Currently, Wikipedia is participating in a blackout and going to any content on their site produces a result like this (cropped slightly to dissociate the example from the message behind the example):

Wikipedia blackout

However, if I look at the source, I can see the full source of any article (this is the content for the entry on G.I. Joe, I've highlighted elements in the source to indicate things that I would expect to see under normal circumstances):

source of Wikipedia article on G.I. Joe during blackout

Now, I can't say what Googlebot is seeing (I would hope the same content is being served up to Googlebot, as doing otherwise smacks of what Experts Exchange used to do), but that aside this all seems very grey-hat, even if it is only temporary.

So the question is, even if it is only for a short amount of time (in this case, a day) is what kind of SEO practice is it considered to deliver content in this way. Black, white or grey? And if grey, how grey?

2 Answers 2


I wouldn't be suprised if Google had done something temporarily to their algorithm to take those protesting SOPA into account (seeing as they're also opposed (obviously!)).

This is the only proper way for wikipedia to do this. They've said themselves that they don't want to cause major disruption, and leave all content accessible should people need to use the resource. This way users can disable javascript to access wikipedia or use mobile devices that don't support javascript.

There would have been other ways of doing it - a 302 redirect for example, though that would stop people accessing the content full stop. Maybe a 'view content' button that closes the JS overlay would have been appropriate (or maybe they didn't feel that would result in the desired impact).

All things considered, JS does seem like the logical answer. As for the SEO impact, I think Wikipedia can afford to take and consequent hit as a result and on a larger scale, one day is a grain of sand in the grand scheme of things.

EDIT: Turns out I was right - this Just landed in my RSS inbox.

  • Interesting, as I didn't take into account the idea that Google was a party to everything. I think it's safe to say that in this incident, it's OK, as Google agrees with the actions, but as a general practice, if Google isn't in agreement, don't do it (as with most things involving SEO). Would you agree?
    – casperOne
    Jan 18, 2012 at 14:42
  • Pretty much, I don't think it's often that this kind of thing will happen though - or at least I hope this whole SOPA thing blows over, but maybe that's just wishful thinking. You have to remember that at the end of the day, Google wants/needs (they're a business) to provide their users with the most relevant search results possible, so they will always adapt accordingly.
    – Anonymous
    Jan 18, 2012 at 15:06

As they use Javascript to do this and the Google bot doesn't generally run javascript, so it wouldn't notice any change.

  • 4
    This used to be true but I think there is a lot of uncertainty as to how true that still is. There is increasing evidence that Google bot is running javascript precisely to see past the black hat tactics that use JS to obscure HTML links on a regular basis (distilled.net/blog/seo/…) Jan 18, 2012 at 15:02

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