SEO Mistakes: Unwise comments

Let’s continue our ongoing series about things not to do when optimizing your site. Here’s a site that looks great at first glance:

A music box site

But if you use Prefbar or something similar to turn off CSS, you see something different:

hiding text via CSS

Why the big difference? Let’s view the source and check out the relevant part of the page:

silly comments

Hmm. “Insert your hidden text here. Do not forget to [embiggen] your keywords.” I don’t recommend that people use CSS to hide text, and I don’t recommend that they document it, either. ;)

180 Responses to SEO Mistakes: Unwise comments (Leave a comment)

  1. So how do you feel about stuff like this

    http://www.csszengarden.com/?cssfile=/185/185.css&page=0

    specifically [#pageHeader h1{ display: none; }]

    From a spider/algo point of view it may look very bad, but clearly that’s not the intent of the page creator or designer.

  2. Naw

    Use CSS to display a image instead of text will be a bad thing? (the text will be hidden, but the image has exactly same content).

    If G implement a CSS interpreter, dont forget the good guys doing this. “Do no evil”, ok? heheh

  3. Wow that really makes my day, ahaha. I’m sure that website won’t be too thrilled when they are banned from google! Blackhatting never pays off.. Nice catch though Matt!

  4. Mattkp

    Hey Matt,

    Thanks for the advice, however, not all invisible Divs are used in a spammy way. I have used that in the past along with a javascript to display the text where i wanted it, but I was displaying it, I wasnt hiding it. :( When development solutions get penalized because others use it badly….

  5. Maybe this is a stupid question (I haven’t done much digging on my own) but a lot of designers use an image replacement technique where the markup shows Title and the CSS sets the text-indent to some large value, sets overflow:hidden, and then sets the background to an image of the text in a nice font or with some visual effect.

    This causes the text to get pushed out and hidden but keeps the markup clean. Does this technique hurt a site?

  6. I hope Google doesn’t put a ban on a site whenever it encounters CSS-styled invisible text. There are many valid reasons to use invisible text. I use it on many sites to break email addresses apart to hide them from spambots. This looks something like this:

    webmaster.ignore@ignore.mydomain.com

  7. Ahem… just imagine display:none tags around the “ignore” tags above :-)

  8. In that case, sure.

    What about good reason to hide text though? There are many legit reasons to hide text from users – general functionality, accessibility, man, if i really thought about it i could prolly come up with a pretty long list.

    I hide text AND images on TW, both for very good reason…

  9. So are drop down menu type links using css hidden a no-no then?

  10. Hi Matt is there a danger with legitimate uses of “display:none” or “visibility:hidden” like menus or displays manipulated via javascript (As Google ignore scripts) ?

    Does Google has some algos to detect CSS “cloaking”, and if yes, are they able to distinguish between spammy and legitimate uses ?

  11. That’s a pretty blatant example. But does Google feel that there are legitimate reasons to have:

    visibility: none
    visibility: hidden
    or negative absolute positioning?

    or will you Google look to penalize all such activity?

    I have seen many stylesheets where it make sense to have these elements for legitimate purposes.

    Not that I’m interested in doing anything legitimate, mind you, I just want to know what I can get away with. ;)

  12. The sad thing is that ‘they’ have easily enough content and pages to be able to ‘properly’ include that information anyway i.e. there’s really no need to hide that content away.
    And what’s with that content anyway?
    “A music box company that retails that assembles and retails music box”
    Can’t remember the last time I searched for that!

  13. Low Level

    Hey, Matt.

    Please, can you clarify your “I don’t recommend that people use CSS to hide text” statement?

    I’m sure you were referring to spamming text, not to ANY text, right?

  14. chris

    I think that should be taken for granted!

  15. “Do not forget to [embiggen] your keywords”?

    I think that’s a perfectly cromulent argument :)

  16. Kelly Jones

    Matt — I have Prefbar installed but could not find a way to turn CSS off. How’d you do it so I can repeate the results?

    Thanks,

    KJ

  17. Since no one at GOOGLE will admit or even tell us to what is going on, I have had to talk to other bloggers to find out why I have not been able to post for two days.

    Supposedly, blogs with few posts – and I have 300 in one year – but with a lot of links have been shut down without any prior warning by Google. Even Microsoft at its worst has never screwed over its customers this badly.

    Now as I write a blog about the media – most of my posts link to the articles I am write about, hence I have a lot of links. But Goggle has now decided to censor my views and no longer allows me to post.

    All I get is this:

    006 Please contact Blogger Support.blog/46/41/4/lacowboy/index.html

    Except – there is no way to contact anyone at blogger support…


    Brady Westwater

  18. They might as well use:

    Keyword1, keyword2, Keywords1, Keywords2 :-)

  19. I’m changing with [ ], wordpress ruined my comment…

    They might as well use:
    [div id=hidden]
    [!-- Dear Googlebot, Sorry but I'm stuck around #200 for my most competative keywords. It's been a very long time now, I forgive you for this Glitch but my site REALLY deservs better --]
    Keyword1, keyword2, Keywords1, Keywords2 [/div]

  20. Now what we need is for Google to start indexing comment and script text so we can easily do a search like “incomment: hidden text”…

  21. ReSiever

    But what if there was a visible link above to really make it visible? There are tons of ‘s created this way.. Microsoft also has these techniques in their website (i think it was at the FAQs) where you could click on a question to make the answer visible…

    When you offer the visitor an oppurtunity to make it visible, is it still not recommended? Is Google automatically penalizing these sites or will there just be a sort of trigger to Google to view the page manually?

  22. Harith

    Hi Matt,

    CONGRATS. Your site got a PR7, or thats what I see on my Google Toolbar.

    My own homepsge only shows a PR5. May I purchase a link on your blog? :-)

    Btw, thanks for generous hospitality and support during WMW outage.

    Have a great day.

  23. Query Google for [adsense feedback] and you will be lucky if even a single page comes from a Google domain. Probably Google is no longer considered an authoritative site for keywords containing AdSense.

  24. Someone

    On some of my web sites, I have put the website name at the top of the page, and the CSS then hides that text and replaces it with a graphic that says exacly the same.

    Since the hidden text is replaced with a graphic that says exactly the same, would this be considered bad?

  25. Oh man, that is priceless… Heee-hee-hee… Thanks!

  26. R

    On our site, we like to use images to create stylised headings, which help create a unique look and feel – and they also look a lot better than the standard HTML text. To create this effect we use the FIR method(http://www.alistapart.com/articles/fir/). I was wondering where we stand on using this or other CSS image replacement techniques- bearing in mind that we don’t use these to spam or do anything unsavoury like that.

    Is this completely forbidden? Will it get us banned eventually?

  27. I am concerned about our site http://www.guide4living.com – it has not been indexed in over 9 weeks. Is it something to do with the CSS?

    Thanks

  28. Hooli

    Excellent find! I managed to find the website in question and the source code revealed even more funky stuff to look at.

    Will be printing this article on a big poster and will definitely hang it on the wall , just to keep inhouse developers considerate of the code they roll out.

    Thanks Matt!

  29. Ace

    Hi Matt, do you thing that google will penalize css display:none text now or in the future?
    And what do you say about css hidden for accessibility purpose?
    Thanks

  30. While I wouldn’t employ any DHTML stuff for most of my own web sites, sometimes the client will want this kind of animation — e.g. when you hover over a navigation, a formerly hidden layer may appear. Of course it’s good style to include the text first so that a non-CSS, non-JS client (like the Googlebot, but also e.g. a mobile browser) can read it. While I don’t think Google yet has the technology to understand this “hiding”, I was always wondering if it ever would, and kind of hoping it would *not* (because there’s too many legit ways this is done).

    In any case, I’m sure Google assigns “spam points” — say, 5 for hiding text, 5 for using multiple s, 10 for a title with over 200 words, 1 for meta keyword, 10 for a page with over 1000 links, 5 for every affiliate URL in the text, and so on. Because while there’s nothing wrong with hiding text OR using meta keywords (both may have be completely reasonable) I think it’s very like a site with dozens of h1, 1000s of links, lots of affiliate URLs, over-long titles, AND hidden text is spam.

    (That being said, naturally above HTML was clearly SE spam… the comments gave it away.)

  31. (My HTML from above wasn’t encoded, but deleted, so some parts are missing words… I was talking about “using multiple _h1_s”.)

  32. The problem is that as long as the trick keeps working, people will keep using it. I left a comment in another entry about some sites using CSS and “noscript” to stuff keywords and links, and they are going up with this update. I did send a spam report, hope you can catch that!

  33. Al

    That’s funny, but I suppose if you’re going to spam every good coder should comment it.

    Unlike most readers here I want more of your gadget posts or you could consider renaming the blog to Matt Cutts: Loads of Google and SEO advice (and maybe a gadget every month or so) :)

  34. Ben Anderson

    It would have been better if these sites did not appear to have benefited from jagger update.

    My own (and many others) clean sites with no hidden text etc, has been well dropped in the rankings to the benefit of sites with such practices as those outlined in Matts post above..

    Maybe we can hope that this potential 2nd and 3rd stages of the index rollout will help us that were hammered by also taking the spam thats now rose up in the index and taking that down the rankings too..

    Googles new updated index looks ok for mainstream searches, but for specific hard to find info, I’m now finding Yahoo better (in terms of spam-free – to a greater extent that google post-jagger).

  35. Using Heading tags is a mistake. The problem is only when it is used in CSS and it is Hidden right

    Thanks
    Thomson

  36. Nick

    Embiggen your text? What a terribly cromulent idea.

  37. In this case it seems the thing “not to do” is use a template that promises SE ranking. And it seems that any technique that “cleverly fools the bot” will no longer work for longer than the time between updates. My comment. “Hooray!” My only question is “why has this taken so long, these scams have been around for years?”

  38. Their black hat was obviously pointed and had a bit ‘D’ on it. Lol

  39. ROFL… SEO for dummies…

  40. Matt,

    It is gratifying to see evidence of Google penalizing this Spam site I submitted while optimizating (white hat of course) antique music box for my client Agave Gifts. I know how busy you are and I applaud your efforts.

    Kudos,

    Jeff Hinds

  41. I do understand your point about spaming with hidden text. But what’s bad about hiding text with CSS in general? For some menus I use a technique which hides the submenus with CSS and shows them when a user hovers over the top level entry. Is that a bad idea?

    Greetings
    Mirko

  42. Bob L.

    Matt,

    Our SEO company has a comment in the header of a few pages on our site. It appears like it is an additional description. I have questioned this a number of times, but they claim that it is not an issue and that this is not considered ‘hidden text’ because it is a comment in the .

    The format is…

    They also include their copyright in a comment within the . Is this an issue? Would Google consider this ‘stuffing’, ‘hidden text’?

    Thanks much.

  43. What about the case – as often seen in csszengarden.com examples – where text in a heading is hidden so that a raster background image can be displayed instead? Could this technique hurt your indexing?

  44. Yes, it’s stupid to the point of being hilarious, but sadly, sites get away with it all the time. I know of a network of sites that contain a blue box near the bottom of their pages (almost all of their pages). Inside the box is the following (edited to protect the guilty, but I’m not going to bother protecting their spelling mistake):

    keyword keyword keyword
    keyword keyword keyword keyword

    It’s been at least six months since I found this, and it’s still there.

  45. Sorry… looks like my example’s comment tag got deleted and all that was left were two empty links.

    Feel free to delete my comments.

  46. Nice example!

    I do have a question for you. Can you see any reasons for using “hidden” as a value in css formatting?

    I can think of a few quite legitimate reasons for dynamically published sites…

    Nikke

  47. Mojo

    Matt,

    I am going to reserve my comments about the update, however, I will say I wish Google all luck on the back wash. Anyway, about the hidden text issue. I hear you pounding on the hidden text SEO a lot, and I can appreciate why. First, we do not resort to such tactics. Now, I checked out our site today to ensure no ill tactics are being carried out, and it checked out clean. However, something came about. In doing a search for the keyword “hidden” in the source, I realized it’s used in the “overflow” attribute of our DIV tags we use for ads (overflow:hidden). This is because advertisers will purchase say a 468×60 ad and because the ad image is on their servers, they will switch the image to a larger ad. Hence distorting the layout.

    I am sure you will say why don’t you set the properties in the img tag, however, we found this works best for us considering someone wants that exact ad spot for a slightly smaller ad. My comment/question is does Google penalize just for the keyword “hidden” in the DIV tags or “visibility:hidden”? Looking forward to you feedback.

    Mojo

  48. Lots0

    Matt,

    If someone were to put a button in plain view on the page you used as an example that allowed the user to switch between CSS and non-CSS versions, would google still see this as somthing that would/should be penalized?

  49. It does appear that web site design is going to be “dumbed down” to accomodate Google’s quirks, that’s a shame. Art always suffers for commerce that’s nothing new…

  50. ModemMike

    I like many others use hidden text for drop down menus… some others have already brought it up here. I have always followed the rule build for users not search engines but if hidden text for a drop down menu is considered a bad thing then many us will be rebuilding for search engines rather than the user. My content growth was overwhelming my page real-estate with menu options. During this last update I finally got my PR (5/10) back after a 301 redirect but still not appearing anywhere in the results (not in the first 1000 results) so this may be what is holding me back. I would have to guess that Google knows the difference between legit hidden text and hidden text that is meant for rank boosting, right?

  51. Matt

    Search Engines Web, you said that ‘That site has a perfect right to use that “invisible” text and the h1 tags’. I agree. In turn, Google has the right to decide not to return that site in our search results, because we feel that hiding text that is not visible to users is deceptive.

  52. Matt

    BTW, NickW over at TW asked about the validity of text that isn’t obvious to the user with CSS, e.g. things like mouseovers or having a text version of a graphical logo. Here’s what I wrote over there:


    A lot of my site visitors assumed that this was an instance of “have a logo, and use CSS to display text instead of the logo as a fallback”. That wasn’t what was happening. It was straight out using CSS to hide text, and it was clearly spam.

    If you’re straight-out using CSS to hide text, don’t be surprised if that is called spam. I’m not saying that mouseovers or DHTML text or have-a-logo-but-also-have-text is spam; I answered that last one at a conference when I said “imagine how it would look to a visitor, a competitor, or someone checking out a spam report. If you show your company’s name and it’s Expo Markers instead of an Expo Markers logo, you should be fine. If the text you decide to show is ‘Expo Markers cheap online discount buy online Expo Markers sale …’ then I would be more cautious, because that can look bad.”

    Anyway, I didn’t mean to dodge that question, because I wasn’t addressing that question in the post; I was just showing some doofy comments that someone left on their page. But I hope that previous paragraph helps with the question too.

    Best,
    Matt

    Yes, I was looking at an expo marker when I wrote that. ;)

  53. Hi Matt,

    I use hidden layers a lot on my site for interactive purposes. e.g., We have a web-based Instant Messenger that pops up (on User B’s page) whenever user A drops user B a msg. This is done via layers. Will we get penalized ?

    We do not spam search engines at all but have suffered during the latest google update. Another competing site that has been flooding us with DoS-like attacks, spams, and cheating got ranked #3 (Talk about fairness). I do not want to talk about them here but I want to know if the above user feature will affect our ranking. Many thanks.

  54. Mike

    Hidden text or no hidden text, what does it matter? That little image of the site, shown on this blog, didn’t do the site justice. I found the main url for this website, and it doesn’t appear to be an “affiliate spam generated” site. The man or woman running this site appears to be selling these products themselves, they have a shopping cart setup on their website and all that.

    The site itself is not spam, the site simply list the products and descriptions of the products, that they are selling. It’s not like it was created with a page generator like TE or RP or anything like that, it definitely wasn’t, not that there’s anything wrong with page generators, but this site wasn’t created by one.

    So the hidden text maybe just an honest “don’t know a damn thing about building and designing a website”, mistake.

  55. Brian

    Search Engines Web,

    With all due respect, I would rather that Google, the third party, determine what’s relevant rather than you.

  56. Rob Snell

    Matt,

    Just a quick note to say thanks for taking the time to blog. It’s very helpful!

    Hope this doesn’t take up too much of your G-time.

    No need to publish this off-topic comment. Mom says “Hi!”

    Rob

  57. SanDiegoSEO

    So using CSS to hide layers with text int hem, but having elements on the page, that with user interaction displays the layer and the text is a valid, non-bannable use?

  58. Trisha

    So is text just in plain comment tags (no CSS) considered spam too? I’ve got quite a bit of that, when I want to take something off a site for a while I just comment it out – in case I need to use it again later. Nothing deceptive there. I guess I’ll go back and check that site carefully and delete all comments and submit a reinclusion request again.

    (I’ve wasted an unbelievable amount of time just trying to figure out what it is about this site Google doesn’t like)

  59. So this is not the sort of thing Google can identify algorithmically, which explains why the example I attempted to give earlier is still around.

  60. Hi Matt,

    Thanks for repeating your comment on CSS from the conference. I’d like to attend all the conferences you speak at – but never manage. :p

    My slight concern is that an algorithm is going to find it very hard to tell what’s a fair use of hidden text and what is not. Orkut’s help page (http://www.orkut.com/Help.aspx) has one of my favourite examples of ethical text visibility.

  61. Matt!?

    I’ve read your 11:39 comment 3 times and have no idea what you are saying about the question at hand regarding CSS and menus.

    Like ModemMike and 1000′s of sites our programmer used CSS for menus- not to be tricky. I’m now reading between the lines that this may cause filtering/penalties! Please clarify this since it could be hurting a huge number of sites!

  62. Matt,
    I fully agree with your ideas on the hidden text argument. I believe google does indeed have a right to choose to disclude sites from results due to their beliefs of the intention of the site owners. I believe whitehat search engine optimization is fine and recommended as google has its ideas on what websites should provide and the standards they should hold and sites should strive to meet those standards for their own benefit.

    A person can’t really hold anything against google as they should be able to do as they wish. If a person really wants to be in google’s favor then of course they should do anything in their power to satisfy google’s standards.

    Anyways just felt like making another reply after reading some of these posts.

  63. Well, I wish Google was smart enough to realise that a site with a hidden div labelled like this was spam:

    But no, the ‘seoLayer’ id and -1200px positioning clearly wasn’t an obvious enough giveaway and this site, and the web design company that created it to point links to their travel directory, are out-ranking everyone else. If only someone would listen to my spam reports :(

    Is there a ‘crying legitimate webmaster’ emoticon I can paste here?

  64. Oops, the div didn’t show in that last post, I guess it looked too much like code; I was referring to this:

    div id=”seoLayer” style=”position:absolute; left:-1200px; top:0px; width:700px; height:500px; z-index:-100″

    Surely Google should be able to pick up on that

  65. Alan A

    I have a suggestion:
    Why not follow the same format as Craig’s list? I.e. have a link beside every returned result for people to vote whether its spam or not, this would stop people crying that their site gets booted blaming Goggles for the mess up.

    You don’t even have to worry about be people not knowing what to look for as you can be sure that competitors will find out exactly what methods the spamming site is using to get their site listed higher.

    The only problem with this method is it can easy can be abused by competing sites however with proper IP tracking, laps time between votes, have the number of votes needed for it to be flagged for review relevant to the number of search results it appears in and make people confirm their flags via a valid email address this would turn Google into the first user policed search engine and save you a heap of cash trying to fight a battle against spammers who no matter what you come up with to stop them will find a way around it (that’s their job)

  66. Wow, nice catch there, Matt. I wonder why people are dumb enough to let people see that part.. lol. thats make me laugh.

  67. Tammy

    I think it comes down to the valid use of code. Has display:none or the div visibility attribute been used correctly (according to the original specs)? In Matt’s example above, no. They’ve been abused. In that case, yes, the site should be penalised.

    However it is very wrong to penalise legitimate sites that utilise standards-based code in the way that it was designed to be used. Just because some people are using a loophole to boost search engine rankings doesn’t mean that one can say “all sites that hide text will be penalised”.

    If there is a concern then make sure before implementation, that any method of discrimination targets only those sites that are abusing the loophole, and not those that using valid code in a valid way.

  68. Greg

    yeah yeah yeah … that’s all nice and all, but graywolf raises “THE” point.

    of course, using an image in place of text for cosmetic purposes is fine if the text matches the text in the image.

    the million dollar question … how does a machine understand the webmasters intentions … be they “good” or bad?

    being a CSS nut … this is popular … and using javascript to tuck away paragraphs underneath of linked bullet items is a great way to keep information organized and not overwhelming the user. they click on it … it expands … they click it again, it tucks away.

    is there a right way and a wrong way to do this? or is it simply too risky to hope the machine interprets the motive correctly?

  69. Chris_D

    “Ethical SEO firms report deceptive sites that violate Google’s spam guidelines.” http://www.google.com/intl/en/webmasters/seo.html

    And I’d suggest that ethical search engines action them in a timely manner.

    And the feedback you are reading is that Google isn’t keeping up its end.

    Cuts ‘both ways’ Matt.
    :)

  70. Matt – thanks for clarifying at threadwatch where you indicate that you are NOT penalizing for CSS used in normal ways, only for sneaky hidden text.

  71. adam

    how about them 1 pixel images (with alt=”) you want to hide? for example external stat trackers load such images and i would prefer to hide them using css, could i get into trouble?

  72. Dear Matt,

    in your 11:39 comment you wrote that hidden text will be considered spam. So my question is: how do you treat pages that use one document for multiple output purposes?

    E.g. document A will have a screen and a print stylesheet, for displaying it on screen the menu will be partly visible but some header information will not – because it contains information only neccessary to be printed. The printed document then will not contain the menu – because it’s not neccessary on paper. You see? This is what HTML & CSS is about. One document – different media.

    How do you treat pages that are designed to be accessible (think about WAI)?

    E.g. there are often documents that provide additional menu structures and links for people who use text browsers. But these additional elements will not be seen on screen.

    By considering all hidden text spam (which it is only SOMETIMES) you show that you’ve missed some of the essentials of HTML & CSS.

    You have to fight spam. But think about the way you do it.

    Mark F – sit down, next please.

  73. Mikey_likes_it

    Using display:hidden or display:none, any difference to Google? In the example it was pretty easy to spot because of the inline CSS. What if it was in an external style sheet? Google doesn’t read external CSS, or does it?

  74. Matt, I see what your meaning about hidden text, but in this example it looks as if its formatted as a source code hidden note, maybe for the developers.

    Can you clarify this?

    Gary

  75. C Hesketh

    There are some quite sensible uses of hidden text, especially for accessibility issues. Occasionally it doesn’t make good design sense to have certain text visible to sighted users, but one still wants it audible for blind users using screen readers. Perhaps someone could enlighten us as to a way to accomplish this without appearing “spammy”. Cheers…

  76. Sid

    Hi Matt,
    It seems my website http://www.kauthig.com has been banned by google. Though there is NOTHING unethical on the site and it very well complies with the SEO Webmaster guidelines as define by Google http://www.google.com/webmasters/

    The domain is new (registered on 07-Jul-2005) and was previously regularly indexed by Google.

    Kindly suggest what to do.

  77. Man that is so obvious LOL, trust me though ive seen way worse…

    checkout www*bluelaserdesign*com and scrooll all the way to the bottom, select the “blank” area and you’ll see all his spam

    I’ve submitted them to google at least 100 times but no success as of yet

  78. Yup, people just don’t realize..

  79. Eiso

    Just wanted to let you know that there is a wordpres plugin (try googling for it) that allows you to post code and display it, makes it easier then screenshotting all the time.

  80. you should see some others like www*bluelaserdesign*com …scroll to the bottom and select the “blank” area, all hidden text, its just horrible, there is a ton of spam elminated lately, but there is still alot out there

    (btw matt why did you delete my comment from earlier? its not spam bro..)

  81. “Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act” and “Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 1.0 (Priorities 1,2 and 3)” require that various guidelines are met before Accessiblity for the site (or, pages) can be validated. [And, other countries have their own set of Accessibility guidelines.]

    All altruistic guidelines have one problematic consideration for search engines: numerous guidelines may be used for spamming.

    Are search engines to include these guidelines into their algorithms for spam consideration?

    Futher, Web Standards and Accessibility advocates have taken these guidelines further. Example – Three sets of a single page: one page for standard view; one page for High Visiability view; and, one page for High Resolution view. If the each of these pages are static and have identical content (but with different URLs), does this constitute content spamming?

    There are more nefarious CSS methods than display:hidden or negative margins. What about CSS2 and CSS3 hacks for style sheet compliant browsers versus non-compliant browsers? What about hex numbers? Or, ems? Or, CDATA comments? Or, Java Script induced PHP echos?

    It’s an interesting conundrum: meet Accessibility/Web Standards guidelines and be penalized by search engines or meet assumed algorithms and fail Accessibiltiy/Web Standards.

  82. Dear Matt,

    because my last comment got lost I’ll ask again: How will pages be treated that use one document and different media stylesheets which will display this document differently in every media (read: showing and/or hiding certain parts of the document)? How will pages be treated that are designed to be accessible to sighted and blind users? For text browsers usually some additional parts are included in the document which will be hidden by a screen stylesheet of course. I mean this is what W3C sells HTML & CSS for – publishing one document for different media.

    Greetings.

  83. SudAfrique

    I’m in the process of trying to figure out why our site has been so heavily penalized. We’ve dropped to page 80+ when we used to be in the top 10 consistently for our products. We haven’t been trying to spam at all, just trying to employ techniques to make the site more usable. We employ hidden layers:

    div id=lyr30355 style=padding: 0px; display:none; position:absolute; z-index:5 class=photolyr

    to put enlarged versions of our property photos in and when a user rolls over a gif, the div is made visible in javascript and the enlarged version of the photo is loaded. You can see this at www .premier – holidays.com/ villa/ 493.aspx (remove the spaces).

    Are we likely to have been penalized for this? We also use hidden layers for our help pages, so that people can select a [+] to expand a topic. Are these both bad ideas that are likely to have seen us penalized? We’re not trying to be “deceptive” just make the site more usable but I don’t think Google has devised an intent filter yet.

    Does someone know where there is a checklist of dos and don’ts that goes into some detail about what html/dhtml techniques Google does and doesn’t like? We’re a small biz and can’t afford (if we ever get our site back to where it was) to get wiped out on the index again. I really need to go through our entire site and check everything.

  84. Harith

    Hi Matt

    Ok. Now you have the whole weekend to tell us something about this baby :-)

    The best links are not paid, or exchanged after out-of-the-blue emails–the best links are earned and given by choice. When I recap SES from my viewpoint, I’ll give some examples of great ways to earn links.

    http://www.mattcutts.com/blog/seo-mistakes-link-exchange-emails/

    Have a great Bacon-Polenta-Free weekend :-)

  85. SudAfrique

    As a follow-on to my previous post and assuming that our site is being penalized because of these hidden divs (maybe this isn’t the problem at all – and maybe I’ve misunderstood the extent/implementation of the penalties on hidden divs – in which case, please excuse/ignore my comments):

    Why doesn’t Google, as a start, simply not index the content of these divs rather than penalizing sites that employ them – or at very least issue a warning that they are not to be employed in future? Suddenly penalizing (again, if that is what has happened) EVERYONE that uses hidden divs (legitimately or not) seems a bit like carpet bombing all of Pakistan to get Bin Laden – well, not really, but you get my meaning.

    Having spent an anxiety-ridden week wondering whether our business will ever recover, I think this cat and mouse game between Google and SEOs/webmasters and spammers has to be reformed somehow. Another (bad?) analogy: when the IOC says “don’t use steroids or you’ll be disqualified” then everyone understands the implications. If the IOC had instead said: “if we think you’re cheating, we’ll ban you” that would leave an athlete who had a cup of coffee in the morning open to a ban. I feel a little bit like that cappuccino-sipping athlete would.

    Google has 70% of the search market – should there not be a bit more openness in the ‘process’? – at very least explicitly outlining what is punishable in Google’s eyes? I’m ok with not knowing every detail of the algos and understand that Google needs to keep this confidential, but when penalties are imposed because spammers employ them then we should be told.

    (again, if this is an unjustified rant and we aren’t being penalized and Google is not penalizing ALL hidden divs, please totally ignore my comments! couch, couch, couch….)

  86. So am I to understand this WILL come to be a penalty point, as I have one site for work that uses :hidden on h1 tags so i can have a grpahical bg on there, hosts crappy so my usual img replace can’t b used here.

    After spending the day SEO’ing it Thursday, am I going to have to trawl thru the code n use standard fonts for header?

  87. Matt,

    I love reading your blog, but it would be much better if you told us things we didn’t know for ages ?
    Dany Sullivant is right, your weather reports need to be in advance ;)
    Thanks

  88. Hello,

    well my website uses a lot of standards. I also use CSS for diffrent media “aural” as well as “screen” and “print”.

    Now I use a “Emma Watson Empire” which is replaced by an image saying the same words in the “screen” view. Do I have to worry about getting dismissed of Google because of that?

    I just am wondering, as I was very proud of this solution. As I am able to say Google exactly what is written on the Banner…

    It the text is seen on the “print” version too… I hope you’ll consider things like that too.

  89. My question would be not so much whether Google can find this algorithmically, but what it takes for them to want to penalize someone. I know some people who have had hidden stuff added by the web designer and they don’t know that their site is invested with all kind of garbage. I would hate to see the owner of a great site be punished and not even know why. The problem is awareness and letting web designers know that when some shady seo once told them “this helps your rankings”, not to follow that advice for the rest of their career.

  90. Matt would a statcounter image being hidden (its an option to not show your counter) cause a penalty?

  91. Mr B

    When you go to this site http://www.newchef.com , (if your setings are at medium or lower) you are immediately directed to another page, without being able to read the home page. Do you think this was written for users or search engines? Would this be considered a deceptive redirect?

  92. Voice of Reason

    To mister “OMG MY MENUS!!”

    Why do you need menus on your website? If you’re writing a wep app, GoogleBot will pass it over anyway. If you’re trying to write a real webpage with content, you should be burned at the stake for making it act like a web app. Don’t make users hunt around for your navigation!

  93. Hi Matt,

    I am worried that Point2Agent.com, which is the real estate web site provider of template sites, has done something wrong on their end as my site has now disappeared. Do you have any commments as I have done nothing other than adding a lot of great content.

  94. I’ll copy (party) some of the things i said over at 456 Berea Street about hiding text.

    There are some very legitimate ways in which hidden text can improve accessibility. Skip links and heading image repleacement techniques are on only the beginning.

    I use hidden text to offer blind users a lot more information, and will be sorely disappointed if Google starts penalizing sites because of this use of hidden text. For example:

    A brief list of the access keys that are useful on the site
    For very complex pages, I include “mileposts” which identify where the person is on the page, i.e. “Start of right column”.
    For complex tables, I include the table summary describing the table layout.”
    For personalized portals (MyYahoo, Google) there are lots of places where hidden text helps a blind person make sense of the page.

  95. rite

    Dear Matt,

    glad to have been directed to a reliable place in the web concerning Google related questions. While many folks here are complaining about the recent update, several sites built by me have been “jaggered” more or less to the top of their relevant listings. I have always urged my clients (who usually are “small” freelancers or companies) to provide relevant content for the real visitors, I avoided everything that may harm accessibility and I submitted for inclusions in lots of catalogues and topic related sites, but never engaged in any of these bogous reciprocal programs. So, just like in former updates, I was on the laughing side while others yelled out …

    However, something frightened me when reading many of the recent discussions here: Hidden text was mentioned an important reason for penalty; now this whole thread deals with this topic. So far it seems thatt Google takes a differenciated approach to handle this, as I use what may be taken for hidden content: In several websites, I include two style sheets, for screen and print, for what is e.g. a graphic menu worth on a print-out?

    Where the complete company location and contact info (place, phone, mail, web etc.) is not visibly included on every page (e.g. for design reasons), I use to include a paragraph at every pages’ end providing that info, which will only show up in the printed version. I do so for I imagine someone who visits a page and finds the content worth printing. I regard it a service for visitors and companies by enabling communication initiated through the web page, even if the print-out (together with the URI) has been forgotten somewhere for days or more.

    I dearly hope Google will not start to rate such “hidden text” worth a penalty?

    Regards

  96. Sorry if I sound neive, but can anyone tell me if the mere use of CSS pages or CSS style sheets can affect ranking?

    Also, do I understand correctly that the problem is “hidden text”. What if I change the size of my H1 tag for design purposes only? would Google penalize me for that?

    thanks for your thoughts in advance.

  97. Lp

    Can’t believe so many people are worried about hidden text. There are too many off page factors these days for hidden text to move you to the top of the serps in google. Do a search for almost any product and the first several pages of results are all large companies. Google is squeezing out the little guy. Time for big business to take over. If you want to rank high in google you have to be large.

  98. I am starting to notice more and more hidden text on sites these days. If I am understanding this post correctly you are saying that google penalizes the use of the hidden text tag. Is there a guide of commands that should not be used when developing a site? What commands does google frown upon?

  99. Edward, I would suggest not. Google (or any search engine for that matter) would not start critiqing peoples designs based on stylesheet usage. Can you imagine if they did?! Not everyone has the visual agility of GMonk (or the likes).
    Im going to be bold and say that Google doesn’t even care if you do use CSS image replacement. You’re providing a service to your site’s users and I predict Google has sufficient leaneance to deal with that. Hiding swathes of content however is bound to upset the Spiders. Similarly with producing lots of virtually identical ‘keyword rich articles’. I tend to think that SEO (and web accessibility for that matter) is more common sense than expertease. If you know that stuffing keywords into your page (in whatever format) its wrong, then Google knows it’s wrong and it’s only a meta of time (sorry, couldn’t resist!) before they act.

  100. Google’s games are getting rediculous if they start taking actual design considerations which are professional and necessary and penalizing them to get “more relevant results.” It’s already bad enough. But now you can’t optimize your site for accessibility software and not get hit by Google for it. I use CSS display: none tags for ease of use for the blind, and others who use accessibility software like Jaws, etc. Google’s gotta be more careful. People with disablities can make a legitimate case against discrimination against them, even if it’s in the name of more relevant results.

  101. oh sorry…all my comments disappeared! let me try again:

    <!– Begin Spider Food –&rt;

    <!– Begin Rand Story Select w/KW Insert X Num Words –&rt;
    ~ some random text here ~
    <!– End Rand Story Select –&rt;

    <!– Begin Rand Links to Make Spiders Happy & Go in Circles –&rt;
    ~ some random links here ~
    <!– Rand Links –&rt;

    <!– End Spider Food –&rt;

  102. What a Maroon

    I like the all CSS site map at http://www.uleth.ca/man/help/sitemap.shtml.

    If you at the css, http://www.uleth.ca/man/css/sitemap.css, you see this:

    ul.sitemap li a
    {
    background : transparent url(/man/images/sitemapdocbullet.gif) no-repeat;
    /*margin-left : -1.1em;*/
    padding-left : 1em;
    }

    Is google going to have a problem with the transparent url?

  103. MMMPPH

    I can appreciate the frustration of dealing with SE spam, especially if it seems though your competitors are getting away from it. However, Google has always been pretty decent (though hardly foolproof) at picking it up and they will always be working on it.

    To my way of thinking however, spending one’s time going around looking for the misdeeds of your competition is a wasted effort. Report them once if you must, but to keep on and on and on, does little for a person other than keeping them from improving their own site.

    One might consider their recollections of 2nd grade where the potential A-student never achieved more than a B minus because he spent all his time making sure his classmates were behalving and telling the teacher if they weren’t. Then there were the A-students who did get their marks because they didn’t worry about such things. Ultimately, they knew that while the cheaters might do well today, they weren’t building for the future, and if they got caught they were hung indefinitely. Cheaters may take a few bucks out of your pocket, but good hard work will defeat them every time because they don’t really know HOW to win.

  104. Andrew

    Matt,

    Is it classed OK to use hidden tags for drop dowm menu purposes?

    Im thinking of using:
    http://www.htmldog.com/articles/suckerfish/dropdowns/

    Or does this trigger filters!!

  105. Andrew

    Matt,

    Is it classed OK to use hidden tags for drop down menu purposes?

    Im thinking of using:
    http://www.htmldog.com/articles/suckerfish/dropdowns/

    Or does this trigger filters!!

    sorry for double post – missed out :)

  106. german

    Thank you matt for following the spam report :-)

  107. Paromita

    It’s of great help. Thanks a lot.

  108. TearingHairOut

    Matt,

    This post got me wondering about tags in general.

    If there is more than one on a page, and all are VISIBLE, would this alone trigger an over-optimization penalty?

    I read a post by someone in one of the forums who said that a previous ranking issue was resolved after he fixed multiple tags that a designer had put on the pages of the site?

  109. TearingHairOut

    Matt,

    Sorry, the post above did not reproduce as I expected.

    I am referring to H1 tags in the post. Is it considered over-optimization of on-page factors to have more than one set of H1 tags per page, even when there is no attempt to hide them?

  110. I’ve read the above comments with interest, particularly as I use hidden text to produce a CSS rollover effect, which also degrades nicely for accessibility purposes. In addition, I also use display:none in my main style sheet and then have this text appear on the print stylesheet, AND also use this technique for a ‘skip’ link for accessibility purposes.

    Despite all this, I now have a PR of 3, increased from the last update. Not too bad as my site was only launched at the end of March. Perhaps it would be higher if it weren’t for my “google thinks I’m spamming” techniques!

  111. You know whats worst than hiding a bunch of spammy text for seo, is when you start putting in links in your hidden layers. Here are a few samples that I’ve reported 2 months ago but nothing ever happened.

    aimoo.com
    com-download.net
    globalshareware.com
    digitalimagehosting.com
    sharewaresoft.com
    free-sound-recorders.com
    novabean.com

  112. Matt,
    Is G kicking out the full domain as a CSS penaly or does it just penalize the rankings? The Music Box site you mentioned above appears to have been fully removed from the index, just curious if G sees their CSS as a reason to have it fully removed.

  113. Good find Matt it just goes to show that you really need to look at your code if you are going to try to fool the search engines. Thanks Matt……….

  114. Gary

    Ok, so I’ve read a load of these posts… and I don’t want to parrot what everyone else is saying, but I think my sites have the most legitimate reason for hidden text there is.

    When I’m asking a user to do something, say login to my site or add something to their wishlist, etc. I’ll have a little question mark icon next to it. When the user clicks the question mark, the display property of the help text toggles from none to visible… Basic usability…
    My sites do very well in google, so I’m not complaining, but I certainly hope that Google attempts to make some distinction rather than simply penalising all sites with hidden text.

  115. Teodoro

    Hi, I know Ad-Agencies, which are using CSS to improve their PR in Google since many years and they are not banned yet.

    Greatings from ITALY ;-)

  116. Hi

    Just reading this article as an ameteur I dont really
    undersatnd what the problem with the site is…

    To get off the topic a bit trying to find some quality seo advice is really hard..wondering if anybody could inform me where to get some
    good seo tips etc so your code or html doesn’t look like &^%$

    You guys seem to be the pro’s

    regards

    Liquid

  117. jimmy

    google use hidden styles and text too.

    goto google.de and make a query, show the code .. in the head u look @ .z{display:none}

    u see *gg*

  118. Mike F

    We develop many sites to meet ADA guidlines. If a site is graphic oriented then a user with JAWS or GW Micro are out of luck. For these sites we use the CSS hidden rule to describe for the text readers what the graphic content is displaying to those who have no visual impairment.

    I hope Google looks at the CSS issue fully rather than jumping in just too look good and say we are stoping spammers.

    Thanks for your time – Mike

  119. Mike F

    One other question on Google removing the CSS hidden statement.

    Would G still remove a hidden statement if it is within an external CSS file and brought in via a

  120. How I wish I could have your problems… I have never, as yet, managed to find the time to get to grips with CSS, although everyone tells me it is the way to go… However, I did read somewhere that too much description in ALT tags was also in danger of being treated as ‘hidden’ text…

    So far, I have been very lucky because my home page would, on the face of it, break all the SEO rules but, quite without my making much effort to get it, it seems to have a PR of 5 in spite of the dire warnings I have read about using too many images and not enough text.

    I decided to just do what I like and want and then worry about whether enough people were visiting later. Not a lot of people have visited the home page since I last reset the hit counter but quite a few have gone directly to pages inside the site that they must have bookmarked, or earmarked, or dog-eared or whatever.

    Maybe worrying too much about getting it right takes up time that could have been spent on making it attractive to people so they go away and fetch more people themselves…

  121. Rex

    Fighting spammers – Fighting hackers – the age old internet problems that seem to produce the following same results time and time again. The truely talented in both areas seem to end up with an expertise that enables them to market their knowledge (“intellect”) to those who wish to control them. Yet the old problems still exist. Take for example http://www.childidbracelets.com , http://idtags.com , http://www.kidsidbracelets.com – all 3 dot coms are the same company using 3 different coms trying to flood the market in one area. Two of the sites are the same (even in appearance). But it doesn’t stop there! In the same market area, you find another company http://www.simaenterprises.com aka http://child-indentification-bracelets.com aka http://medical-identification-bracelets.com who took the time to flip the pages although the info on two are the same and only slightly different on another. But why stop there…when http://www.laurenshope.com simply does the hidden text thing at the bottom by making the text the same color as the back ground. All of the above are old spam tricks, still around and still working for those who do them. So when Google says they are adding one more to the fight, forgive me if I am a disbeliever that they will accomplish the task. I will give Google high five for trying but when the same old tricks still hang in there…I can not get excited about them taking on another new one and expect that there will be results. And although our site bounces around Google, I can not rely on Google or any other search engine to do what I do which is retail – be honest – be straight forward – customer service – know my market – and beat the competition by working hard and not by some form of customer trickery. Simple principles so hard to live by but if you can then you can have business longevity. Spammers will continue as long as there is a finaicial gain. Educate the consumers to the different forms of spam so that when they land on one of those sites…they leave and don’t buy. With no finaincial gain…they might change their methods.

    Forgive me if I dream…

  122. NeeMan

    So, it is now only Google’s privilege to use CSS and other technology to their advantage??

    GMail, Google Adwords, Google maps and many other interfaces use CSS (or Ajax) to hide certain areas on a page and to provide the user with a more interactive experience.

    I don’t see any problem with it as long as you don’t hide text that was created specifically for SEO purposes.

    Matt: if Google is going to penalize for this kind of thing, I suggest they look at the JavaScript and everything else that work with the page. We all know that web pages are busy evolving and becoming applications on its own.

    PS: When will Google be able to crawl Ajax-type pages? (i.e. a JavaScript enabled crawler)

  123. I would imagine that for any legitimate person using hidden text, to degrade images or whatnot, to complain to Google to restore their ratings if something happened, because spammers won’t complain to Google if a site gets shut down – they’ll just build a new one. Right?

  124. Yea, that is a great problem with spammers. One site gets shut down and they just pop a new one up. That is the key in adding relevance to pages which have been around for longer.

    my 2 cents

  125. cyberlina

    I was relieved to read Matt’s follow up comment that the use of image-replacent with CSS for the purpose of “translating” a logo into text is okay.
    We use this technique, in a legitimate way (having in text the exact words the logo says).
    However, I cannot help but wonder: how on earth can the Google spiders know when the use is legitimate?
    That is, how can they possibly know that the text IS exactly what the image says?
    I am worried that if they are unable, they WILL eventually penalize sites like us, even though we use it ethically.

    I agree very much with earlier posters that it will be very good indeed if Google posts for all webmasters to see some (at least) key practices it considers spam. That way we can avoid doing something unknownigly.
    And Google will have less to police.
    It makes sense – why not do it?

  126. I think we could probably see many examples of spam techniques like the site Matt pointed out. The sad thing is this: that site probably used some “expert” seo’s template or tips to follow, then got banned on bad advice. Otherwise, I’d have to say that it was just plainly moronic to advertise the “hidden” aspect.

    What Matt said earlier guys, is that hidden CSS layers are not penalized, UNLESS they are intent to deceive. Avoid the appearance of evil if you are not sure, and land on the side of caution. Many of the sites caught in the last Google update possibly had something that irritated Googlebot, others just got caught in the aftermath. Honestly, use SEO scramble around everytime something like this comes up, and have to look back at all of our work to make sure it’s still legit.

    Bottom line: if you’re trying to deceive the search engines, or trying to get visitors to see something other than what the SE sees, there is a good chance you’re going to get caught. Maybe not today, but certainly soon. If you do, please don’t whine about it later…If you are using hidden CSS layers to add interactivity to your site, then it is not a bad thing. But if you are using those same layers to show something different to the visitor than the SE, then you better watch out.

  127. I know a lot of very HIGH PR websites that are using invisible texts, maiby that google will also take a look of a website age/PR before just dropping it… I mean , take a look at a webportal so big as Yahoo and MSN… thousants of keywords/ 1 file… only outgoing links… But Google don’t consider that as spam?!

  128. The bottom line is that if you are questioning your situation then you best not do it, because most likely is ungoogable (unlawful for google) and might get you banned. Are you really willing to take that chance?

  129. Yeh, there’s plenty of so-called old SEO tweaks that are now considered like “Get over the old hype, we KNOW you’re just spamming our SE bot”. Some webmasters still think that inserting 2 million keywords in the meta keywords will rank them higher.

    http://unwiseband.com

  130. These are hilarious. I’m so glad I have found this site. Are these things that are posted with regularity? If so, I’m a new found reader.

  131. tom

    “I don’t recommend that people use CSS to hide text.” HILARIOUS. can’t believe you had the gall to actually write that.. did you have a straight face when you did? because we didn’t when we read it.

  132. Well people use CSS a lot and some naughty SEOzer might use some tricks to trick our loved Googlebots :)

  133. Well,

    I’m a novice, but I used a CSS trick to center my site. The trick makes use of negative margins. Would Google consider this hidden text, when all text is clearly visible?

  134. The question on my mind is, is it ok for CSS to be used to hide content that is intened solely for screen readers and accesibility – not rankings?

    IMO – whether its spam or not should come down to the intension – not the method. These days, accesibility is a big issue and web masters now have to consider bots, users and accessibility devices (no to mention mobile devises, differnet browsers and possibly one or 2 other factors that escape me).

    Sometimes content is hidden to enhance the users experience and accessibilty – not for seo – and thats a fact.

  135. lion

    Hi Matt,

    I have a question related to the noarchive tag..
    In my forum I am using the index, follow, noarchive tag ..
    Is it legal to use this tag and does this make any difference to ranking?

    Why I am asking is because I saw a page at
    http://www.tigertom.com/secured-loans-uk.shtml ,
    in which it is configured to show noarchive to the crawler and not to the visitor. So I am feeling that he is doing some trick. I am little confused whether its legal to use this tag?? Will I be penalised for using this tag, even I dont do any such tricks??

  136. ByteSpider

    I may be stating the obvious here, but surely Google are going about things the wrong way?

    Surely the solution isn’t to ban a site for use of invisible text, but to simply IGNORE the invisible text!?

    Seems like an idea to me!? What you think?

  137. Rick

    I totally agree, most if not all would so as well. Unfortunately, I seriously doubt G would ever consider it since they’ve had a HABIT of “throwing the baby out with the bathwater”…..and, all “siblings” that follow! When has G ever gone about doing things the RIGHT way??

  138. Wasn’t this considered as a spam (black hat SEO) ?

  139. a short words like “i agree with you” . ” thank you” and etc shall be consider as Spam comment because it is not much meaning or contribution to the threats. I suggest there is a “word counts” features in the comments to minimize the spam.

  140. But Matt the whole point of that css is to only show the item if the user clicks the link. It’s a feature!

  141. Koz

    Hi Matt,

    I’m still seeing some sites using div tags to hide h1 text clearly to achieve rankings. And they rank VERY well.

    Can Google detect this and are they penalising for it?

  142. I guess my real concern is the use of CSS for other purposes, i.e. media=”print” Hopefully the attempts to reducer spammers will not hinder the usefulness of other media types.

    Printing is one example that I love. Hiding the header, and left nav. This allows the user to get what looks like a college paper printed out, in an easily readable format.

    However if search engines start penalizing sites that use hidden tags, this can hinder the _users_ experience. Isn’t it the end-user that our sites are produced to service?

  143. Hi Matt,

    First off, I am a big fan of yours! Thanks for all the advice.

    Secondly, You havn’t answered the question: Is it OK to use DIV tags to hide text in a legitimate fashion?

    For example: Showing parts of a menu ONLY until someone wants to see it?

    A simple answer please.

    Thanks so much.

    Dave

  144. Hey guys,
    what’s better way of linking your page, than commenting and leaving your link like that ?

  145. Murtaza

    Hi,
    I have a doubt that I wanted to clear up, I’m sure you must have heard about the CSS nifty corners (rounding up table corners using CSS) technique, but this requires the use of DIV tags and I before going ahead I just wanted to make sure that whether Google reads the Text inside DIV tags or does it completely ignore Div tags?

    Thanks

  146. These types of tricks were used way back in 2004-2005 by “cool dudes” marketing guys, and they were considered as GOD OF SEO.

    Search Engines have evolved, and they make sure that every single HTML tags gets its due share in any web page :)

    Search Engines might grant rankings, but the moment some competitor reports to Google, then you are going to be in a trouble ( If Google Guys Aren’t Busy Raking Money with their Adwords/Adsense :)

  147. Peter

    Hi Matt,

    http://www.trailers2000.com.au

    Long time reader, first time contributor. I found that site a while back that had a splash page which was a full of invisible text. This was a year back and to my surprise they still do very well on the search results. Looks like people can still get away with these tacktics.

  148. Matt,

    Thanks for th tip..

    Do not forget to [embiggen] your keywords.” I don’t recommend that people use CSS to hide text, and I don’t recommend that they document it, either.

  149. I’m sure a lot of webmasters do get away with this technique and others – I found one recently doing rather well, while hiding a mountain of keywords in a hidden textarea on a form. Afraid I didn’t keep a note of the url but I did give it as an example of what to look for in an article on choosing a web designer on our site.

  150. ummm???

    Two solutions:

    1) put your text in a span within the link and set the span to display:none

    2) make your line height taller than your div tag, and set the overflow to hidden

  151. Hi matt, Thanks for sharing, but in my opinion i prefer to show the text to the users as well as the search engines… i guess it’s the best way not to get banned.

  152. I think most people in the know dont do this anymore and yes Mr Bulgaria is right

  153. andrew

    How can you tell us not to do this when it clearly works?

    Carlocab.com ranks #1 for “make money online” using this technique so there is obviously no penalties.

  154. Ha ha ha! That’s hilarious! — insert your hidden text here — !!!

    Kinda like keyword stuffing for dummies! – or spam by numbers! lol!

  155. as to what andrew said carlocab.com doesn’t appear to use any of these tactics, are you just trying to get a competitor banned?

    tsk tsk tsk

  156. yep – “insert your hidden text here” is hilarious.Looks like the optimization is made by some guys that fiind out is about keyword density but didn’t read the whole article:)
    Also i didn;t see this on Carlocab – maybe i looked on the wrong page

  157. What!!! – I cannot imagine putting comments in the code to remind yourself where to keyword stuff! – I am not into blackhat at all, but if i were i would like to think i would not be so dumb!

    Is this from a very old site???

  158. Gerry Mael

    Spam is whatever is uninteresting to the observer. Conversely, what you may think is news or anything else of worth (considering the news source is almost anything but Fox News), I might call “spam.” In judging a story or article on technology, for instance, without knowing that you are the inventor, entrepreneur, etc., in question, I won’t jump to the conclusion that you’re spamming. The spam vs. non-spam distinction, if we’re really honest about it, is the distinction between what-is-profitable-to-me and what-is-not-profitable-to-me.

  159. Interesting… I’ve been trying to SEO-optimize my front page, I have a little trouble with the ethics of it. Most of the changes I have made have been adding and focusing the content towards some keywords, stuff that would also make it more relevant for a human, not just for search engines.

    I fully imagine that google might get smart about this div-hiding nonsense and delist their page — that’s the danger with trying to cheat Google, they might cheat you back.

    My page ( efactusa.com ) uses tables right now — I was reading that using divs would be better for the code-to-text ratio and improve the ranking. However, this strikes me as a little bit borderline — the page looks fine for humans right now, why should we have to make changes just for the search engines’ sake? On the other hand, if we don’t bother making those changes, we lose search traffic to other sites who push the limits more.

  160. Its so irritating when you come up against spammers using this kind of tactic. It can feel like forever before Google pick up on them and penalise accordingly! I am currently on my 4th submission of reporting spam in webmasters for a company (loudwatergarage .com) who are quite literally stealing business from my client westlakemotorservices.com thanks to their position brought about by using tiny, background coloured text!! and more relative to your post is the black hat SEO’d (sousterandhicks .com) tailor who has knocked my client http://www.idbespoke.co.uk off top spot by including an invisible div which is, as documented by yourself, littered with keywords in H1 tags. ARRRRGGGHHHHHH !!! please tell me that my White Hat SEO work is not in vain!

  161. Ed

    Here’s my question and concern.
    I use WordPress for my website. The newest version has added captions to the images and displays the caption. The caption is the same text used in the ALT tag as well, so simply not adding it is not an option. This new caption messes up my design, so I need it to go away.

    Because this is built in and uses a specific class, I am forced to use the display:none code in CSS to remove it, yet the text for the caption is still shown, albeit not in H1 tags. However, it is a repetition of the ALT tag for the image.

    Is this something I should be concerned with?

  162. Jim

    Looking at your removed CSS reminds me that sometimes I worry about using H1, H2.. headers and then using CSS to keep the website format tidy and uniform. I do hope Google don’t expect you to put plain text H1 on websites and look strange! After all, it should be all about user friendliness.

  163. wow … your site was PR7 back in 2005, and now dropped to PR1 …

  164. Hidden layers are commonly used for multiple purposes, for example, layers can be used to keep multiple content without having the need to redownload pages everytime, if this is interpreted as se spam, what’s the alternative method of keeping multiple content concurrently then?

  165. One of the most common mistake is people get backlinks for their websites like anything. They just eat it like they have not eaten things for years. This behaviour traps them in “Google Sandbox”. The more they get backlinks once trapped, the more they increase years to get of that sandbox. So be careful. 10 Links a day is good. If you are doing 100 links a day, you will see your site de-indexed in Goggle.
    quality backlinks

  166. I thought hidden text was not allowed by Google. There is really no need to hide anything on the page, what is the point? So another SEO won’t see your linking? Sounds like way too much risk for very little reward.

  167. There’s no reason to have content hidden by default with CSS. You can use alt text of images that are used as headers, which is what I see a lot of people on here mentioning as a major use for hidden elements.

    Use of Javascript to hide elements is a preferred method, as you are relying on the script to make them visible again. This has the benefit that users with no Javascript are still able to access your content. However, the way you do this is key. Don’t fill the page and use script to hide the entire content and replace it with something else. It’s only a matter of time (if they don’t already) that search engines will be able to effectively determine this.

    There are also much better ways to lay out your pages than using negative margins. Auto margins are great for centering, and are actually easier to maintain. Heading replacement systems like sIfr and cufon are around to aid with visual headings that can degrade nicely and still remain accessible and SEO-friendly.

  168. I just did a test on http://tool.motoricerca.info/spam-detector/ and found that using the css property display:none has meant that this page would be classed as spam. This isnt really great, as my only intentions were to improve the accessability of the page, i.e. display the main chunk of the info on first view, and having a link to drop down the rest of the additional info if someone wanted to view this extra info. Otherwise, if it was all on view at first glance, the page would appear too overwhelming and could lead to potential customers leaving.

    Bit of a problem really – when it is tried to be used honestly…

  169. Following on from my previous comment yesterday, i think i have found a solution. The fundamental problem is; display:none and visibility:hidden are to be avoided in coding (if you are seeking optimal pagerank) – so therefore the fundamental solution is to find an alternative without the usage of this code, and i think i have done this. If you view our http://www.ridom.ltd.uk/web-design-prices/ – RiDom Web Design Prices Page – you will see the adaptation of the jquery Accordian. This does not use display:none or visibility:hidden. So fingers crossed this resolves that penalisation in ranking, will publish the result when Google next crawls the page.

  170. Well – a few months later, and i may dare to say that i have an opinion on this. If you now go to http://www.ridom.ltd.uk/web-design-prices/ – RiDom’s Web Design Prices Page – it is now ranked! Conclusion therefore is – display:none css is not at all great when trying to avoid unranking – and the jquery accordian worked for me in this instance! I have another incline at the moment why a certain other page has lost rank – and i think that this could be to do with the shifting of content from one page to another and Google just taking its time to work its way through the conclusion that there is duplicate content on the site. Any thoughts???

  171. hi,
    I have one client, he has 8 portals. In portals Content, design, and url are same. Client is not ready to change anything. One portal page has indexed. Now can i work start on another portal?. Google will remove my index in future or not ?? Please suggest me what should do i ?

    ___Umesh Yadav SEO

  172. I find it odd that until this day there is not much evidence about the consequences of hidding text deliberately or not. But if search engines’ algorithms cater for hidden text, the question would be how reliable those algorithms are.

  173. I have always wondered how many sites use these tactics and have hidden text. I dont see the benefit.

  174. according to me using display none to your anchor text is against Google’s policy. It’s called keyword stuffing and will get you delisted from Google, which means your site wont even show up on Google anymore.
    Please let me know your suggestions on it.

  175. How does this reflect at the moment? I have a site where there is a lot of original text on the page however the page would not be so pleasant for the reader if it was all visible when they may not want to read the full page. We therefore show the first paragraph and hide the rest unless the user clicks to see the rest and then javascript displays teh rest. At the time the page load it uses overflow:hidden to hide the content and then script changes it. The content is in the html and so will it be indexed or will we get punished for using that paticular style OR should we instead use a different way of doing it and if so then what?
    Thanks Matt and cudoes for taking the time to help normal punters ;)

  176. I came to find a bit more information about how Google’s algorithms might handle display:none and after reading your comments I am confident now that my usage is within the guidelines. I also learned that I should be fine to hide the name of my wordpress blogs off to the side of the header by using the negative indent. I think the general rule here is that your site is unlikely to get docked for having these attributes as long as it’s not hiding a lot of content or content that could appear spammy.

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