Your SEO strategy is one of the most important parts of your digital marketing plan.
As a result, you’ll do whatever it takes to get your website to rank higher in those search engine results and attract more potential customers.
But is it possible to go too far in your methods for higher ranking SEO?
If you’re using hidden text on your website, the answer to that may well be yes.
Hidden text can be seen as a way to manipulate search rankings and falsely boost you higher up on the results page.
Don’t be deceived, however. The search engines are on to this, and penalties can apply if you go about using hidden text the wrong way.
To help you out, this blog post will show you the smartest approach to use hidden text for SEO.
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What is Hidden Text?
Hidden text is content visible to computers and search engines but not to the visitors of a website.
This invisible text lurks in the background, in the website structure or design, and can negatively or positively impact your SEO.
Essentially, hidden text is included in and analyzed by search engines, so you can see why it might be used to optimize a website and rank higher in search results.
What’s most important, however, is the method and intention behind its inclusion.
➤ At its best, hidden text can aid the customer experience and boost your SEO in a direct way.
➤ At its worse, hidden text can manipulate search engine algorithms and cause your website to rank higher than it deserves (you can use hidden text to repeat the main keyword several times, for example).
There are several ways to add hidden text in a website, with the following being the most common when it comes to deceptive technique:
- Matching the color of the text with the background color, such as white text on white background.
- Using a text font size of 0.
- Using CSS to position text beyond screen limits.
- Posting text specifically for crawlers, especially with the use of the tag “display:none”.
- Linking to a simple character, such as a hyphen in a long sentence.
Is it Important to Use Hidden Content for SEO?
Search engines recognize that there are situations where hidden text might actually be warranted for various reasons.
It can contribute to your SEO in direct and indirect ways. For example:
It increases website usability
The main way hidden content can enhance SEO is by increasing your website usability to visitors, which can lead to higher user engagement.
It’s that engagement that gets you noticed by search engines and helps move you up in the rankings.
Hidden content, done the right way, can make your site less cluttered and allow visitors to easily navigate throughout for a better overall experience.
It deals with the limited screen space on mobile devices
Another reason why using hidden content for SEO is important is because of the increasing use of mobile devices to search the web and read webpages these days.
Due to its small screen, you’ll need to find ways to include all the information a visitor to your site needs and make it easy for them to find.
Because of this, hidden text techniques can become essential when designing your mobile webpage.
Examples include using menu tabs and drop-down boxes to improve navigation without cluttering up the screen.
Knowing how and where to tuck in text that users can easily access will increase usability, improve the visitor experience, and also increase indexing by the search engines.
Speaking of search engines, Google now implements mobile-first indexing, which includes new ways of ranking, with algorithms geared toward mobile device usage.
With this, they acknowledge that certain hidden text techniques are not only acceptable but recommended.
Positive user experience gets your site noticed by search engine algorithms, so focusing on how to increase your user experience for both computer and mobile website visitors will heighten your SEO.
Hidden Text and the Search Engines’ Terms of Service
Search engines have long been alert to the manipulating practices of hidden text to trick search engine results.
Within the terms of service for Google, the focus is on their quality guidelines which cover deceptive behavior.
Hidden text, in the majority of its forms, is considered to fit within that unacceptable behavior.
In sum, the company views hidden text as a deliberate way of manipulating the search rankings and is in complete violation of the Google Webmaster Guidelines.
Essentially, the basic principles to follow include:
- Making your webpages for users, not search engines.
- Avoiding ways to deceive users.
- Steering clear of tricks to improve search engine rankings.
Are There Hidden Text Penalties?
With the refining of search engine ranking algorithms, hidden text is easily identified these days and, as a result, can lead to crippling penalties.
For example, if suspicious, Google may initiate manual reviews.
A knowledgeable employee reviews your website looking for guideline violations, including hidden text and other negative practices such as keyword stuffing.
If found, Google can penalize you by de-indexing your website, which means all your time and resources spent on an SEO strategy goes out the window.
Now your website is limited and may not show up on search results at all.
That’s not all. The ultimate punishment for using deceptive techniques and attempting to manipulate search results is to have your website taken down completely.
How to Use Hidden Text in the Smartest Way
While usage of hidden text is often frowned upon and penalized, there are non-deceptive and beneficial ways you can include it to your advantage.
These are often referred to as white hat techniques and include the following:
1. Utilize alt-text for images
Search results often include a variety of images, and if you’re not using image alt-text, you’re missing out on a viable source of organic traffic.
Alt-text for images is considered hidden text that describes the image and how it relates to surrounding content on a webpage.
In other words, more text for search engines to index.
In addition, although hidden, the text will show up if the image itself fails to load properly on the page.
2. Hide content behind a “read more” or “show more” button or link
Keep a portion of your text visible and hide the rest behind a “read more” or “show more” button or a link.
You can also use additional phrases such as “learn more” to entice readers to bring up the rest of the text.
An example of when to use this valuable hidden text technique is when you have product reviews on your site. You don’t want them to monopolize too much visible space, so instead, provide approximately the first 100 characters or so, then insert a “Read More” button.
3. Use hidden content in drop-down boxes or with icons
Instead of crowding your webpage, especially when enhancing it for mobile users, create ways to provide information without including all the text in one view.
The way to achieve this is by using hidden content in drop-down boxes and other navigation aids, such as obvious icons for news announcements and press releases.
As a result, the user experience is improved, and your hidden text is recognized by search engine algorithms without penalty.
4. Utilize No-script tagging
5. Feature FAQ accordions
Website visitors are big fans of FAQs, so take advantage of this feature to smartly use hidden content.
Create your list of frequently asked questions and link each one to the answering text. Or, use FAQ accordions, which are design elements or visual cues to the reader that more text is available.
6. Add Pop-ups
If pop-ups are used correctly, they can add to your overall SEO.
Make sure this hidden text technique includes content relating to your website’s products or services, your overall brand, or in some way improves the visitor’s experience.
If not, Google can penalize you for having what they call “intrusive interstitials.”
Wrap Up: Hidden Content Used the Right Way Can Boost Your SEO
Now that you know the secrets to utilize hidden content in acceptable ways, you can use it to benefit your SEO and avoid penalties.
For more tips on how to succeed with search engine optimization, take our brief SEO Maturity Assessment and discover ways to keep that content rocking!