Search Marketing Paranoia - Removing Footprints and other Tracks

Thread Title:
Removing Footprints
Thread Description:

WmW's rogerd has an interesting discussion going in the threadlink above on seo paranoia. Specifically about the need (or not) to remove software footprints and kicks off by listing a few of the easier ones to spot:

Some of the most obvious steps:
1) Remove "powered by" and similar text.
2) Remove on-page "copyright" text or convert to image.
3) Change default installation directory and file names to foil both searches and brute-force attacks.
4) Remove/change other giveaways (ancient SEOs remember the infamous "blueline.gif" that undid many thousands of pages), i.e., anything that a hacker or other problem user could plug into a search engine to easily find sites using particular software.

The way i look at it is this: If you know you are employing high risk tactics, or you think that people using the same software might be, remove everything. In fact, dont stop there - change every conceivable bit about the scripts as you can including templates, urls structures, admin script names - the whole damn lot.

If you're not in that kind of area: Do it anyway.

So, taking it some steps further

  • How paranoid should one be, or is there no need?
  • Other than removing footprints from software, what else can one do to fly beneath the algorithmic radar?
  • Classic pitfalls?
  • Consequences and considerations apart from SE's?

Just how far do you need to go?


Affiliate Program Managers ?

Affiliate Program Managers who are proud to supply their lemmings with TOOLS will get their affiliates and their merchant clients killed by those tactics. - imo

Unique is where it is at baby!

Where is the news??

I have, as well as many other professional SEOs, allways adviced clients to take full control of any online associations made - in code, references or links - everywhere.

Basically, you don't want to be closely connected or appear to be part of a "comunity" (in a very broad sense) that you don't know anything about. And, that is exactly what happens when online tool, blog and CMS vedors require you to link back, credit them in code or use generic templates and structures.

I have been fighting CMS vendors for years telling them to remove any such requirements - and I actually convinced a few, the rest can just forget about my business :)

The worst kinds I see is CMS vendors that stick a META-copyright notice on every page giving them the copyright of content. Do they really own the copyright to your published content? Hell no! If you see that on your site: call your lawyer and drop that company - sue them for intentional damage!

Here is some food for thought....

... although I made a lot of comments the other day in the thread hopefully these add to them.

As before I view these as potential "score lesseners". They may or may not be used at present by the search engines but if you remove the opportunities for the score to be lowered you do yourself a favour.

My mantra is to remove all potential fingerprints and DNA. If I was a burglar I'd not only wear a balaclava and gloves but an NBC suit and burn it after leaving the house!

Images - If you use templates, steal pics or simply use the same picture across multiple sites then adapt it each time. The change doesn't have to be major but it could link your network together.

It can look the same to a human but you might decide to:

Make it a different file size each time.
Change header information each time.
Make it a different file format each time.
Add a differing watermark each time.

HTML Templates - Forget on page SEO for a moment and think about how similar your pages look to millions of others using the same templates when you strip out the content.

We all know that we can change the html yet still end up with pretty much the same look and feel. I'd even go so far as say edit it in Word if you want it to drastically change!

Why be part of the pack when you can stand out as an individual?

Writing Style - I've said it before and I'll say it again. Think Markov!!!

Does your content read in a similar way? Could your networks be associated by the style of writing?

We know all about IP addresses and hostnames - Just check the Hilltop discussions. Do what you can to reduce and elminate the problems. It isn't easy but it's possible!

Javascript, SWF etc - If you through the content into a (remote or local) application in the hopes that the engines can't understand it then think about this.

I believe that since Mozilla launched the major search engines (MSN excluded, they had their own code to play with) used the code within it to be able to understand various file types they simply checked for regexps previously. Even if you don't agree then think about the simple case of redirects AKA client side cloaking.

The search engines, don't need to understand what happens in an SWF or JS function, they just wait for the browser to tell them!

Check out a quick proof of concept DOS based application to test for URL change. Check it out on as an example.

Anyway, back on topic :)

Change your JS.

Don't alway's have the same functions or strings.

Change then around. Have a regexp in there first, do a ROT, keep them on different domains. Comment them. Do what you can to reduce the chances of it being looked at as the same as everyone else.

Plenty more things but hopefully enough to get you thinking of the holidays.

As to Nick's question can you be too paranoid, then I think the answer is yes, but nobody ever lost a network of sites because they were over paranoid!

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