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Semi-hidden Content Revisited

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#1 Mikl


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Posted 02 November 2011 - 04:50 AM

On October 14, one of my sites suddenly lost its Google ranking. Almost all of its 200-odd pages dropped between ten and 20 places in Google SERPs. The drop was completely across the board - and for no obvious reason. I have made no changes to the site that might explain it.

Naturally, I spent some time researching the problem. I read everything I can find, especially about the Farmer / Panda update. But, as far as I can judge, the site is completely "clean" from the Panda point of view.

The only possible lead I got was from Jill's article, Some Farm Aid for the Afflicted: Google Farmer Update. Under the heading "Semi-hidden content", Jill mentioned that many of the sites that had lost ranking "had content that was behind tabs, and not visible all at once to someone using a typical browser".

Now, my site uses tabs for its main navigation. It has three main navigation pages, each of which is divided into three or four tabs. These pages have 50 - 100 small paragraphs of text, each containing a link to an actual page on the site. At any one time, most of these paragraphs will be hidden behind a tab (using display:none in the external style sheet).

I know that we've discussed this technique here in the forum several times. The general opinion is always that this type of navigation is perfectly acceptable to Google. It certainly has never caused me any problems in the years that I've been using it.

But I wonder if that might have changed as a result of Panda?

That said, it wouldn't explain why the sudden drop in my site's rankings only happened in October, several months after Panda went live.

This is not something I can easily test. It would mean a major redesign of the site to eliminate the tabbed navigation. I can only justify doing that if I was sure the tabs were the cause of the problem.

By the way, most of the site's traffic comes from the USA, and my observations are based Google's US site. So there are no regional issues involved.

I'd appreciate any comments or observations. Thanks in advance.

#2 Jill


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Posted 02 November 2011 - 07:31 AM

Mikl, that date was another panda rollout. I'd suggest submitting a reinclusion request. If a human reviews it they'll see you're not doing anything shady and hopefully you'll get back your lost traffic.

#3 Mikl


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Posted 03 November 2011 - 11:51 AM

Thanks for that suggestion, Jill. I hadn't realised that you can submit for reinclusion merely because of a drop in ranking. I thought reinclusion was only relevant if a site was completely banned from Google. I'll certainly follow this up.

That said, I'm now wondering if I shouldn't bite the bullet and remove the tabbed navigation anyway. At least, that way I can get an idea of whether tabbed navigation really is harmful (which would also be of interest to other forum members).

I'll give this some thought and report back.

#4 Michael Martinez

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Posted 03 November 2011 - 05:10 PM

They now call it "reconsideration" rather than "reinclusion". It's a little more broad.

As I understand it, they have been compiling a list of Websites that have been affected by Panda downgrades for further improvement of the algorithm (looking for false-positives, I suppose).

#5 Mikl


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Posted 04 November 2011 - 03:49 AM

Thanks for the clarification, Michael. I'll go ahead with the submission, and report back any results.

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