Google's Matt Cutts: You Can Hide Content Only When...

Jul 26, 2013 • 8:58 am | comments (23) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

hiding homerIn one of Google's Matt Cutts recent videos, Matt answered the questions of it is okay to use those expandable web techniques to expand and collapse content. It is okay to use those techniques or is it considered hidden text and against Google's Webmaster Guidelines.

Matt Cutts said clearly that if it is done for user interests and not to spam or manipulate Google's search rankings, then it is okay.

Here is the video:

Here is the transcript:

Today's question comes from Cologne, Thomas asks. How does google treat hidden content which becomes visible when clicking a button doesn't look spam yet most of the text is in such a section. For example a simple page to buy something and show details button which reveals a lot of information about.

Okay I wouldn't be overly concerned about this but let's talk through the different consequences. It's pretty common on the web for people who want to be able to say okay click here and then show manufacturer details, show specifications, show reviews. That's that's a pretty normal indium at this point it's not deceptive, nobody's trying to be a manipulative.

It's easy to see that this is text that's intended for users and so as long as you're doing that I really wouldn't be too stressed out.

But certainly if you were using you know a tiny little on that users can see in there's like six pages of text area and there is not intended for users and there is keyword stuffing then that is something that we possibly could consider hidden text.

But in general if you just have something where you have a nice ajax sort of site and things get revealed that you tried to keep things clean. That is not the sort of thing that's going to be on the top of our list to worry about because a lot of different sites really do that. It's pretty common on the web a lot of people expect that on the web.

Take for example Wikipedia on your mobile phone which have different sections of the few quite expanded sections. And there's good usability reasons for doing that. So as long as you're not trying to stop something in the hidden away that's deceptive or trying to you know distort the rankings.

If you just doing it for users I think you'll be in good shape.

So there you have it, you can hide text only if users can get to it and if it is useful and done not with the intent to trick Google.

Forum discussion at Google+.

Previous story: Google Keyword Planner Tool Bug


Josh Zehtabchi

07/26/2013 02:20 pm

I think font color, spacing and DIV's would come more into play rather than just 'content not being visible'. Usually these AJAX or HTML5 tools keep fonts/content in universal colors/layouts thus; voiding the risk of a spammy look in Google's eyes. Common sense stuff, IMHO.

Adam Davies

07/26/2013 02:23 pm

I think this is a good case study into Google's shift in focus from web design for bots and web design for users... It's in Google's best interest to keep pages user-orientated. Hiding content is attractive to spammers as it's out of view for most people, except their intended target (bots). If you develop websites for robots, now may be the time to start changing your habits. I think Google will roll out more updates covering stuff such as this in the near future. A good move in my opinion!

Adam Davies

07/26/2013 02:28 pm

Colour, position etc do come into play. Using JQuery to align something -999px will, for example, set off Google's radar (AFAIK, anyway).

Jody Raines

07/26/2013 03:00 pm

I'm curious whether this means that websites that use a token to 'track' a user, and then present content related to that user are penalized or not? It's to "improve user experience"... kind of along the lines of personalization. I believe Amazon is already using this type of interface, but then again, Amazon is huge, so it's not likely that they will suffer much in the way of adverse ranking. Is that something that would have any negative consequences? Or is that just considered "user experience"? Is there a clear delineation of when something is 'hidden' versus "experience"?

Josh Zehtabchi

07/26/2013 06:03 pm

No. It's a variable that's dynamically generated. I highly doubt this would be affected/related.

Sean Williams

07/26/2013 07:45 pm

I would also have to say that the spiders would likely never notice that. So it would be difficult to track is it is done dynamically like in the case of Amazon.

Kyle Eggleston

07/26/2013 07:58 pm

"I wouldn't be overly concerned about this" translates to "Google won't look down on it".


07/27/2013 02:17 am

loved the gif


07/27/2013 06:59 am

The best way is plagiarism


07/27/2013 07:39 am

If one put "six pages of text" that is "not intended for users and there is keyword stuffing" than it is SPAM PER SE, wether hidden or not.

Graham Ginsberg

07/28/2013 03:43 am

I knew there was a smoking gun when after Penguin I saw big real estate companies way on top of Google searches. Take a look at their daily PPC with Google courtesy of Domain: Daily Ad Budget: $16,546 Domain: Daily Ad Budget: $58,087 Domain: Daily Ad Budget: $22,920


07/29/2013 03:20 am

Hmmm... I do have to wonder if the Googlebot can recognize the difference between spammy or usability Ajax "hidden texts"?

or zilberman

07/29/2013 05:42 am

The tracking you propose here is Done server side, not by client side JavaScript. This means that the end user or in our case the Google Bot will not know whether you have hidden a text or not because it is only served one final text. The problem with the hiding techniques that he is talking about is them being client side, so while the Bot see them written in the code he can match via css or other techniques and see that although it is written I'm the code and he can read that text as normal it is not being displayed on screen to the user. Also it needs to be considered the normal Google Bot hide technique that will show specific looking website to the google bot. I believe Google can notice that via special redirects they see or even users of chrome that see the website and are sending Google data about it, revealing the scheme. As matt is talking about the text inside and outside of the button it is easy even for an algorithm to see the basic intent of this text and buttons. The sizes can be compared with other objects on the page and you must not forget that those collapsible structures require tags to operate, thus showing Google what will be the clickable text and what will open from it. Enabling it to match relevancy to both the 'hidden' text to button text and overall text to the website theme.


07/29/2013 07:05 am

well said..

Jody Raines

07/29/2013 09:48 am

Thank you! That's a great explanation!

Jody Raines

07/29/2013 09:49 am

Interesting. So the dynamic response is not tracked. I appreciate your explanation, thank you @disqus_4fveaQtuwa:disqus.

Jody Raines

07/29/2013 09:57 am

Dynamically generated. Thanks @disqus_5baobAaHsY:disqus. Appreciate your response.

Emma North

07/29/2013 11:29 am

I think it's a bit of a risk to think that Google can successfully tell the difference between hidden content for the benefit of the user and hidden content to deceive the user and search engines. In all the instances of hidden content "for the user" I've seen, there has been a simple work-around that doesn't affect user experience or usability and presents no hidden content risk. I personally would prefer to avoid this altogether.


07/29/2013 11:38 am

On page navigation is a lot different from just hiding text. Ok, got it.


07/29/2013 10:29 pm


Jitendra Vaswani

07/30/2013 11:50 am

Simply dont spam anywhere and be natural

Jitendra Vaswani

07/30/2013 11:57 am

Nice question raised here.

Soumyadip Pal

06/08/2014 06:39 pm

LOL :D The .gif seems google-friendly !

blog comments powered by Disqus