Google: CSS-Hidden Text Sometimes OK

Filed in SEO by Matt McGee on June 11, 2007 1 Comment

Barry made a great find today on SE Roundtable, about a Google Groups discussion of hidden text caused by using CSS. Apparently, I’m not the only one who’s had this exact discussion with multiple clients in the past three weeks.

Google logoAnyhoo…..the discussion revolves around the newly expanded Webmaster Guidelines, particularly as they address hidden text. CSS is commonly used to hide text, sometimes for nefarious reasons, but sometimes simply to make sure that appropriate text appears when users don’t have the latest browser installed, or surf with images/javascript turned off, etc.

The full discussion runs about 50 posts at this point, but the important answer (direct link) comes from Susan Moskwa of the Google Webmaster Central team, who says:

If your intent in hiding text is to deceive the search engines, we frown on that; if your intent is purely to improve the visual user experience (e.g. by replacing some text with a fancier image of that same text), you don’t need to worry.

Of course, as with many techniques, there are shades of gray between “this is clearly deceptive and wrong” and “this is perfectly acceptable”. Matt [Cutts] did say that hiding text moves you a step further towards the gray area. But if you’re running a perfectly legitimate site, you don’t need to worry about it. If, on the other hand, your site already exhibits a bunch of other semi-shady techniques, hidden text starts to look like one more item on that list.

So there you have it — a very reasonable response to a somewhat thorny question.

By the way, if you’re like me and find there’s too much noise in the Google Webmaster Help discussion group, you should bookmark the profiles of the Googlers who occasionally post there with helpful (read: official) answers:

Comments (1)

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  1. mrrex says:

    It’s nice to see there is definitely some consistency throughout the Google empire. From what Cutts and Fox were saying at SMX to this, I can only think this is good news.

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