This is an exclusive story, researched and written by Eric Van Buskirk
Is it possible that MarkMonitor, Inc, who call themselves “a global leader in the fast-growing market for online corporate identity” has been secretly hiding links on behalf of TimeWarner? Is this being done on subdomains of timeinc.net in order to rank high in the search engines? You decide. MarkMonitor owns the domain name timeinc.net, a site with a homepage which re-directs to the main Time.com site. So it would seem they are running this site on behalf of TimeWarner.
If you go to the timeinc site and view some of the source code of the pages, you will find error pages that have links below an image map at the bottom of the page, links which are hidden from viewers and added to increase the search engine ranking of other Time Warner properties. This link-hiding practice is often referred to as “Black Hat” SEO.
An image map tells the browser how to display an image. That is it’s only purpose. However, some of the pages on timeinc.net have links hidden to viewers next to the image maps. If one views the source of sub domains such as img.timeinc.net or i.timeinc.net, it is apparent there are four links to other TimeWarner properties:
<AREA SHAPE="rect" COORDS="0,0,69,27" HREF="http://www.time.com/">
<AREA SHAPE="rect" COORDS="71,0,141,27" HREF="http://www.money.com/">
<AREA SHAPE="rect" COORDS="144,0,213,27" HREF="http://people.aol.com/">
<AREA SHAPE="rect" COORDS="215,0,287,27" HREF="http://www.fortune.com/">
<AREA SHAPE="rect" COORDS="288,0,357,27" HREF="http://www.ew.com/">
<AREA SHAPE="rect" COORDS="360,0,429,27" HREF="http://www.parenting.com/">
<AREA SHAPE="rect" COORDS="432,0,501,27" HREF="http://www.instyle.com/">
<AREA SHAPE="rect" COORDS="504,0,573,27" HREF="http://www.onmagazine.com/">
Did MarkMonitor,inc, a huge company and a true leader in “defending brand names” online buy this domain, redirect the traffic to Time.com and find places to hide links to other Time websites out of pure altruism? It’s possible, but hard to believe. It should be noted that there are very important subscription pages on other sub domains of timeinc. This is not a domain that was cast away and has no value for linking.
If MarkMonitor purposefully hid links as it would seem, altruism towards Time seems an unlikely motive.
There is an increasingly fine line with what is acceptable and what is not for search engine optimization. At ClickStream, we believe the last group that needs to employ sneaky techniques to rank high are fortune 500 companies. In essence, these companies are the ones that have whole “rings” of websites. Yet, search engines will ban individuals that create multiple sites for the purpose of linking to each other and creating a link circle.
Time should be able to link in a circle with its various media companies. That may seem an unfair advantage, but they are separate entities that have the same parent company. What certainly seems unfair is for them to take further advantage of the circular linking by hiding links that only the search engines can see.
The recent storm has just passed over the BMW being removed from the Google search engine pages. BMW’s German site was found using “doorway pages” to build traffic and rank for their site. Google was able to document that BMW’s German website used the search results to get a top ranking if people searched for “used car.” Searching for BMW Germany will bring no results. BMW.ge was well ranked but it dropped completely out of the Google index in a matter of 2 days.