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Is Semi-Hidden Text Bad for SEO?

January 30, 2013

Image Credit: howchengHi Jill,

I have a question that I am not sure about.

Is using hidden text within class tags ideal for SEO, or should it be avoided? I'm not clued up on AJAX or toggles, so I'm not sure if this is something to avoid or not.

Many thanks,


++Jill's Response++

Hi Andy,

I think that you're referring more to what I would call "semi-hidden text." That is, text that a typical user doesn't see at first; in order for it to appear, the user must click some link or button. For instance, I've seen many product pages where some of the product information is displayed initially, but to read the rest, the user must click a plus sign or a "more" link.

If this is what you mean, then technically it shouldn't be a problem for Google. When done correctly, all of the content (even that within the "more" section) will be read and indexed. Unfortunately, some sites have abused this way of coding a page in that they've made visible text that is good for the user, but then added a bunch of keyword-stuffed text in the area that the user needs to click in order to see it.

Because of this, I'd be very careful using this sort of code on your pages. Determine if there's a good reason why you don't want to just show all the information at once. Personally, I think most people prefer it that way. I know I don't always see those plus signs, and often think that the small amount of information is all there is. This practice usually occurs because someone at the company (or, very often, the website designer) prefers a sparse-looking page. Or they think too much text will be daunting. While this may or may not be true in your case, if you have no compelling reason for using the semi-hidden text, I'd recommend against it. While correlation is by no means causation, semi-hidden text was a common factor I noted on many sites that lost a lot of Google traffic in the original Panda update.

If, for whatever reason, you are stuck using this design technique, then at least make sure you're not stuffing it full of keywords or doing anything else that could in any way be construed as web spam.

Hope this helps!


Jill Whalen has been an SEO Consultant and the CEO of Jill Whalen High Rankings, a Boston area SEO Company since 1995. Follow her on Twitter @JillWhalen

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Post Comment

 David said:
Not sure how SEs handle this but it must be an issue for them and us (as publishers). I have a hidden text on my worksheets that gets revealed when user selects show answer option. I felt a bit of a panda bite - may or may not have been a factor I suppose. What if there was some kind of google-specific tag or class that could be used to declare hidden text like class="yes-I-know-but-I-am-not-evil-either"
 Jill Whalen said:
@David, I really don't think it's one of those things that are all or nothing. The technique is used successfully on many websites. And just because something is abused by a few doesn't mean that Google will penalize for it out of hand. I would say that if there were other signals on a site that might trigger the Panda (say keyword stuffing), then having some semi-hidden text might not help.

But if your site was otherwise squeaky clean, it probably wouldn't trigger anything bad.
 David said:
Hi Jill,
Yes I know, I am being overly paranoid. I appreciate your comments.
 Andy said:
Thanks Jill, semi-hidden text is what I have on the website, it is being used correctly so hopefully this is seen as acceptable by google. There are large introductions to product sections so it is used to prevent scrolling before the user sees the products.

I think in the future I will look at have the block of text 'un-hidden' so it appears on the page, just have to trim them down so they are to the point and still SEO friendly.
 John said:
Is it true that as long as it displays fully when JavaScript is off then you're ok?
 Diane "Torka" Aull said:
We use this technique extensively on our FAQ pages, so the page presents a (relatively) concise list of questions at first. The questions themselves are presented as links (not just the little "+" box at the left). The visitor clicks on the desired question and the answer appears just below the question. Never noticed any problems due to this use of the technique.
 SanDiegoSEO said:
I've instituted this technique at petco. Content is displayed on tabs, in an intuitive manner, which is easy for a typical user to understand there's more content there. Generally the area either shows the content or video previews. We also use the technique on product details pages to separate product details and specifications from descriptions. From my experience, as long as its creatively using design and the content is quality, you won't see any negatives.
 Jared Drake said:
What I meant to say on this post is that Google will not search your text if it is outputted by JavaScript. So, if you have the text on the page and then hide it with JavaScript on the page load, Google will search it. If you hide the text with CSS, it will not.
 Jill Whalen said:
Most of what I see in this regard is CSS and visible to Google all at once.
 Jignesh said:
I did lots of research in this area and added this feature in various website of my client. I noted that most of the people have mentioned that "if implemented correctly" word in comment. According to you, what exactly the correct way to implement this functionality.

Recently i found that, Google stopped crawling content which is hide using display="none" attribute.

Share your views !
 Sadek said:
This fact is well known to all that you should not use any Hidden text in your page. though the concept of such semi hidden text is still debated. anyone there have seen any formal reply from Google in this issue?