How To Find Hidden Links In Your Site

WordPress, Blogger, Movable-Type, Typepad, Yahoo 360, Mambo, Joomla, and other platforms have allowed us to start profitable sites with minimal programming. Some of you have already been able to make money online, and some of you are investing your time so that you can eventually reach that goal. These open source platforms have made it a lot easier to make money with the internet, but have also opened up our online businesses to attacks from greedy, selfish individuals.

I have put in a lot of time to create the search engine optimized WordPress themes that I offer to everyone free of charge. To make it worth my time, I have placed a link in the footer. I don’t get hardly any traffic from those links, but at least it gives me something for my work.

Link Spammers Are The Scum Of The Earth

Spammers will take that idea to the next level, and that’s where it starts hurting people. When they create WordPress themes, they don’t only place a link in the footer – they place hidden links everywhere in the theme. I don’t have any problem with people taking credit for their work, they should do that. I do have a problem with the scum-bags placing all of you at risk. Hidden links scare me more than just about anything out there. Hidden links get people banned by Google, and most of the time people don’t even know what hit them because they didn’t know that the links were even there.

As I have gone through the WordPress themes I have optimized, I have been very disappointed to find that about half of them had hidden links in them. I removed those links so that the themes are 100% safe to use. The people I worry about are the ones that haven’t used the themes I have gone through. About 50% of you are at risk.

Methods Spammers Use To Get Hidden Links Into Your Site

  • They put them in themes.
  • The put them in plugins. One such plugin is the Kontera control plugin for WordPress. If you’re using it you probably have hidden links in your site.
  • They put them in widgets.

This lesson will show you how to check your sites to make sure there aren’t any hidden links in them. Here’s the step-by-step:

View The Source Of Your Homepage And Check For Hidden Links

  • Go to the homepage of your site.
  • If you’re using Firefox, go to ‘View’ at the top of your browser and select ‘Page Source’. If you’re using IE6, go to ‘View’ at the top of your browser and select ‘Source’. If you’re using IE7, go to ‘Page’ at the top of your browser and select ‘View Source’. You will then see the HTML code for your site’s homepage.
  • Hit ‘Ctrl F’ on your keyboard. This will allow you to search through the code.
  • Type ‘<a’ into the search box. (Thanks Matt for coming up with a better search than my original.) This is the code that starts a link in HTML. By searching through the links, you will be able to identify links you don’t know about.
  • Hit ‘enter’ on your keyboard. Your computer will find the first link in the HTML code. If you look at the code directly following the ‘a href’, you will find the URL that is being linked to with that link – it will be in quotation marks.
  • Make sure you know about that link. If it’s a link to another page or post, it’s fine. If it’s a link to a site you don’t know about, you’re in trouble.
  • Hit ‘enter’ again, and your computer will take you to the next link.
  • Hit ‘enter’ repeatedly until you have gone through the entire page of code.
  • Repeat the process by going through the code for an individual post on your site, and through a regular page like your ‘About’ page. You need to do this because sometimes the hidden links will only appear on one of the page types, without appearing on other page types.

If you find hidden links, you will then have to figure out where they’re coming from. By looking at the content around the link, you should be able to determine where in the code the hidden links are. If they are in the sidebar, you will know to look in the sidebar.php file of your theme. If they’re in the footer, you’ll know to look in the footer.php file. If anyone has any trouble removing the links, please let me know. I would be more than happy to help.

Comments 48

  1. Hi Court, Thanks for sharing this. I did not realize the problem was as widespread as it is.

    As for the Kontera plugin, is Lucia’s version ok? I don’t use Kontera but may at some point in the future, and it might be good for others to know too.

    Lucia’s site is bigbucksblogger , I don’t ant to post a link, just in case, but can you let us know if that plugin is ok to use for Kontera?

    Thanks,

    Gerri

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  2. Thanks for writing this article, Court. I checked my homepage and one of my regular pages, and I’m free from hidden links. However, I have six unrelated links in my footer, but luckily, they are not hidden.

    I wanted to see if I could remove the sponsor links but not the creator’s link. However, the file says this when I try to edit it:

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      That’s a very interesting dilemna Tay! I think you could remove them since themes are additions to software that’s covered under a general public license.

      You don’t really have to worry about them though because they aren’t hidden!

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  4. I think I’d be okay if the creator of the plugin put his/her own link on it. The creator does deserve some recognition and link credit I feel.

    But people who don’t deserve the credit should be weeded out!

    -Raymond (MONEY BLUE BOOK)

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      That’s exactly what I think Raymond! People that put in the time deserve to have a link there. If they fill the theme up with shady links, that’s where they’re crossing the line.

  5. Good post, Court. One suggestion I would make is to search for “<a ” (make sure to include the space at the end) instead of “a href”. The reason I suggest this is because you might find hidden links that are set up something like this:

    <a style=”display:none” href=”somewhere”>etc<a&gt

    My point is that the “href” attribute might not immediately follow the “a” tag depending on how the plug-in’s developer coded it. 🙂

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  6. Hi,

    I found your blog tonight while doing a search on “next google page rank update” – (thought you’d want to know.

    Your blog is first rate – and I’m going to tell a bunch of people about you.

    I’m posting a blip about you on http://1Cat.biz – my monetization site.

    I am also the Editor of Online Marketing Monthly (print) Magazine – and I’ll post for you there and mail that list of 10,000.

    I am looking forward to reading more of your work – and your theme makeovers are brilliant!

    Rick Butts

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      Hi Rick! I’m glad that you were able to find the site! After taking a look at your site I can say that you have a very useful site yourself. Website monetization is a very critical step that a lot of people are missing. It sounds like you can help people a lot in that area.

      Thanks so much for your help!

      1. Thanks Court – are you a man or a woman (sorry…) I was looking for a picture of you to use on the post – nothing in Google images.

        The 1Cat.biz site is just getting started – got a new ebook being released tomorrow for free at http://monetize101.1cat.biz

        You may be interested to know we are planning on doing something fairly unique with our site navigation structure – by putting everything – sales letters, membership areas, and everything on ONE DOMAIN and multiple subdomains – linking them all together to the root site.

        We will be doing case studies on wordpress deployments – and perhaps we can do something with you?

        Thanks!
        Rick Butts
        http://RickButts.com (Internet Marketing Satire)

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          Hi Rick! I’m a guy – don’t worry about it, it’s a fair and common question. 😉

          It sounds like you have some great ideas for your site, let me know it there’s anything I can do to help. I’m always interested in projects that are mutually beneficial.

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  16. I just recently downloaded free revolution lifestyle church theme. I found out that there is a hidden link in the archive.php with different characters leading to an adult site. If you happen to download one go to the content/themes page and look for the archive.php and delete those code.

  17. I like the valuable info you provide in your articles. I’ll bookmark your blog and check again here frequently. I am quite sure I’ll learn many new stuff right here! Good luck for the next!

  18. Thank you for this article. That’s all I can say. You most definitely have made this blog into something special. You clearly know what you are doing, you’ve covered so many bases.Thanks!

  19. Thanks so much for those steps as I had no idea people had done this let alone how to search for it. I now have something to do for my blogs and client blogs this afternoon! (Not that I was short of tasks before reading this post, lol!)

    As you say, taking credit for your work is fine (especially if the work isn’t charged for!) but the other stuff is unacceptable.

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