Weekly SEO news: 9 January 2007
Welcome to the latest issue of the Search Engine Facts newsletter.

This week, we're taking a look at the fact that Google now reads CSS files. Can this affect your rankings?

In the news: Google removes self-promoting tips, Yahoo releases new tools for mobile phones and more.

Table of contents:

 

We hope that you enjoy this newsletter and that it helps you to get more out of your website. Please pass this newsletter on to your friends.

Best regards,
Andre Voget, Johannes Selbach, Axandra CEO

1. Facts of the week: Does Google read your CSS files?

Many webmasters reported that Google's spider started to index their external CSS files. What are CSS files, why does Google index them and how can this affect your rankings on Google and other search engines?

What are CSS files?

CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) files allow webmasters to specify the layout of a web site without touching the HTML code. A good example is the CSS Zen Garden site.

On that web site, you can change the complete look of the site by selecting different style sheets. The HTML code of the page is always the same, only the CSS file that is used to display the HTML code changes.

What's the problem with CSS files?

CSS allow webmasters to design their web pages without touching the HTML code. That also means that webmasters can use that technique to hide content from their web site visitors.

Webmasters can put keyword rich content in the HTML code of their web pages that search engines can index. The same text can be hidden from human web surfers by using CSS.

That means that search engines see something totally different than human web surfers. Unfortunately, some webmasters try to fool search engines with that technique.

What do search engines do about this problem?

Search engines don't want to be fooled by webmasters. For that reason, they started to index CSS files. If search engines find anything that looks like spamming in a CSS file, they might penalize the corresponding site.

What can you do to avoid problems with your CSS files?

Unfortunately, it's not clear yet what search engines consider spamming and what not. There are many legitimate uses for hiding text on a web site so it's hard to tell what search engines will penalize.

As a rule of thumb, don't try to cheat search engines. If you do something explicitly to cheat search engines then chances are that search engines will detect this and penalize your site sooner or later.

Ask yourself if it is really necessary to hide text on your web site. If it might be misinterpreted as spamming by human web surfers, don't hide text on your site. Don't use shady techniques to promote your web site. Better focus on ethical SEO methods.

2. Search engine news of the week
Self-promoting Google 'Tips' disappear

"Google appears to have listened to criticism and pulled its controversial 'Tips', in which it promoted its products above organic results on the company's Web search page."



Mobile search: Yahoo! oneSearch launches

"Our goal with this release is to provide a rich set of relevant content for a given query from a number of different categories of results. The new display therefore demonstrates significant vertical integration on the mobile search result page to bring back more direct results."



Yahoo! Search Marketing’s John Slade takes on click fraud

"We proactively identify suspicious clicks and remove them from our billing system 24 hours a day, 7 days a week—as a result, we’ve given away billions of clicks for free.

We’ve invested significant technological, financial and human resources in clickthrough protection since we started this industry in 1998 and are redoubling our efforts by dedicating even more resources to this issue…"



Search engine newslets

  • Google’s media ambassador: What about us sounds so unfriendly?
  • Yahoo China to evolve into business-oriented search engine.
  • Keyword ads and meta tags don't confuse consumers.
  • Winzy is a new search engine that offers prizes for searching.
  • O Googlers, where art thou?
  • What do you think about ads in captchas?
3. Articles of the week
Search over, Google No. 1 workplace

    "There's a new king of the hill atop Fortune's list of the 100 Best Companies to Work For. Google makes its debut in the No. 1 position on Fortune's 10th annual 100 Best Companies to Work For list."



Some Google advertisers cutting spending

"Frustrated by the soaring price of Internet-search advertising and diminishing returns from the ads they buy, mid-sized advertisers say they plan to reduce how much business they do with Google this year -- in some cases, significantly."



The Google API kerfuffle, and what it means for start-ups

    "Google began charging this month for usage of the API for AdWords, its flagship advertising tool. When Google initially published this API last year, the press speculated that software companies would quickly emerge to take advantage of the new access to AdWords."

    Editor's note: The price sheet is available here.

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4. Recommended resources

How to get high rankings on Google, Yahoo and MSN

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