This afternoon, I wrote about how Volkswagen was spamming Google.

Now it was funny, because Danny and I were chatting on the Daily Search Cast and we were talking about how the Google Enterprise blog featured Volkswagen’s web site as using their search service smack in the middle of their site.

Volkswagen Hidding Text

Deal is, while Danny was chatting, he noticed that Volkswagen was spamming Google by hiding text. Basically, the Volkswagen site did not show text that was found within the site code. I.e. Only Google saw the text but me or you as a human did not.

This clearly goes against Google’s quality guidelines and can result in a site being banned from their index.

Avoid hidden text or hidden links.

So Google actually acknowledge Volkswagen’s wrong doing;

Barry Schwartz over at Search Engine Land pointed out that the VW of America site that I previously blogged about was including site keywords in an invisible div layer on site pages, which is not in keeping with Google site quality guidelines. I reached out to the technical director of VW’s creative agency and found out that they were including the keywords in this manner to increase the amount of content crawled by the Google Search Appliance for the Flash-based pages of the site. Once alerted to this, VW switched to including relevant keywords in the META data in the of the web pages on the site, an approach that is in keeping with Google quality guidelines. Thanks to Barry for pointing this out and to VW for being so responsive to the issue.

Nice, so Volkswagen gets personalized Google support for this and will not be deindexed from Google. Nice to know people in high places, I guess. 🙂

In any event, I am happy Google responded to this report. I am not really to thank for this, Danny is. He spotted it and asked me to write about it. But I don’t mind taking the credit. Thanks Danny!

Website Comments

  1. JLH

    Is that they didn’t spot it, or can’t spot it? The personal service is a bonus, but then again this isn’t the first time a German automaker got a personal treatment from Google is it?

  2. Halfdeck

    You snitch! 🙂 j/k

    Nice catch Barry.

    Google can’t automatically spot hidden text if you hide your CSS in an external file. The main problem for Google is there are often legit reasons for using visibility:hidden or display:none. And again we come back to the question of intent, which is often hard to determine.

    VW used a run of the mill CSS to hide text:

    .invisibleContent { width:1px; height:1px; visibility:hidden; overflow:hidden;}

    I also see another class definition that hides text: .offScreenContent .. not sure where that’s used.

    ThoseCSS class definitions are still left untouched in the external CSS file.

  3. TB

    I’m curious about the search frequency cloud on, under Top Searches. This seems to be totally fake. “Special offers,” “Compare-o-Tron” and “joyride” are top searches? More likely, they’re the marketing terms VW would prefer you notice.

  4. Wayne Bienek, Web Designer

    Just because a person cant see it doesn’t mean its spam. It would be spam if it was non-relavant. For a flash based site to look nice, ofthen this technique is needed..

    just an opionion

  5. stephen eighmey

    are they using swfobject to display flash and writing text in the div layer to be picked up by search engines? i thought this was perfectly acceptable, they even say so in the swfobject forums. can you give us more details as to exactly what vw did?

  6. wra1th

    Google should of blacklisted them like they would any other site that does blackhat tactics to get higher rankings! So the TOS only applies to certain sites at google’s discretion!

  7. Joe
    Reply Ha! Yeah, it’s so funny I forgot to fill up my tank. But seriously, I love my TDI.

  8. Adam Sean Scott

    Google is the new Microsoft. Hate to have to use them, but still love to hate them.

    Google is shit. MS is shit. You love eating their shit, don’t you?

  9. AFTF

    YA this all well & good but the FEderal reserve is still a private bank making money out nothing & loaning it to the gov..& we pay for this thru IRS…. Watch AFTF or the Money Masters

  10. thisdogisdirtyverydirty

    What is more relevant to Volkswagen than Volkswagen duh. Simpleton. A keyword rich site that optimizes google’s algo and is user friendly. Spam is unwanted email ads moron. Google censors businesses that figure out their algo. With help from fascists like you, pimple.

  11. andrew

    I got an email from google about using hidden text on my website. It was only 1 sentece long. My site is legit with good content, and in the email it said they are removing my site for at least 30 days.

    I removed the sentence and ask for the inclusinon back, my site is still in Google, wondering if it will soon disapear.

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