Hidden Text and Links

Discover the Real Truth about Hidden Text

Hidden text is another technique in the series. Again, the use of this method started long time ago, when search engines were still in the primitive stage. At that time, webmasters figured this way to trick search engines. They started using hidden text and links on their websites for the sole purpose of getting ranked higher in the search engines.

It worked for them for some time. Now, search engines are smart enough and do not allow such easy manipulation of their algorithms. However, you can still find some sites using this technique for better SE placement. These are usually adult industry related websites.

What Hidden Text Exactly Is?

A hidden text, simply stated, means a piece of text that is not visible to human visitors, but still visible (or indexable) by search engine spiders.

Webmasters put hidden text on their sites’ pages hoping to increase their keyword density and this way rank higher in the search engine results pages. They usually include tons of keywords and keyphrases that should boost their sites’ relevance.

It is relatively easy to spot hidden text. Simply highlight all the text on a document. You can do this by pressing “Edit” then “Select All” in your web browsers, or simply by clicking “Ctrl + A”. If you select the entire page and suddenly notice a text that you didn’t see before. That means a site is using hidden text.

Hidden Text Techniques

There are actually few ways to hide the text that visitors can’t see, but search engine bots index. Here are some of the most widely known practices:

Using the Same Background Color

If a site has white background color, then simply putting keywords with white colored text at the top or bottom of a page, will hide it from your eyes. Simplest example is this:

In HTML body, you put:

<body bgcolor="#ffffff">

and the text goes like this:

<font color="white">text</font>

You’ll be able to see it only if you highlight the text.

Using the Same Link Color as Background

It’s possible to control the color of links. So spammers simply make the color of a link, the same as a background color or navigation bar color and hide the link from your eyes. The most primitive way of doing that is this:

<a href="www.link.com"><font color="white">text</font></a>

In this case, we'll assume that your background color is white.

Using the Same Background Image Color as Text

Now this one might be trickier for search engines to detect. You know that many sites use background images, right. So webmasters can simply create white image as a background and place white text at the bottom of a page.

Search engines simply can’t read what is in a picture itself, be it a large one or small one. However, as many say, search engines hire real people to check the pages for search spam techniques and eliminate if they find any. Even if this technique will slip through search engines, it won’t be ignored by real people.

Using Cascading Style Sheets

Now using CSS is one of the most advanced techniques that search spammers can use. Web designers can use internal or external style sheets. Using external CSS is better, because visitor’s browser has to download this file only once. So all pages will load faster.

There’s a myth flowing on the internet that search engine spiders can’t read external style sheets. Even if it’s true today, sooner or later search engines will start indexing external CSS, and then many websites will be banned.

Hidden Visibility in CSS
This is a cascading style sheet command.

.class1 { visibility : hidden; }

If you assign “class1” class to your selected piece of text, your visitors won’t see the text, but search bots will be able to read it.

Hiding Text With Z-index Layers
This one is interesting method of using hidden text. On a page you can use 2 dimensions - X and Y axis. The Z-index is a third dimension (Z axis). It enables web page elements to be positioned not only left, right, top and bottom, but also in front or in back using layers.

Imagine that a web page consists of 2 layers. First layer has tons of keywords that should benefit rankings, and another is a normal page. So the second layer covers the first one and you can’t see those keywords, just a normal page. However, search spiders read all the text and are able to index those keywords.

CSS Absolute Position Class
That’s the most interesting method of using hidden text. Again, CSS gives another great ability to webmasters of using hidden text. Simply put the code below into the <head> </head> tags on your page.

<style type="text/css" media="screen"><!--
.class { position: absolute; top: 100px; left: 100px }

And put this code in the <body> of the page:

<table class="class" width="180" bgcolor="maroon" height="200">

Now, if you assign “class” to a table, then you’ll be able to position it however you want. If you change the values of 100px to any other, you can easily change the location of your table.

Search spammers simply put lots of keywords in a table that is positioned the normal way. Then they position another table using absolute positioning, right above the table with keywords. This way even if you highlight all the code, you won’t see any keywords. Only those who know HTML, CSS can copy the source code, paste it into an editor and see if a site is using this technique. Nobody can say for sure if search engines are able to determine and ban sites that use such hidden text methods. Sooner or later SE’s will become smart enough to recognize this technique and might ban sites from their index for a long time, maybe even permanently.

Of course, these examples are spamming search engines and you should never use any of these techniques to trick search engines. Some of these techniques worked long time ago, some might still work, but they are considered to be search SPAM by major search engines.

Actually, here are some reports dedicated to webmasters that represent engines’ attitude towards hidden text.

“Trying to deceive (spam) our web crawler by means of hidden text, deceptive cloaking or doorway pages compromises the quality of our results and degrades the search experience for everyone.

…We think that's a bad thing…"

That’s an excerpt from Google’s report spam page. Yahoo has also stated clearly what they think about hidden text on Yahoo! search content quality guidelines page.

“What Yahoo! Considers Unwanted Some, but not all, examples of the more common types of pages that Yahoo! does not want include…

…The use of text that is hidden from the user…”

In Conclusion

Many webmasters seek for higher search engine rankings. Sadly, some of them choose the easier, faster (as they think) method of getting better search engine positions. That’s a wrong choice. They are risking their reputation and rankings.

You should never try to adopt such techniques as hidden text in order to get higher rankings. It might have worked years ago, but it’s really not advisable these days. Search engines are smart, and if they’ll detect hidden text on your site, you can start preparing another website strategy, because you’ll be banned for a long time.