Pure Oyster Company Website
[UPDATE: The following text was written in 2009. In 2011, the Pure Oyster Company replaced its dodgy website with one that is entirely respectable.]
The website of the Pure Oyster Company appears to commit a breach of website ethics. The home page (http://www.thepureoyster.co.uk/frontpage) contains a lengthy passage of text, stuffed with keywords, that is visible to search engines but not to most human visitors.
What’s the Problem?
When you search for, say, ‘wholesale fishmonger in Hastings’, you would expect to be presented with a list of web pages which deal with that topic, and which contain those words.
Any website that contains the phrase ‘wholesale fishmonger in Hastings’ stands a chance of appearing in the search engine listings when someone uses those words in a search. If the website doesn’t actually deal with that topic, its use of that phrase is misleading.
Hiding the Text
Confronted by a passage of irrelevant keywords, the average visitor will quickly leave the website. To get around this problem, the Pure Oyster Company’s website uses two techniques:
- It shrinks the text size to zero
- For good measure, it specifies that the text should be white, the same background colour as the page.
Both techniques hide the text from sighted human visitors, but not from search engines.
To see the page as the search engines see it, go to www.thepureoyster.co.uk/frontpage [Update: no longer active] and, using the menus at the top of your web browser software, click:
- ‘Style’ (or ‘Page Style’)
- ‘No Style’.
This will switch off the styling instructions and reveal the hidden text. Alternatively, if you want to see the hidden text together with the page’s HTML code, click:
- ‘Source’ (or ‘Page Source’).
Hidden Text is Dishonest
All the established search engines strongly disapprove of hiding text within websites, because it reduces the accuracy of their results listings. They consider the practice dishonest, and will usually remove the offending page from the listings when they find out. That seems to have happened in this case: if you type ‘pure oyster company’ into Google you won’t find their home page listed.
The Hidden Text in the Pure Oyster Company’s Website
Just in case they have changed it, here is a snapshot of the code (taken in August 2009), which shows the hidden text:
(note the ‘font-size:0px’, which hides the text from humans)
After 90 more lines of this, we reach the final part of the hidden text:
It’s quite possible that the insertion and hiding of these keywords was the result of an honest typing error. It could happen to anyone.
The website was constructed by an outfit called Home Computers aka Perfect Home Computers, who are or were based in the Brighton area. By a strange coincidence, their own website, www.perfecthomecomputers.co.uk, also contains hidden text.
- Google’s guidelines for hidden text
- How to report deceptive websites to Google
- The perils of using hidden text
- An example of a website that uses hidden text and gets to the top of the listings
- Another fish-related website using hidden text