What is hidden text?

As the term would suggest, hidden text is any text that is not visible to a user. Typically, hidden text is words on a web page that are the same colour as a background, making it invisible to users but still visible to search engine spiders. Hidden links are simply when hidden text also has links in it.

In the past, people would use hidden text to insert keywords on their pages in the hope of manipulating Google’s search rankings. However, this deceptive practise is a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines and can get you removed from the Google index altogether.

This method of keyword stuffing is no longer as common because it doesn’t help your rankings anymore. Before, search engine results were determined exclusively by the words on a web page, however now search engines take countless other factors into consideration when ranking, and Google can easily pick up deceptive behaviour such as this.

Examples of hidden text

  • Using white text on a white background
  • Positioning text behind an image
  • Using CSS to move text off-screen
  • Setting font size to 0
  • Hiding a link by using one small character as the anchor text, e.g a hyphen

How to ensure your site has no hidden text or links

Newer site owners might be unintentionally infringing on this guideline for design purposes like choosing a text colour similar to the background. However, this can make your site seem less trustworthy and as aforementioned, get you removed from the Google index.

You should therefore review your own site, looking for any text or links that aren’t easily viewable and could therefore be perceived as potentially deceptive. If there’s any text or links there for the sole purpose of catering to the search engine rather than the user, then you likely have hidden text on your site.

The fastest way to see all of a page’s elements is to hold down the “a” and “control” key on your keyboard at the same time while viewing a page. This will highlight all text on the page to allow you to scan your site yourself. Alternatively, you can also do this by selecting”edit” and then “select all” from the menu in your browser.

Hidden text that isn’t deceptive

Some forms of hidden text aren’t considered deceptive. If your site has technology that a search engine might have trouble accessing (JavaScript images, Flash files), using descriptive text for these can help to improve the accessibility of your site. Likewise, this would help users with slower connections who may not be able to view content. For a more detailed explanation of how to do this, take a look at Google’s hidden text and links page.

Generally, if text is on a site to try and appeal to search engines and not enhance user experience, it should be scrapped. Google ranks sites based on the value they offer to users, and one way of boosting this is by ensuring that all text and links on web pages are clear and visible for your users.


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