Weekly SEO news: 16 October 2007
Welcome to the latest issue of the Search Engine Facts newsletter.

This week, we're taking a look at unintentionally hidden text and how it can destroy your Google rankings.

In the news: 61 billion searches were conducted in August, a Chinese search engine is the third biggest search engine worldwide and more.

Table of contents:

We hope that you enjoy this newsletter and that it helps you to get more out of your website. Please pass this newsletter on to your friends.

Best regards,
Andre Voget, Johannes Selbach, Axandra CEO

1. Are you unintentionally spamming search engines?

Are you sure that your website is free of hidden text? There are many ways to create hidden text unintentionally. By checking your web pages, you make sure that you won't be penalized for something you did not intend to do.

Why is hidden text a problem?

Google doesn't like hidden text and hidden links at all. Here's the official text from Google's guidelines:

Hiding text or links in your content can cause your site to be perceived as untrustworthy since it presents information to search engines differently than to visitors. [...]

Hidden links are links that are intended to be crawled by Googlebot, but are unreadable to humans. [...]

If your site is perceived to contain hidden text and links that are deceptive in intent, your site may be removed from the Google index, and will not appear in search results pages.

How can you hide text on your web pages?

There are many methods that allow you to hide text on your web pages:

  • using white text on a white background
  • including text behind an image
  • using CSS to hide text
  • setting the font size to 0 or a negative value

If you wittingly use some of these methods on your web pages, you should make sure that you remove them as soon as possible.

Are you sure that you don't use hidden text unintentionally?

There are a few legitimate reasons to hide text on a web page. For example, you could use CSS to replace a text link with a more pretty graphical button.

Many content management systems (CMS) use the CSS display:none technique to create drop-down menus or other expandable web page elements. Although these elements are not designed to mislead web surfers, search engines might interpret the hidden texts as a spamming attempt.

Another way to create hidden text is to provide enhancements for visually impaired people. If a lot of text on your website can only be seen by screen reader software and not by regular web surfers then some search engines might misinterpret this as spamming.

How can Google discover hidden text on your web pages?

It's relatively easy for Google to find out if your website contains hidden text. However, it's difficult to find out whether a page uses hidden text for legitimate reasons or not.

Google's spam filters might be applied to your website if the following happens:

  • The hidden content contains keywords that are unrelated to the rest of your content.

  • The hidden text contains too many keywords. If a large part of your web page content is hidden, your website might look suspicious.

  • You overuse "legitimate" ways to hide text on your web pages. This might flag your site for a human review.

  • One of your competitors reports your site to Google because he detected spam techniques on your site.

Google won't ban your site if you use hidden text in a way that appears to be legitimate. They try to detect intent. Don't try to cheat search engines. If you use ethical search engine optimization methods then you don't risk getting banned from the search results.

2. Search engine news of the week

61 billion searches conducted worldwide in August

"More than 750 million people age 15 and older – or 95 percent of the worldwide Internet audience – conducted 61 billion searches worldwide in August, an average of more than 80 searches per searcher. [...]

Google Sites ranked as the top worldwide search property in August with 37.1 billion searches conducted. [...] Yahoo! Sites ranked second with 8.5 billion searches, while Baidu.com, a Chinese language search engine, followed in third place with more than 3.2 billion searches."

Google wins in blind search test

"Participants could try out three unidentified search engines and vote which had the best results. The results are in and 51 percent of the more than 2,000 people who voted said Google had the best results. That was followed by 35 percent for Live Search and 30 percent for Yahoo."

It seems that Google has fixed the proxy hijacking problem

"That is indeed very sweet news. I am not seeing any proxy sites either right now - but there have been many sites affected, so I hope we hear from more people. If Google has indeed fixed this issue, it can only be a good thing for them and for webmasters."

Search engine newslets
  • Google releases video filtering system.
  • Google updates Linux version of Desktop.
  • Take a look at the Google vanity ring.
  • Yahoo Site Explorer showing different counts for registered vs. non-registered user.
  • Pay me or I'll link to you.
  • EU privacy verdict on Google set for new year.
  • GOOG-411 graduates from Labs.
3. Articles of the week
Is Google backing off from universal search?

"Google's SERP appears to have reverted to its old, text-heavy format. Google's defenders will certainly claim that it's merely tweaking its algorithm again, but I'd venture a guess that Google has quietly concluded that Universal Search is a bust."

Google skimps on its own advertising

"Like a gourmet chef who rarely eats out, Google Inc. feeds advertising services to hordes of other businesses while skimping on its own marketing. [...]

The Mountain View-based company believes its austere approach will become more common as major advertisers learn to deploy technology to target consumers."

Some grumble that Google isn't model citizen

"Some residents worry about how disconnected Google seems from the community. The company occupies a private oasis on the other side of Highway 101 from downtown. The city has installed more traffic lights and is considering adding more sidewalks and bicycle lanes on highway overpasses to accommodate Googlers who might want to head downtown. [...]

In many ways, founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin have built the Independent Republic of Google within Mountain View's borders."

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4. Recommended resources

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Since then, my young company has risen to the fabled 'Number 1 spot in Google' in Australia; and on the first page of google for the rest of the world, for our primary keyphrase, as well as many other important keywords & phrases.

The increase in visitors and sales have been phenomenal - thanks IBP! Your software really does turn SEO dreams into reality."
Jane Cocks, Director, Master Arts on Canvas

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