Update: New version (v1.1.4) of the Easy Mashable Social Bar Plugin released with more clean code and some added features. Download and check it out.
I had been long wondering how to implement/copy the social box of mashable.com and fortunately came across this post How to Add A Mashable Style Social Media Box to WordPress at WPKube.com by my friend Devesh. Devesh has always been a guy who is always updated about the latest plugins and themes across the blogosphere. Only then I came to know about the Easy Mashable Social Bar plugin released as a free resource by InspiredMagz which once activated actually adds a widget inside your WordPress installation. Without wasting much time, I quickly downloaded the plugin and tried it on a local wordpress installation to test out the functionality. Below are a few screenshots of the plugin in action.
Everything looked fine until I looked at the page source to see the output. This is one thing that I always do before adding a plugin and I would suggest everybody to make it a habit to look into the plugin output before you add it into your live site. It is also a good idea to look into the plugin source code if you understand PHP code and find if there is any malicious code injected into the plugin.
Now coming to the point, I found that the guys from InspiredMagz have tricked all their users and injected a couple of hidden links to their plugin. You guys must be thinking what is the harm in that as long as the plugin is not breaking your site functionality or design? For your information, according to Matt Cutts, you should not have any hidden links in your page source. He has written an excellent article here about Hidden Links on his Blog. Hidden links are taken negatively by the Google spiders and you might get penalized for that and might end up going down the search engine ladder. If you’re unlucky you might get SandBoxed as well by Google.
Here are the screenshots of the codes which are hidden:
As you can see in the above screenshots, the following code snippet is harmful and hidden. The heights of the div equals 0 and the font-size equals 0 is the reason for these hidden links.
<div id="get-inspiredmagz" style="background: #EBEBEB;border: 1px solid #CCC;border-top: 1px solid white;padding: 1px 8px 1px 3px;text-align: right;border-image: initial;font-size:10px;font-family: "Arial","Helvetica",sans-serif;"> <span class="author-credit" style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;"><a href="<?php echo $footerurl_id; ?>" target="_blank" title="< ?php echo $footertext_id; ?>">< ?php echo $footertext_id; ?> »</a></span></div> <!-- End Widget --> <div style="height:0px;"><a style="text-decoration:none; font-size:0px;border:0;" href="http://inspiredmagz.com/">Inspired Magz</a></div> <!--end of social widget-->
Now, the intention of the guys at InspiredMagz was to get a lot of backlinks quickly; which is not wrong. But, the way they tried to accomplish it, is unethical, since users of their plugin would be linking to their site unknowingly and that is bad. Since InspiredMagz has put a lot of effort in writing the code, they really deserve a link back, but not in such a way. I strongly believe that the plugin authors should have left it upto the user whether to link back or not. Infact, they could’ve put their links visible and maybe ask the user to tweet about their plugin/ Google+ or maybe a Facebook like to remove the links. Even releasing a premium version without the links to their site would have been an ethical choice.
Just as I found this, I reported it to Devesh at WPKube and promised to re-release a new version, which would be free from these hidden links. Most of InspiredMagz’s code remains same in my version of the plugin with a few changes like:
- Removed LinkedIn code and replaced with Feedburner email subscription link.
- Added Google+ Add to Circles Small Badge at the top.
- Last but not the least, removed the hidden links
Download Easy Mashable Social Bar Plugin below
I hope you will like this plugin and make use of it on your self-hosted wordpress blog to the fullest to get more subscribers and social engagement. Let me know if you find any bug or new features. I’ll try my best to add new features. I request all users who have downloaded this plugin from the InspiredMagz site to pull it down immediately and download my version to keep free from their hidden links. Guys, do this immediately as Google spiders are always indexing your site and finding these links.
@InspiredMagz: If you guys read this post, then please try to be ethical. There is no harm in promoting your links or even beg for backlinks. But putting your links hidden from users who appreciate your work and getting their sites penalized by Google is not the way to go. We all appreciate your efforts to code this plugin and would love more of such great plugins in future, but keep your plugins free from such hidden links.