Support » Plugins » Can you opt out of the XML Google Sitemaps plugin link scheme?

  • This is a truly fantastic plugin – I love it. But our Google customer support analyst “strongly suggests” that we consider stopping use of the plugin because it is part of a “link scheme”. All of the links the right sidebar of the XML Sitemap configuration page are labeled as “Google Webmaster Tools” and “Yahoo Site Explorer” but are actually links to the author’s website. A script then redirects to the labeled location but only after passing “link juice” (used to power Google PageRank) to the author’s site. When we asked why this is a problem Google suggested that the Link Juice we pass to the author’s site could then be “sold” in the form of links from the author’s site to other client sites. This is why they call it a “scheme”.

    I don’t actually care if we pass link juice to the author’s site and in our opinion the author is entitled to make some money from this excellent plugin – but Google apparently does care and we don’t want to get on the wrong side of Google.

    Is there a way to opt out of the right sidebar links? I have been reluctant to simply alter them in the code because they are associated with long encrypted keys in the embedded resources of the code.

    Thanks for the help.

Viewing 6 replies - 1 through 6 (of 6 total)
  • Warning – this appears to be true and Google is on the hunt for this kind of link scheme

    Arrgghh! Say its not so! John Mu at google says that this is exactly the kind of link scheme they are cracking down on. And their security guidelines/advice specifically call out the damage this kind of scheme can cause even innocent bystanders. They recommend not using third party widgets that use these tactics because they will result in you being penalized.

    Arne – please fix this. We respected you and thought you were above this. The silence from you is deafening.

    Can someone – one of the plugin guru’s – delete the link scheme and post the clean plugin. Please.

    Moderator Samuel Wood (Otto)

    (@otto42) Admin

    If you’re talking about the links the plugin makes on the Administration pages (the plugin’s configuration pages), then you’re incorrect. All those admin pages are behind your login name and password. Google does not and cannot index them. No link juice is being passed along, because Google isn’t seeing those pages.

    If Google is indexing your admin pages, then you have other problems.

    Also, after looking at the plugin, those “long encrypted strings” are base 64 representations of the various images and icons used on the configuration page. Instead of including the images individually as separate files, he put them in the plugin as strings, then looks for the res parameter on the plugin load. When he finds it, if it matches one of his internal resources, he makes it return that image directly and then exit the script processing early. It’s a rather clever trick actually, and one I’ll probably use in the future.

    I don’t know or care about the encrypted string – there is no arguing that arne is brilliant. Even the first post raves about this plugin.

    The problem is that the side bar links are deceptive and they are clearly passing information of some kind to soul-networks which is own by an SEO company.

    So while she may have the technique wrong, Jill’s concern is still unanswered. Why is it necessary for those links to route through arne’s site? What information is being passed? Why does google specifically warn about links like this in third party addins?

    I understand JillH’s concern, I share it. We love the plugin and bow to Arne’s prowess – but can we just turn off the routing through arne’s site to be safe given that we don’t have an explanation was to why the logging and redirect is necessary?

    Otto42 – you’re a bright guy – maybe you can put this to rest. Click on one of those links in question – the sidebar links and watch the redirect and cookies installed. Perhaps this is all innocent, but why do these links pass information from our blogs to arne’s site (and the others) and why does anre’s site place a cookie with a two year expiration on my machine when following these links?

    This might all be very innocent and usually stuff but for some of us, we just don’t understand why. A simple explanation for why Arne is collecting information on our blogs (I don’t know what info other than specifics about my blog are passed) and what is the cookie for?

    Perhaps you can tell us that this is nothing to worry about. But without an explanation and Google’s warnings about 3rd party plugins and the latest round of iframe attacks – we are justifiably concerned about this unexplained activity.

    A simple explanation will put this to an end and I’ll be the first to apologize to Arne for trusting google before him.

    take this code out of the plugin and it remove the links on the side.

    For the other links in the main body of the plugin you would just search for the text and then remove whatever link is around it.

    <div id="moremeta">
    						<div id="grabit" class="dbx-group">
    							<fieldset id="sm_pnres" class="dbx-box">
    								<h3 class="dbx-handle"><?php _e('About this Plugin:','sitemap'); ?></h3>
    								<div class="dbx-content">
    									<a class="sm_button sm_pluginHome"    href="<?php echo 
    $this->GetRedirectLink('sitemap-home'); ?>"><?php _e('Plugin Homepage','sitemap'); ?></a>
    									<a class="sm_button sm_pluginList"    href="<?php echo 
    $this->GetRedirectLink('sitemap-list'); ?>"><?php _e('Notify List','sitemap'); ?></a>
    									<a class="sm_button sm_pluginSupport" href="<?php echo 
    $this->GetRedirectLink('sitemap-support'); ?>"><?php _e('Support Forum','sitemap'); ?></a>
    									<a class="sm_button sm_donatePayPal"  href="<?php echo 
    $this->GetRedirectLink('sitemap-paypal'); ?>"><?php _e('Donate with PayPal','sitemap'); ?></a>
    									<a class="sm_button sm_donateAmazon"  href="<?php echo 
    $this->GetRedirectLink('sitemap-amazon'); ?>"><?php _e('My Amazon Wish List','sitemap'); ?></a>
    									<?php if(__('translator_name','sitemap')!='translator_name') {?><a 
    class="sm_button sm_pluginSupport" href="<?php _e('translator_url','sitemap'); ?>"><?php _e('translator_name','sitemap'); ?></a><?php } ?>
    							<fieldset id="sm_smres" class="dbx-box">
    								<h3 class="dbx-handle"><?php _e('Sitemap Resources:','sitemap'); ?></h3>
    								<div class="dbx-content">
    									<a class="sm_button sm_resGoogle"    href="<?php echo 
    $this->GetRedirectLink('sitemap-gwt'); ?>"><?php _e('Webmaster Tools','sitemap'); ?></a>
    									<a class="sm_button sm_resGoogle"    href="<?php echo 
    $this->GetRedirectLink('sitemap-gwb'); ?>"><?php _e('Webmaster Blog','sitemap'); ?></a>
    									<a class="sm_button sm_resYahoo"     href="<?php echo 
    $this->GetRedirectLink('sitemap-yse'); ?>"><?php _e('Site Explorer','sitemap'); ?></a>
    									<a class="sm_button sm_resYahoo"     href="<?php echo 
    $this->GetRedirectLink('sitemap-ywb'); ?>"><?php _e('Search Blog','sitemap'); ?></a>
    									<a class="sm_button sm_resLive"     href="<?php echo 
    $this->GetRedirectLink('sitemap-lwt'); ?>"><?php _e('Webmaster Tools','sitemap'); ?></a>
    									<a class="sm_button sm_resLive"     href="<?php echo 
    $this->GetRedirectLink('sitemap-lswcb'); ?>"><?php _e('Webmaster Center Blog','sitemap'); ?></a>
    									<a class="sm_button sm_resGoogle"    href="<?php echo 
    $this->GetRedirectLink('sitemap-prot'); ?>"><?php _e('Sitemaps Protocol','sitemap'); ?></a>
    									<a class="sm_button sm_resGoogle"    href="<?php echo 
    $this->GetRedirectLink('sitemap-ofaq'); ?>"><?php _e('Official Sitemaps FAQ','sitemap'); ?></a>
    									<a class="sm_button sm_pluginHome"   href="<?php echo 
    $this->GetRedirectLink('sitemap-afaq'); ?>"><?php _e('My Sitemaps FAQ','sitemap'); ?></a>
    							<fieldset id="dm_donations" class="dbx-box">
    								<h3 class="dbx-handle"><?php _e('Recent Donations:','sitemap'); ?></h3>
    								<div class="dbx-content">
    									<?php if($this->GetOption('i_hide_donors')!==true) { ?>
    										<iframe border="0" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" 
    allowtransparency="yes" style="width:100%; height:60px;" src="<?php echo $this->GetRedirectLink('sitemap-donorlist'); ?>">
    										<?php _e('List of the donors','sitemap'); ?>
    										<a href="<?php echo $this->GetBackLink() . 
    "&amp;sm_hidedonors=true"; ?>"><small><?php _e('Hide this list','sitemap'); ?></small></a>
    									<?php } ?>
    									<a style="float:left; margin-right:5px; border:none;" 
    href="javascript:document.getElementById('sm_donate_form').submit();"><img style="vertical-align:middle; border:none; margin-top:2px;" src="<?php echo 
    $this->GetResourceLink("{6E89EFD4-A853-4321-B5CF-3E36C60B268D}"); ?>" border="0" alt="PayPal" title="Help me to continue support of this plugin :)" /></a>
    									<span><small><?php _e('Thanks for your support!','sitemap'); 


    I just redirect these URLs to my own site first so I can update the final URLs without releasing a new plugin version. For example I’ve changed the “Sitemaps Protocol” link from the original Google page to the new page after MSN and YAHOO joined the program.

    These long strings are , like Otto42 said, just the small images in front of the links. They are included in the script because there was no official plugin repository like today when the first versions of the plugin came out. Including the images in the script allowed me to distribute it as a single .php file without subfolders or zip archives.

    Regarding the “soul-network” thing, this is just an old domain owned by me, which is used for several of my (older) projects and has nothing to do with SEO or another company. BTW, where do you see this domain? All of the links on the right side do a direct HTTP 301 redirect, I don’t log or collect any statistics or clicks on this links nor do this redirect pages set any cookies.

    I hope everything is clear now 🙂 If you don’t like these redirect links, feel free to remove them like smith201981 suggested.

    Best regards,


Viewing 6 replies - 1 through 6 (of 6 total)
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