Black Board Friday – Altering Search Status

Black Board Friday - Rabbit out of the hat!Lets dive into an old WordPress Plugin that I wrote about a year ago that rubbed a couple of people the wrong way called “No Pinko”. What this plugin did at the time was find out if the visiting users browser was using Search Status on a FireFox browser and altering it, well at least altering the NoFollow highlighting. Here is how it worked.

First you need to have installed a great developer plugin called Source Chart if you don’t have it, go get it! What Source Chart does is display everything as its rendered in the FireFox browser including any fingerprints/signatures that other plugins such as Search Status might leave. Turns out Search Status left a pretty big signature just above the closing head tag in the HTML. It’s been a while but if I remember correctly it looked a bit like this:

<link rel=”stylesheet” href=”chrome://??/search-status.css” id=”searchstatus-nofollow” />

At this point if you are good dev you can easily see how it was pretty easy to alter. For the non-dev people Search Status left behind a nice “id” property that was easily accessible with a Javascript window.onLoad event like this:

function nopinko(){
var pinko = document.getElementById("searchstatus-nofollow");
if (pinko)
window.onload = nopinko;

By removing the path to the CSS that defined how the NoFollow links should be highlighted with the line pinko.href=’’ all links appeared as normal. No css, No pink.

Just like that no more pink highlights! Needless to say some people got pretty upset about this and had some not so nice comments:

Wait… you’re actively breaking the plugin?

People are installing this plugin *specifically* to see (among other SEO-related info) what links are no-follow. You’re basically saying “I know that’s what you want… but I’m overriding your preference because I don’t like the way it looks.”

I wholly disagree with the idea that the ultimate word in how the site displays should belong to the site owner. Are you going to try to break *all* plugins that modify a site’s presentation?

Remember, we’re not talking about normal browser behavior for normal users. These are people who sought out and installed a plugin because they wanted to see this extra information.

Once they install it, they’re going to see pink links everywhere, including the MSNBC homepage, Wikipedia homepage, etc. etc.. Is there any chance that they will stumble on your blog for the first time instead, and think you designed it with pink links? I don’t think so — they’ll know it’s the plugin functioning normally.

So instead, when you break the plugin, they’ll just think (wrongly) that your site doesn’t use nofollow.

You are targeting users of a specific plugin for a specfic browser because you don’t like how your site looks while being viewed with a plugin designed to change the look of a site and undoubtedly a plugin the user has installed for a reason. If a site did this to a plugin that I use, I would boycott the site.

“Personally I think it should be up to the site owner as to how the site is ultimately rendered.”
I think this attitude is completely outdated.
Web != Print

I still stand by my original statement for testing this plugin out:

“Personally I think it should be up to the site owner as to how the site is ultimately rendered. And lets think of the users! Do we really want the first impression of the site to be a bunch of pink highlighted links?”

If you are like the people above that couldn’t be bothered to view source before paying someone for a link well then this plugin was not your biggest problem.

Search Status has since changed the way they implement the notorious Pink NoFollow Highlight that has saved thousands if not millions from buying NoFollow links while simultaneously causing some really great looking sites to look like crap. I wonder if this plugin had anything to do with that? I guess I will never know… The new style code looks like this:

a[rel~="nofollow"] { border: thin dashed firebrick ! important; background-color: rgb(255, 200, 200) ! important; }

Do I think it can still be altered or disabled? Of course, maybe at some point I will revisit this old plugin but for now it will have to stay retired.

If you would like to take a crack at it and know you can disable it feel free to post the code or a link to the code in the comments area.


  • Aww… I wish I could code. 😉

    Hadn’t seen Source Chart before, great add-on, thanks for sharing it.

    Concerning No Pinko, I don’t see the harm in altering how users view your site. You should always be in control of the user’s experience regardless of the nature of the content. It’s your site! Just my opinion and of course I see some other uses for something that can block Search Status…

    -- Rhea

    • Wish you could code? You are the blackest of all black hat coders I have ever met! 😉

      Source Chart is awesome especially when you need to see everything as rendered… Helped a ton when working with Google/MSN maps for another project as that is all javascript… etc…

      Thanks for commenting! 🙂

      -- Cesar Serna

  • I am new to SEO and website development. I was wondering why I saw “a[rel~=”nofollow”] { border: thin dashed firebrick ! important;…” everywhere. I don’t think people are using this code because they don’t want their sites and blogs all pink. They want people to comment and make their sites lively, without sparing the backlink. People are commenting all over the place for backlinks because they don’t see the pink/red.
    I am so glad I found your site. You tell it like it is.

    -- D.Jansen