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A discussion in the warrior-forum made me wonder if google might perceive link decoration as an attempt to deceive the visitors..

The issue being if you style your links to show like normal text.

for example

body{color:black;}
a{text-decoration:none;color:black;}

In my eyes it would seem illogical for google to penalize sites based on design choices. (Ignoring the argument of which algorithm can decide if a link is differentiated from the rest of the text)

Also it would negate all techniques like replace text with images (* and setting the text to be positioned off-screen or invisible*) etc..

The WA members all argued that it is similar to hiding links (for SEO purposes) and google hates that.

I would like opinions/experience on this..

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3 Answers 3

up vote 1 down vote accepted

It's not the technique that matters, it's the intent. If you hide content for the search engines' benefit but not your users with black text on a black background then you're manipulating the SERPs which is a violation of the TOS and that's when it's a problem. If black on black text somehow is part of the user experience then it's fine (i.e. spoiler text that users have to highlight to see).

Exactly how they determine this is up for speculation although they do have humans review the SERPs for "quality control" so they may have humans investigate sites like in your example. Maybe using an automated system that flags them first and a human reviews them and marks the site as legit or black hat.

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thanks for the insight.. the example is about black text / black links on normal (white) background .. not to hide completely, but to make it look like non-link (normal text). I agree though with your opinions.. –  Gaby Nov 2 '10 at 0:14
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For SEO point of view I've never been penalized for doing that.

But I only did that when it was critical to the client, as I strongly recommend to not let links as text for usability and accessibility reasons.

People recognize ofter better blue color, with underline for text. Visual clues as color, underline and or effects (underline when hovering), increase websites usability, what makes visitors overall satisfaction better.

Same rules for visited links. Let your visitors what they've already seen/read.

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agreed on all points, but my question is about google (their algorithms or manual staff) identifying the technique as deceptive and penalizing the ranking of the site.. –  Gaby Nov 1 '10 at 22:41
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@Gaby. As I stated on the first paragraph, I've never been penalized (by google). Changing styles isn't that bad. I'm even not sure if it is bad at all on the case. What google seems to penalize in a severe form is cheating, like using display:none, display:hidden, font-size: 0%, setting color as same as background color... things like that. I have 2 friends inside google, and despite I do not know all details of their algorithm, it seems your case is a matter of style, not cheat, thus, should not be penalized in any way. –  Dave Nov 2 '10 at 4:07
    
ok @dave, thanks for the feedback.. –  Gaby Nov 2 '10 at 8:14
    
I think I expressed myself bad. I really want to say "to not let links as text", but with the meaning "to not let links as bodycopy text format, confunding them with common text content". Yeah, now it is better ;) –  Dave Nov 4 '10 at 12:06
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It would be considered bad usability because visitors wouldn't be able to tell there are any links on your site (which would defeat the purpose of having the links in the first place) so I wouldn't recommend it. That being said I think the linking pattern would be more important to Google then the color of the link text. IE if you made your navigation the same size and color as your regular text it wouldn't be hiding so much as poor design if however you linked every keyword in all of your articles to a different page or site and made them look exactly like the text, that might draw some suspicion.

As with most things the more extreme you make it the more likely it is to be a problem.

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