Colgate Site Doing “Black Hat”?

There is an interesting discussion over at Search Engine Watch Forums. It’s about Colgate consumer website’s alleged malpractice on search engine optimization by placing hidden links on its front page.

The site in question elicited several responses but not necessarily unanimous in its stand. While many of forum members, including Danny Sullivan, a respected search engine professional and forum moderator, agreed that it indeed violated Google Guidelines for webmasters due to linking methods.

Some of the words inside the paragraph are linked to one single web page which appeared like a violation but to me it isn’t. The contents inside <noscript> tag did not show any signs of misbehavior. My forum opinion appeared,

IMO, I do not see anything in the page that violates the Google Guidelines for SEO. The use of <noscript> does not hide anything malicious. The <noscript> content provides what the Flash animation on the top displays. So if Flash is not supported, such <noscript> contents will be displayed.

Changing the style on link (I see one or more links that appear similar to normal text) within the description does not deceive anyone. Until it becomes invisible to human eyes.

Sorry guys, but this is my personal take.

The thing that looked suspicious to others are the deliberate concealing of link on a few keywords in a product description:

Colgate Total toothpaste reduces gingivitis by up to 88% and fights bad breath

In the previous line, the words “Colgate Total”, “gingivitis” and “fights bad breath” are links that point to one single web page but text decoration style was applied second and third links to make it appear as a normal text. To me this should be fine, as there is no link cloaking involved. To me link cloaking involves link(s) that are not visible, in that case the anchor text that bears the link should be invisible to qualify as link cloaking.

It is questionable if the page those three keywords are pointing to does not describe “Colgate Total”, “gingivitis” and “fights bad breath”. But it’s a subjective matter; I can place a link to using an anchor link called “BBC News”.

I could be wrong but if I were Google I won’t punish Colgate web site.