Top Ranking SEO Companies Hiding Links In JavaScript & Widgets – Ethical?

Justin Musiker
I love the internet and anything related to it. I own a Local SEO Company that specializes in Local SEO and Web Design. I enjoy writing posts about SEO & Link Building, as well as reviews for WordPress Plugins and SEO Tools. I live in Sunny South Florida. Follow me on Google +
Justin Musiker
Justin Musiker
Justin Musiker

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Note: I will not be naming names or companies here, it is not my intention to harm or slander anyone, I just want to bring awareness to people about this horrible tactic that companies are using.

Many of the Top Ranking SEO Companies are hiding links in JavaScript & Widgets on their clients sites which point back to their site and and their other client’s sites. They are intentionally doing this, to hide them from their clients to see. To me, this is completely unethical, and basically stealing their PageRank from them.

The reason I stated “Top Ranking SEO Companies” instead of “Top SEO Companies” is because a good, ethical, and noteworthy SEO Company would not be participating in this kind of link building tactic.

As an owner of a Florida SEO Company, it is my duty to research my competitors and their link profiles. I am constantly analyzing these companies to see where there links are coming from, and what type of anchor text they are using. While I was doing this a month or two ago using Ahrefs which is one of the best backlink analysis tools, I came across many SEO Companies doing this. I was completely shocked. Do the clients know they are doing this? I highly doubt it.


is how to see where a link is coming from while using the backlink tool:

1)      Go to your favorite backlink checker tool

2)      Enter the domain you are looking to research

3)      If you are using there will be a “new/lost” tab at the top of the page

4)      Click this and you will see the incoming new and lost links per day

5)      Once you are there right click on the referring page URL and open in a new tab

6)      Use you find command or keyboard shortcut and type in the anchor text that is listed for that referring page URL

7)      If the find command says “0 of 0″ or “not found”, this means that the link is hidden

8)      Next, right click on the page and choose “view page source”

9)      Repeat step 6, and you will see the link and anchor text either in JavaScript or a Widget

I am almost positive that the owner of the site does not know this is there. There is the accepted practice of placing your link at the footer of the page if you’re a Web Designer or SEO Company. Most site owners are ok with this, but there are some that are not, and their decision has to be respected.

Do you think this is ethical? Is this stealing PageRank technically? How would you feel if you found out their were hidden links on your site that you have spent thousands of hours and money on? If you are curious or wondering what types of links are coming to your site or which are going out, use a backlink checker tool and use the steps above on your own site, but search for “a href” on your own page. 


  1. Such a thing is for sure unethical. If you have already charged your customers for providing your services, you must not cheat him and do such things. It’s all about honesty towards your work.
    Praveen Bhardwaj recently posted…Most Popular Android Games of 2013My Profile

  2. I am new to learn SEO but it is very interesting to read your article. It seems that those people would just want to get money only not trust. Well, usually easy come easy go…

  3. Business practices and ethical practices are often on opposite pages. Trying to compromise can be difficult.
    Robert Koenig recently posted…More Cases of Meningitis Diagnosed in MichiganMy Profile

  4. Nick Davison

    In addition to being unethical, the clients site is actually cloaking the links! They are putting their clients rankings at risk by doing this since the site is showing one set of information to Google and another to Users. This to me is worse than the underhanded nature in which they are creating their links, it’s just one small step away from SQL injection spamming in my opinion.

  5. Hi Justin,

    Must say this is unethical. It’s not only SEO companies that are doing this. Even some wordpress theme builders do it by hiding links in the themes they sell. One just needs to be careful.
    Chadrack recently posted…How To Choose An SEO Content Writer For Your Content Marketing Needs!My Profile

  6. I’m not surprised, many SEO companies have made good money out of using sneaky tactics. Googles recent clampdown on spam has done a good job but will just drive more custom to those who still get away with this sort of thing. I’ve seen SEO companies who say you just need to install their widget, I guess it’s like a very sophisticated link exchange.
    Mike Escott recently posted…Steady SEOMy Profile

  7. Has anyone else noticed that in the past couple of weeks all the top seo companies have dropped out of search for ‘search engine optimization’? Not naming names, but all the ‘big’ companies have seen massive drops and it seems to be changing daily with more being targeted. Could this be related to the use of hidden links?

  8. Nice work Justin! Were the links dofollow or nofollow? If they are nofollow would they still steal page rank?

    Also what do you think about site owners who pay SEO companies to find links for them – isn’t that just a version of Paid Links?
    Carolm recently posted…Website Security: Security Checklist For BloggersMy Profile

  9. total unethical..Just because they are big companies and know a great deal about loopholes does not mean they are better in writing than others..
    Suraj recently posted…Triple H Signs Contract at WWE Raw on 18/03/2013My Profile

  10. Definitely unethical. Big companies are already at the top and they should maintain an ethical stance to prove they belong on top. I just see them as scums now
    Leslie Edwards recently posted…The Basics On How To Make Electronic Music: Drum LoopsMy Profile

  11. I do know a very high ranking site. Infact I was the one who made those widgets for them. They are still ranking very well for some very competitive terms. I don’t know if it is ethical or not but I was just paid as a programmer to do the job and I did it. Side by side after seeing their case I atleast learnt some very useful tips for free.
    Keral Patel recently posted…The Best Server Options For ColocationMy Profile

  12. It is not ethical at all. It is funny how some companies call themselves as professional SEO company. Most of the client generally don’t know what they are getting into.
    Chang recently posted…When is The Color Run Coming to Taiwan?My Profile

  13. Yes, it is not ethical i think. not only big companies does this thing, there are many company do this thing too..
    anastris recently posted…Sepatu Nike Versi Angrybird.. wuii..My Profile

  14. Hey Justin,
    Nice post and Thanks for sharing this important post with us. I am really shocked after reading this post and Thanks for sharing these useful tips for checking from where the link is coming.
    Sudipto recently posted…Best Android Phone Under 10000My Profile

  15. Have to say very unethical. While creating a new facebook page, we searched for “like button” widgets and found several free ones. Most of which had hidden links in the coding which we avoided. Simply unbelievable how far people will go to get website traffic. Long story short, we opted to use the Facebook button in the developers section – not pretty, but it will do. Again, thanks for sharing this article.
    Greg recently posted…DoFollow BlogMy Profile

  16. Joy McCarthy says:

    We came across an example of this only yesterday. About 40 sites, all in the same industry sector and geographic region, had hidden links leading to the web developer’s other clients. They were all in direct competition to each other. It wasn’t much of an attempt to hide them either. Just clicking on what appeared to be the developer’s link opened up a list on the page of the host site.

    We subsequently discovered those that hadn’t signed up for the developer’s SEO service, had a link to a very dodgy site in a foreign language. When we used Google translate, it appeared the site was selling a certain wonder drug aimed at men (the one we all get emails about). Presumably, this was done to get the site penalised so the SEO service could come ‘to the rescue’.

  17. lol, this is smart :P
    Vineet Gupta recently posted…Should you make Money as your Goal or Not !!My Profile

  18. Thats why i never hire any SEO agent.. Most of them use black hat methods
    SAJID recently posted…Gmail Login – – Gmail Sign InMy Profile

  19. Hello Justin,
    I would like to tell you that there is still many companies that are actually spammers and they don’t provide the services according to their packages. These kind of companies always causes problem for the online business owners. Still there are many companies that are providing their best for the satisfaction of their clients. The company that have a good name in market can fulfill the needs of the online business owners but its a fact they are much expensive than the spammers.

  20. No harm taken Rehmat, I knew what you were saying ;-). We try to do the best we can while staying in the guidelines, thanks for the compliment!

  21. Hi Peter, there are still some good seo companies out there, but one has to be careful who they hire. Glad you work for one of the good guys ;-)
    Justin Musiker recently posted…Buying A High PR DomainMy Profile

  22. Hi Sean,

    Thank you, I did my best! Depending on the package itself, it can vary on the benefits. But if they are low quality sites, forget about it.
    Justin Musiker recently posted…Link Building Strategy For 2013My Profile

  23. Hey Wayne,

    I agree, being “big” def has some benefits. I wish I could update this post, because since writing it, which was about 2 weeks ago, I have seen a quite a few of these sites drop off of page 1. There is hope!!
    Justin Musiker recently posted…CommentLuv Premium Detailed ReviewMy Profile

  24. Hey Ben,

    It is debated upon many that they can and cant read JS. I believe they do. Since most of the link checker sites have these links indexed in their system, they use bots, not exactly the same as Google of course, but same concept, so if they report these links, I am sure G can see them too.

  25. Hello Ava,

    Very old trick, but still used and abused by many.

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