An Insight On Hidden Contents and SEO
Hidden text is one of the ancient tricks in the world of SEO. If we hope that hidden text will somehow boost our SEO efforts, we discovered that this outdated tactic is ineffective. Earlier when the search engine was very less sophisticated we could hide text on web pages in an attempt to gain ranking for some keywords which were not visible on the page. We could also hide links on other websites hyperlinking to the page we wanted to gain ranking.
These tactics are also known as content cloaking where even though the text was hidden to users, search engines were able to crawl it but that's not what happens these days as search engines can now easily detect spammy tactics.
Why Hide Text?
There are some reasons for using hidden text. The reasons are :
Can Include Keywords which aren’t shown to the public
It is an attempt to use competitor brand name SEOs use these keywords but it cannot be added due to corporate marketing policies, legal compliance, or stealthy SEO approaches.
Some SEOs also use incorrectly spelled keywords and change them as it won’t look appropriate and they can put it bluntly.
Spamming Keyword in the Page
Some professionals think that increasing the number of keywords on a page can help rank that keyword. This was an effective strategy earlier but not these days.
Links are a great factor when it comes to ranking. Many websites used to get links from other websites which were hidden because the links were generally unrelated to the content on the website where it was posted.
Valid Reasons to Use Hidden Text
Google uses many methods to find out whether the hidden content is there or not on the website but they allow some forms of hidden content. Some of the reasons why you should use hidden content are below.
Part of Navigational Elements
We see too many links in the screen which is overwhelming such as drop-down menus, multiple hierarchy menus, tabbed menus, slider menus etc are used to keep the pages from appearing messy.
The intent to hide the content here is basically for better user experience and avoid the mess on the page.
See Anyone's Real-Time Analytics
What can we do when we can see the things happening behind the internet? Insights we were never meant to see. Data which will change marketing forever.
Paid Content Subscription
Google allows websites which offer a paid subscription to hide content and allows the First Click Free method of cloaking which means that upon the first visit from Google, we can see the content while on the second visit to the page, the content will no longer appear as we need to log in and also pay to view the content.
The main motto here is to just give a sample preview of what a paid subscription of a publisher has to offer.
How Hidden Text is Created & Ways to Detect It
Same Colored Text and Background
The oldest method is adding white text on white background which is easiest to detect. We can detect by selecting the whole text in a page by Ctrl + A or we can always check the source code. By disabling CSS can also expose this but if we use old school font color attributes of HTML 4 <font> tag will still hide the content since it doesn’t use CSS.
CSS Hidden Text
We can use CSS which can hide content in various ways like using properties display: none, visibility: hidden, height:0, width:0, text-spacing: 1000, etc. These would be easily exposed by disabling CSS or simply by viewing the source code.
User Agent Detection
The web browsers are detected by user agents through server-side scripting languages. It can also be used to detect search engine bots. When some search engines bot or Google bots are detected, a different version of a page is sent. So when you view that in the source code, we cannot see the hidden content. The only way we can identify if that type of content exists is by changing our browser’s user agent to mimic a search engine bot. There are various web browser plugins we can install which will help us change the web browsers user agent and pretend to be a search engine.
IP Address Detection
The IP address is detected similarly to user agent detection as you know each request to a web page comes from an IP address. If the visitor is a search engine crawler it can be determined by some known IP addresses of search engines where server-side scripting is used. It can be done using Google Translate or by checking Google cache.
Reverse and Forward DNS Detection
IP addresses can be fabricated and the most practical way you can cloak content is by reversing and forwarding DNS detection. Bing/Yahoo and Google will tell you how to do this. To check if the content is hidden you can use Google translate.
What to Do when a competitor Uses Hidden Text
Google is really good but not perfect always as once in a while we may see a high ranking page outranking our website as they may have hidden content everywhere.
What can users do? Users can report to Google spam report. But it doesn’t mean if you report it it's going to down as it is reviewed by their manual reviewer
Today, we discussed how hidden content is created & how it can be detected.
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