Aplus.net customers who discovered the practice went public with their complaints on the Web Hosting Talk and on Google Answers online forums. After a story appeared on Web Host Industry Review, the company issued a press release saying the practice was being halted.
In addition to the top ranking for dedicated servers, Aplus.net currently has a 10th-place ranking in Google for “web hosting.” But the company insisted that “any effect, both positive and negative, related to the placing of the links is pure speculation.” To support its contention, Aplus.net pointed to its ranking for the third of the three terms hidden in customer pages. “We are on page 40 for the ‘domain name’ keyword,” Michael Nieman, VP of Sales at Aplus.Net, said in the press release. “This is worse than before the so called ‘optimization.’ On the customer side we have yet to see any evidence of any negative effect.”
But Google’s policy statement makes it clear that Aplus.net’s practice could have placed its customers’ listings at risk. “Actions such as cloaking, writing text that can be seen by search engines but not by users, or setting up pages/links with the sole purpose of fooling search engines may result in permanent removal from our index,” Google notes in its advice to webmasters.
Aplus.Net is the Internet Services Division of Abacus America, Inc., and hosts more than 77,000 hostnames, according to data from our April Hosting Provider Switching Analysis.