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Search results: "furl"

Are you promoting someone else’s site without even knowing it?

Are you promoting someone else’s site without even knowing it?
My tale of being victim to a below-the-belt SEO tactic.

Recently, we added user forums to our company web site, in order to give our customers and potential customers a place to voice their questions and opinions. We settled on using Invision Power Board (IPB) which runs using PHP and MySQL.

A couple of weeks ago I installed a modification to our forums which makes the URL of the pages appear to be static html pages and it also inserts the topic title into the URL. The modification package (also called a “mod”) is called FURL, which is short for “Friendly URL”.
Friendly meaning the URLs are more search engine friendly.

After installing the FURL modification, instead of using this URL:
it uses this URL:

Both of the above URLs take you to the same page, but the second one both looks nicer, and is supposed to improve search engine placement.

Last night, I wanted to check if Google was picking up the URLs with the static or dynamic URLs, so I searched for a pretty unique phrase from one of the pages: “It sounds like RESPeRATE is working well for you” and surely enough, the page had been picked up, but the URL it was showing was the dynamic one, not the static one.

I was curious to see how Google was seeing the page so I clicked on the cached button:

google result

That’s when my jaw dropped

There was some additional stuff I had never seen before at the top of the page which looked like this:

with furl header

Instead of the normal forum section header which looks like this:

header without furl

The modification I installed didn’t just modify the URLs. It also added, unknowingly to me, some extra text at the top of the page as well as some links to other pages – but the added text was only being shown to the Google spider, and was not visible to a normal human viewing the site. This alone can get you banned from Google.

The fact that FURL adds this content is not mentioned anywhere in the documentation or installation instructions.

It really saddens me that the author of FURL added a very underhanded tactic improve their search engine rankings.
If they would have added a small footer to the bottom the page that was shown to everyone, I would have been perfectly OK with that and would have left it.

It seems that quite a few sites have FURL installed and are affected by this SEO hack. If you do a search for “SEO Powered by FURL” in Google, it says over 2 million results.

* sigh *

I looked at the source code of the mod itself which does have this “”disclaimer”:


// Tracking Code / Copyright String - DO NOT REMOVE
// -----------------------------------------------=
// !!Please leave this code in, if you dont then please remove the mod from your site!!
// !!You are only free to use this mod while the following line is in!!
// I went to alot of time making this mod and would like a little
// in return so i can continue to spend time upgrading it,
// instead of charging for this mod ive put some link code in
// this just links back to my site using my keywords to improve
// my rating on Search Engines, the links only appears to search
// bots though so its not on every page.
// Its also because i like seeing my mods in use on other peoples sites!

also – I got a writeup from john andrews at

ipb seo friendly urls with iis

So we’ve been running the user forums at for a few weeks and we’re getting some good user entries. We’re using invision power board 2.1 on a windows 2003 box running IIS6 and php 4.3.

Of course I want the URLs to be search engine friendly, but I was not able to find anyone claiming to have a solution for IIS. they all want mod_rewrite under apache.

So after a bit of googling, this looks like what I want:

but of course it also wants mod_rewrite. no biggie – I say to myself. I’ll just google mod_rewrite and IIS.
after of searching, this seems to be what I want – isapirewrite:

At this point I actually started reading about their linkfreeze product, which seemed like a plug and play solution for what I wanted (albeit not as good as FURL) so I downloaded it and tried it out. To make a long story short, linkfreeze doesn’t work with Invision Power Board 2.1 out of the box.Update: I just got a reply from them saying that linkfreeze doesn’t work with http compression turned on (makes sense).

So, back to my original plan, I decide to go with isapirewrite. This is a commercial product, but for some strange reason, I figured that it’s of better quality than the free mod_rewrite for IIS solutions out there.

I install it, but it’s not doing anything. Zilch.

A bit more reading the docs (if all else fails, read the docs) it seems that there are some special notes on using isapirewrite under IIS 6. as per the instructions I add iis_wpg group access to the files and viola – it’s working!
of course the syntax for isapirewrite is not exactly the same as mod_rewrite so I had to make a few changes to the .htaccess file the comes with FURL.

Here is the correct syntax to get FURL to work with IIS and isapirewrite:

# mod_rewrite in use
#RewriteEngine On
# Uncomment following line if your webserver's URL
# is not directly related to physival file paths.
# This is usually not needed.
# RewriteBase /YourForumDirectory
# Rules
# Gallery
RewriteRule /gallery.html(.*) /index.php?act=module&module=gallery$1
RewriteRule /(.*)-t([0-9][0-9]*)-s([0-9][0-9]*).html(.*) /index.php?showtopic=$2&st=$3
RewriteRule /(.*)-t([0-9][0-9]*).html(.*) /index.php?showtopic=$2$3
RewriteRule /(.*)-new-topic-f([0-9]*).html(.*) /index.php?act=Post&CODE=00&f=$2$3
RewriteRule /(.*)-new-poll-f([0-9]*).html(.*) /index.php?act=Post&CODE=10&f=$2$3
RewriteRule /(.*)-f([0-9][0-9]*).html(.*) /index.php?showforum=$2$3
RewriteRule /(.*)-a-private-message-m([0-9]*).html(.*) /index.php?act=Msg&CODE=4&MID=$2$3
RewriteRule /(.*)-an-email-m([0-9]*).html(.*) /index.php?act=Mail&CODE=00&MID=$2$3
RewriteRule /(.*)-m([0-9]*).html(.*) /index.php?showuser=$2$3
# Login/Logout
RewriteRule /logout.html(.*) /index.php?act=Login&CODE=03$1
RewriteRule /login.html(.*) /index.php?act=Login&CODE=00$1
RewriteRule /register.html(.*) /index.php?act=Reg&CODE=00$1
RewriteRule /the-moderating-team.html(.*) /index.php?act=Stats&CODE=leaders$1
RewriteRule /todays-top-10-posters.html(.*) /index.php?act=Stats$1
RewriteRule /member-list.html(.*) /index.php?act=Members$1
RewriteRule /online-list.html(.*) /index.php?act=Online$1
RewriteRule /(.*)-h([0-9]*).html(.*) /index.php?act=help&CODE=01&HID=$2$3
RewriteRule /(.*)help.html(.*) /index.php?act=Help$2
RewriteRule /my-controls.html(.*) /index.php?act=UserCP&CODE=00$1
RewriteRule /compose-new-message.html(.*) /index.php?act=Msg&CODE=04$1
RewriteRule /inbox.html(.*) /index.php?act=Msg&CODE=01&VID=in$1
RewriteRule /sent-items.html(.*) /index.php?act=Msg&CODE=01&VID=sent$1
RewriteRule /saved-pms.html(.*) /index.php?act=Msg&CODE=20$1
RewriteRule /empty-pm-folders.html(.*) /index.php?act=Msg&CODE=delete$1
RewriteRule /edit-storage-folders.html(.*) /index.php?act=Msg&CODE=07$1
RewriteRule /pm-buddies.html(.*) /index.php?act=Msg&CODE=02$1
RewriteRule /archive-messages.html(.*) /index.php?act=Msg&CODE=14$1
RewriteRule /message-tracker.html(.*) /index.php?act=Msg&CODE=30$1
RewriteRule /new-messages.html(.*) /index.php?act=Msg&CODE=01$1
RewriteRule /view-topic-subscriptions.html(.*) /index.php?act=UserCP&CODE=26$1
RewriteRule /view-forum-subscriptions.html(.*) /index.php?act=UserCP&CODE=50$1
RewriteRule /edit-profile-info.html(.*) /index.php?act=UserCP&CODE=01$1
RewriteRule /edit-signature.html(.*) /index.php?act=UserCP&CODE=22$1
RewriteRule /edit-avatar-settings.html(.*) /index.php?act=UserCP&CODE=24$1
RewriteRule /change-personal-photo.html(.*) /index.php?act=UserCP&CODE=photo$1
RewriteRule /manage-your-attachments.html(.*) /index.php?act=UserCP&CODE=attach$1
RewriteRule /manage-ignored-users.html(.*) /index.php?act=UserCP&CODE=ignore$1
RewriteRule /email-settings.html(.*) /index.php?act=UserCP&CODE=02$1
RewriteRule /board-settings.html(.*) /index.php?act=UserCP&CODE=04$1
RewriteRule /change-email-address.html(.*) /index.php?act=UserCP&CODE=08$1
RewriteRule /change-password.html(.*) /index.php?act=UserCP&CODE=28$1
RewriteRule /ip-tool.html(.*) /index.php?act=UserCP&CODE=iptool$1
RewriteRule /member-tool.html(.*) /index.php?act=UserCP&CODE=memtool$1
RewriteRule /manage-anoucements.html(.*) /index.php?act=UserCP&CODE=announce_start$1
RewriteRule /get-new-posts.html(.*) /index.php?act=Search&CODE=getnew$1
RewriteRule /forums.html(.*) /index.php?act=idx$3

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