NYCPHP Meetup

[nycphp-talk] Are you promoting someone else’s site without even knowing it?

Ophir Prusak prusak at gmail.com
Thu Feb 9 16:05:53 EST 2006


hi all,

If you're running a search engine friendly URL mod for your bulletin
board system, you should read this.

If you're using FURL with IPB, you MUST read this.

Basically, I just found out that the URL mod I've been running on our
company forums is google spamming.

Here's the whole blog entry, but you might want to see it with
pictures at http://www.prusak.com

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Are you promoting someone else's site without even knowing it?
My tale of being victim to a below-the-belt SEO tactic.

Recently, we added user forums to our company web site, in order to
give our customers and potential customers a place to voice their
questions and opinions. We settled on using Invision Power Board (IPB)
which runs using PHP and MySQL.

A couple of weeks ago I installed a modification to our forums which
makes the URL of the pages appear to be static html pages and it also
inserts the topic title into the URL. The modification package (also
called a "mod") is called FURL, which is short for "Friendly URL".
Friendly meaning the URLs are more search engine friendly.

After installing the FURL modification, instead of using this URL:
http://forum.resperate.com/index.php?showtopic=19
it uses this URL:
http://forum.resperate.com/My-doctor-said-pills-for-the-rest-of-your-life-t19.html

Both of the above URLs take you to the same page, but the second one
both looks nicer, and is supposed to improve search engine placement.

Last night, I wanted to check if Google was picking up the URLs with
the static or dynamic URLs, so I searched for a pretty unique phrase
from one of the pages: "It sounds like RESPeRATE is working well for
you" and surely enough, the page had been picked up, but the URL it
was showing was the dynamic one, not the static one.

I was curious to see how Google was seeing the page so I clicked on
the cached button:



That's when my jaw dropped

There was some additional stuff I had never seen before at the top of
the page which looked like this:



Instead of the normal forum section header which looks like this:



The modification I installed didn't just modify the URLs. It also
added, unknowingly to me, some extra text at the top of the page as
well as some links to other pages - but the added text was only being
shown to the Google spider, and was not visible to a normal human
viewing the site. This alone can get you banned from Google.

The fact that FURL adds this content is not mentioned anywhere in the
documentation or installation instructions.

It really saddens me that the author of FURL added a very underhanded
tactic improve their search engine rankings.
If they would have added a small footer to the bottom the page that
was shown to everyone, I would have been perfectly OK with that and
would have left it.

It seems that quite a few sites have FURL installed and are affected
by this SEO hack. If you do a search for "SEO Powered by FURL" in
Google, it says over 2 million results.

* sigh *



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