SEO Tactic to Avoid #1: Hiding Texts and Links

Posted by Jason Ciment

Monday, 06.29.2009 1:35pm

Today’s tip for copywriting tactics related to search engine optimization goals will cover what to do with LINKS and how they appear on your site.

When worrying about how to conserve the polished simplicity of a clear-cut website, hiding texts and links can appear to be the obvious solution.  Not only are you able to save the sleek style you worked so hard to create, but you can also achieve many of the traffic related advantages found through SEO actions. Even better, using this tactic doesn’t seem to be cheating since it doesn’t entail the distinction of user agent or bot detection that “cloaking” employs. But wait! Before you start hiding a million links, consider this: do you dare to underestimate the intellect of today’s search engine? These engines can crawl CSS and JS files, leaving no stone unturned.  Nope, not even your white-on-white text or the off-page positioning of Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) are free from the engine’s prying eye.
Cascading Style Sheets is a style sheet language that describes the look and formatting of a document written in a markup language, or a set of annotations to text that explains how it needs to be structured.  CSS is primarily used to allow the content of the document to be separated from its presentation, including its colors, fonts, and layouts.  If you plan on using CSS, it needs to be for legitimate reasons regarding either accessibility or usability.  Generally, spiders can see that CSS is used responsibly when it is added sparingly and in short, small doses.  However, it can look bad to have long sections of text hidden on your page.  If it’s invisible to the website visitor but seen by the engines, it’s fair game for spam, so it’s best to avoid using CSS altogether.
JavaScript, the scripting language of JS files, is most commonly used to add interactive features to webpages and perform dynamic tasks.  In its most abused form, a JavaScript redirect will send website visitors to a different page, while search engines index only the code on the initial page.  Because of this, the initial page can be full of keywords that only the search engine would be able to see.  Sneaky?  Yep.  Spam?  Absolutely.  Abuse JavaScript in this way, and chances are, you’re getting caught.
It recently came out that The Financial Times website contained hidden links in some of its articles.  Using the very common tactic of writing the link in white on a white background, The Financial Times hid a link to Moneysupermarket.com multiple times.  Because the online newspaper has such a credible reputation and a vast following, a hidden link would seriously boost the ranking of any site, bringing more visitors and more business.  Obviously, even respected websites can use shady tactics, and if the hidden links are the result of the efforts of just Moneysupermarkets.com, The Financial Times website seriously needs to tighten its procedures.  The bad links were removed almost immediately, but it is yet to be known whether or not Google will penalize The Financial Times.

On my own site at Magmall.com for example, where we sell magazine subscriptions, you can see that there is a clear linking hierarchy in terms of using color and size to set links apart using the ecommerce platform from Adrecom.







Subscribe to my Blog

Sign up to receive Postings via Email. Your Email will not be shared with anyone.