I was catching up on some of the blogs I subscribe to just now, when I noticed some MAJOR hidden link spam which I would not normally have seen. The blog in question is the personal blog of film director Kevin Smith, "Silent Bob Speaks" and the link spam is hidden at the bottom of every post. Unless I’d been browsing using Firefox with stylesheets switched off I wouldn’t have noticed it, but the links were showing up on the RSS feed in my Viigo feed reader and they struck me as a little out of place to say the least.
You can see screenshots of one post example below, on the left as viewed in a normal browser, and on the right with stylesheets switched off so you can see the links in question.
The sites they are linking to are all very spammy-looking, so it seems doubtful to me that this placement is the result of some sort of deal, but who knows these days? The example on the right was only viewable via Google’s cache, with the message "Bandwidth Limit Exceeded" being displayed when I tried to view it normally. The blog itself appears to have been penalised already (it doesn’t show up for any searches on his name, or the site’s titles and isn’t being cached by Google either) which is pretty speedy work.
Now I’m not going to even think about weighing in to the "paid links" debate, but this strikes me as more than that – the moment you start hiding things from users (and search engines) you’re playing a much more risky game. As an SEO I’m used to seeing (and searching for) this sort of linking strategy, but I found it very odd to see some in such a high-profile spot. Whether Mr Smith is aware of what’s going on is unknown (though I have asked at his message board) but I shall be keeping a close eye on it in the next few days to see what happens.
UPDATE: Turns out the venerable Mr Smith was not aware of the issue (until we pointed it out) and he and his webmaster have now removed the links. No word yet on what was causing it though.Tweet