What is Hidden Content?
Hidden content is a piece of text or link that is not visible to the visitor on a website, but it can be found when looking at the HTML source code.
Hiding content is used to offer relevant, SEO optimized content to the search engines, while not significantly impacting the visible appearance to visitors of a web page.
This can increase the position of a website on the search engine results pages.
Hidden text is most often used by black hat SEOs and is considered manipulation and a Black Hat SEO technique by Google.
Punishments of Hidden Content
None of the current search engines allows the use of hidden content on your website as it goes against the search engine guidelines.
Hidden content counts as a black hat SEO technique and is considered a form of manipulation by the search engines.
If you hide content on your website, it can lead to a penalty that may affect a single page or even exclude the entire website from the index of Google or other search engines.
Search Engines constantly evolve and although there can be methods for hiding content, they are always detected and your website can easily get penalized.
Why do some SEOs use Hidden Content?
SEOs use hidden content on websites, because it offers the opportunity to create more content for search engines, without compromising the visitor's experience and with that, get a better position in the search engine results pages and to manipulate Google's search rankings.
With that said, using hidden content is an old technique that works less and less, so we don't recommend using it anymore.
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Allowed Forms of Hidden Content
There are a few exceptions when hidden content is allowed.
- Alt attributes and text: The alt attribute of an image is not actually hidden content, but rather an alternative to the image. It is used as a method of providing a description for a picture which cannot be seen, such as a blind person who can’t see the images or to provide more information about it.
- Videos: Many videos contain subtitles or closed captioning (subtitles for the deaf). They are only available to certain audiences who cannot hear otherwise. You can include this in the HTML of the website as hidden text.
How is Hidden Text Implemented in SEO?
- Using the same colour for the font and the background: The hidden text is placed in front of a background with the same colour, so it becomes invisible when the visitor looks at it.
- Putting text behind an image: The hidden text can also be hidden behind an image and only show up when somebody mouses over it.
- Setting the Font Size to Zero: With CSS, it is possible to set the font size to zero, which would essentially make it invisible to the visitor, but visible for the search engine.
- Hidden Links: Hiding links are also a part of hiding content. Links can be hidden by only linking a small character, like a hyphen or a dot, which will be hardly visible to the visitors. On search engines, though they become links leading to the desired website.
- Making DIV Containers Hidden: Finally, making containers <div> hidden by adding an "visibility:hidden" or display:none" will hide the contents of a section in HTML.
Difference Between Hidden Text & Hidden Tabbed Content
You might be wondering if the hidden text is not allowed by search engines, how come that tabbed content is?
Well, tabbed content is different. While technically the content is hidden text, it isn't. The difference here is that people can click on read more to access that content.
In this case, the content is not hidden in a way where people cannot read it or find it or is made inaccessible, it's only hidden to save space or to present the content in a way that is easier to digest.
How to Hide Content on your page & not violate Google's Guidelines
The rule for hiding content on your website is to make sure it is accessible for your visitors. Hiding content in tabbed content, for example, is allowed.
Scrolling down the page to expand the content (small teaser text) is also allowed as long as it's clear that there are more words beyond that point.
Does Google Crawl Accordion Content?
Some websites claim Google can't locate accordion content behind tabs. It doesn't work. Google crawlers and indexers have crawled and indexed hidden pages hidden in tabbed or accordion.
Gary Illyes confirmed that Google is detecting this content and identifying them and doesn't penalise the site if it is implemented using text like “Read Further,” “Learn More”.
While you can use hidden content on your website for legitimate purposes, such as accessibility and tabbed content, avoiding it is better for SEO purposes.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does hidden text affect SEO?
Yes, hidden text can negatively affect the SEO of your website. Using hidden content can get your website penalized and drop out of index.
Are hidden pages bad for SEO?
Yes, if you are using hidden pages to hide content, then it will negatively affect the SEO of your website. Google's Webmaster Guidelines don't allow hiding any content that is not intended for site visitors.
Can I hide text in HTML to get a top-ranking?
A lot of years ago you could. Now, it is against Google Webmasters Guidelines to use hidden text.