 20, 2008
This section could also be classified as: Tips, Hints and Cheats. While I recommend and try at all times to adhere to ethical and honest practices there are many webmasters out there that do not. While PageRank still remains a prize in eyes of many webmasters there will always be a handful that will do anything to try and game the system. These are some of the usual ways in which they do this:
The robots file is a little plain text file that resides in the root directory of a website. The purpose of this file is to notify the search engine spider of which pages should be indexed and which should not. After all you wouldn’t want the backend to your website indexed in the search results. This file stands alone and you cannot know its contents by looking at a standard webpage on that site. I know many webmasters have now started using the robots.txt file to exclude their link pages from the search engine spiders. By doing this they are effectively preventing the search engine from seeing the link to your page. This in turn makes your link back to them seem like a valuable one way link.
An easy way to search for this would be to type the link to the robots file directly into the address bar: “http://www.dodgywebmaster.com/robots.txt”
This will return the contents of the robots file. Check that the directory or page that your link is listed on isn’t listed in this file. If it is, then you may indeed be dealing with a dodgy webmaster.
By simply adding the robots Meta tag to the page that has your link on it, webmasters can still have the page indexed but none of the links followed.
<meta name=”robots” content=”index,nofollow” />
While it may seem like the page has been indexed the search engines will ignore your link. This will once again make it appear that their link on your website is one of those much coveted one way links.
An easy way to determine if the webmaster in question is using these tactics would be to visit the page that has your link and view the source code. This is easily done by going to “view” on the menu bar and selecting “view source” (Firefox) or “source” (Internet Explorer) – this may vary slightly from browser to browser. You will find the robots tag somewhere between the <head> and </head> tags.
Again, if you find that the robots tag has the nofollow attribute, you know that the webmaster is not letting the search engines find their way to your website.
The no follow attribute is one that Google has pushed for and it would seem that the other major search engines are now starting to accept. This attribute is added into the anchor tag to prevent the search engine from following that link.
<a href=”www.yourwebsite.com” rel=”nofollow”>
This was an answer to paid text links. Google insisted that all paid links should not pass on PageRank and that webmasters selling links should mark them appropriately. This has been applied to most blogs in an attempt to combat spam. After all, spammers leave pointless comments on your website with the hope of gaining a link back to their site. The Google bot no longer follows these links rendering them useless when it comes to influencing the search engine results.
However once again this can be used for the wrong reasons. Some webmasters “no follow” all links from their site so as to hold as much PageRank as possible. There is even a school of thought that believe that if you used this attribute you actually give the other site a “bad vote” however I have yet to find any evidence to support this.
In order to find out if a webmaster is using this technique, search the source code of the page with your link for this tag. The easiest way to do this is to run a search on the source code of this page for the link text or website URL. The anchor tag will be near these.
Search engines still have trouble reading java script if at all. By embedding your link in a short script the search engines will not be able follow your link or even recognise it as a link for that matter.
Normally the easiest way to spot this is by running your mouse over the link. If the destination URL in the status bar doesn’t match your URL but when you click on the link it takes you to your website it might be a script running. The only real way to know is by checking the source code. In this case you need to know what you are looking for.
By checking for these simple tricks you can ensure that your link is indeed pointing to your website and that the search engines will be able to find your site. Often paid links will have a script or a no follow attribute, this is good practice from the webmasters side as the search engines could penalise them for not marking paid links. Always remember that each circumstance has its own set of rules.
Also I would urge you not to try and use these methods to game other webmasters and cheat them out of potential link-love. If you are linking to and from good reliable, related websites then you would want the search engines to pick up and follow each and every link.
Robert Cerff is a search engine analyst and marketing consultant for Prop Data Internet Solutions. He has ten years experience in e-commerce, online marketing and web development. http://www.propdata.co.za