Rules for Hidden Text: How to do it without Spamming

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As we recently told our Austin SEO audience, hiding text inside content is a webmaster tactic that is likely to lead to aGoogle penalty. Google views the practice of putting text on a white backdrop, behind an image or off the screen to be equal to keyword stuffing and search engine manipulation. Fortunately, you can still add descriptive, keyword-rich text to your content that is acceptable to Google and will not lead to a penalty. Here is what Google Webmaster Tools has to say when it comes to the rules of hidden text.

However, not all hidden text is considered deceptive. For example, if your site includes technologies that search engines have difficulty accessing, like JavaScript, images, or Flash files, using descriptive text for these items can improve the accessibility of your site.

Google reminds us that for readers using mobile browsers, browsers without plug-ins, or slow Internet connections, JavaScript, images and Flash will not be viewable; in that case, parts of your site would be considered “inaccessible” to those readers. Because readers who cannot access all of your site can actually benefit from any descriptive text you have added to your images, Google will not regard that text as spam.

How to do hidden text the right way, for SEO

First, though, you must test your site for accessibility. Doing this will allow you to see what those readers see when they visit your site. Here are the steps to testing your site for accessibility:

  • Turn off JavaScript
  • Turn off Flash and images
  • Alternatively, use a text-only browser (i.e., Lynx)

If you are able to view text where your flash, JavaScript and images would have been, then you can place some descriptive, relevant text – not merely keywords – in place of those features. That text can certainly contain keywords, though, and it should not lead to a Google penalty because you created text that was relevant to the reader, rather than spam.

To make this text relevant, Google advises:

Making image captions:
“Use the alt attribute to provide descriptive text,” the Google Webmaster Tools page says. “In addition, we recommend using a human-readable caption and descriptive text around the image.”
Using <noscript> tags:
For JavaScript, place the same content that is in JavaScript in a <noscript> tag. However, the content must be an exact match for what is contained in the JavaScript – and, it must be visible to viewers who do not have JavaScript enabled in their browser.
Writing video descriptions:
If you have any videos, they are most likely not accessible to viewers using text-only browsers. In the place of those videos, create text descriptions in HTML – or if you prefer, create full transcripts. This text will may be “hidden” to viewers who are able to see the video, but to Google, it is relevant because it was still designed for human readers.

This is how to hide text without spamming and incurring a penalty from Google. If you need assistance with creating descriptive text to replace your flash, video, JavaScript and images for text-only readers, you may consider outsourcing the task to a competent content marketing team. Contact the Austin SEO team at Crest Media for more information.


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