12- Sep2017
Posted By: DPadmin
159 Views

Everything You Need to Know About Hidden Text & SEO

Hidden text, with the goal of manipulating Google’s algorithm, can get you penalized. However, here are a few valid reasons to hide content.

Hidden text is one of the oldest tricks in the SEO handbook. If you’re hoping hidden text will somehow boost your SEO efforts, you’ll quickly discover this outdated tactic is ineffective.

Back in the day, when search engines were much less sophisticated, you could hide text on webpages in an attempt to gain ranking for certain keywords not visible on the page. You could also hide links on other websites linking back to the page you wanted to gain ranking.

Also known as “content cloaking,” this tactic used to be work because, even though the text is hidden to users, search engines could still crawl it. But that’s no longer the case – search engines are much more sophisticated and better at detecting spammy tactics.

Why Hide Text?

The reasons for using hidden text, and how it is implemented, can vary.

Here are a few reasons why some SEO professionals use this tactic.

Including Keywords They Can’t Show to the Public

For instance, competitor names. In the attempt to rank for competitor brand terms, these keywords can’t be added due to legal compliance, corporate marketing policies, or stealthy SEO approaches.

There are also SEOs who use incorrectly spelled keywords and cloak them because it won’t look appropriate – and to put it bluntly, just appears wrong – if you use them on a post.

Keyword Spamming the Page

Some SEO professionals believe that increasing the keyword count on a page can help rank that keyword. This may have been an effective strategy in the ancient SEO ages (late ’90s to early 2000s) but not today.

Hiding Links

Links are still strong ranking factors. Many sites used to get links from other sites that were hidden. These links were hidden because often times they were unrelated to the content on the site where they were posted.

Sometimes, the links are added on the sites that are owned by the same company, or owned by a partner that has predefined this relationship. Other times, sites are hacked to be able to add the links; this is not only bad for SEO, but is also illegal.

Google doesn’t like these methods of optimization because they aren’t focused on improving ranking based on quality content; instead SEOs are merely trying to get around the search engine’s algorithm.

Over the years, Google has improved its capability of determining if and where hidden content exists.

If, for some reason, your hidden content gets past Google’s sophisticated crawler without detection, the quality of the hidden content or hidden links are often not good enough that they may still be ranked very low. Additionally, Google has manual reviewers whose sole task is to manually check websites for these kind of things and penalize the sites accordingly.

Valid Reasons to Use Hidden Text

Google uses various methods to determine whether hidden content exists on a site, but they also allow other forms of hidden content. Here are a few valid reasons to hide content:

Part of Navigational Elements

Too many links in the screen can be overwhelming so drop down menus, multiple hierarchy menus, accordion navigation, tabbed menus, slider menus, etc. are used to keep the page from appearing cluttered.

Content is hidden from the user in the initial page load. Techniques like using a display:none property in CSS, controlled by JavaScript, can make the initial load hidden to users; hovering over or clicking on various page elements allow the hidden content to appear.

The main rule here is that it should be visually obvious to users how the hidden content should appear. An arrow, a button, a link that can be obviously found by users to display the hidden content is valid to use without any negative SEO implications. The intent to hide the content is related to the user experience and avoiding clutter on the page.

Paid Content Subscription

Google allows websites that offer paid subscription to hide content and even honors the First Click Free method of cloaking. This means that upon the initial visit from Google, you will see the content; but on the second visit to the page, the content no longer appears, instead you will need to login and often pay to view the content.

The intent here is to just give a sample preview of what a paid subscription of a publisher has to offer.

Elements of the Pages Designed for Mobile & Desktop

Responsive sites change and adjust based on the dimensions of a page. Once a certain width limit is reached, some page elements can disappear and some appear, but in the source code they were all there at the same time but are temporarily hidden. This is done for usability purposes and Google is aware of these different viewport formats and doesn’t penalize your site for it if the intent appears to really be for proper mobile and desktop user experience.

Graceful Degradation

Some developers prepare their sites for the optimal user experience with advance web browsers and old web browsers. They ensure that – if the browser doesn’t support images, JavaScript, or CSS – this content will still render properly. However, to enable this capability, sometimes the content for the old web browsers need to be hidden on the new web browsers.

This also applies to cases in which these features are disabled on a browser and when the page can’t load simply due to bandwidth constraints. Search engines may see both pieces of content but as long as the content that appears on a degraded view is exactly the same as the content on the normal view, there shouldn’t be a problem.

The common trend in these four situations: the intent to hide content was never related to trying to game the algorithm in an attempt to improve search engine ranking.

How Hidden Text is Created & Ways to Detect It

Same Colored Text and Background

White text on white background is one of the oldest methods and easiest to detect. Simply highlighting the page can expose this text with a CTRL+A or you can always check the source code.

Disabling CSS can also expose this but using old school font color attributes of the HTML 4 <font> tag will still hide the content since it doesn’t use CSS.

CSS Hidden Text

CSS can hide content in numerous ways, like using the properties display:nonevisibility:hidden, height:0width:0text-spacing:-1000, etc. These can be easily exposed by disabling CSS or simply viewing the source code.

JavaScript can control these properties so it is also advisable to disable JavaScript as well to view any hidden content. If you do not know how to disable CSS, you can use the Web Developer Toolbar by Chris Pedrick.

User Agent Detection

Server side scripting languages (like PHP, ASP/.net, JSP, Cold a Fusion, Perl, Node.JS, etc) that detect user-agents would normally be used to determine the web browser you are using. These  can also be used to detect the search engine bots. When Googlebot, or other search engines, are detected, a different version of the page is sent. When viewed in the source code, you cannot even see the hidden content. The only way to identify if this type of content exists is to change your browser’s user agent to mimic a search engine bot. There are many web browser plugins you can install to help change the web browsers user agent and pretend to be a search engine.

IP Address Detection

Similar to the user agent detection, the IP address is detected instead. Each request to a web page comes from an IP address and there are some known IP addresses of search engines where server side scripting can also be used to determine if the visitor is a search engine crawler. This can be done by using Google Translate, or looking at Google cache. The latter detection method will not work if the cloaking page uses the Meta Noarchive tag. This method also become problematic for the developer cloaking the content because it is hard to find a very complete list of IP addresses that search engines use.

Reverse and Forward DNS Detection

IP addresses can be spoofed. So the most sophisticated way to cloak content is to reverse and forward DNS detection. Ironically, Google and Bing/Yahoo will tell you how to do this. The reason why you can find this information from search engines is because of the valid reasons to cloak content, like when implementing the first click free for paid content subscriptions. Similarly, for you to check if content is hidden this way, you can use Google translate.

What to Do When a Competitor Uses Hidden Text

Google is pretty good, but still not always perfect. Once in awhile you will see a high ranking page, outranking your site and they have hidden content everywhere.

What can you do about it? Google has a page to report this, the Google spam report page.

Just because you reported it, does not mean it’s going down. This will be reviewed by their manual reviewers and if they find the page hiding the content on purpose to gain some ranking advantage, the page can get penalized in Google. If they find the same issues occur across many sites, it may lead to an algorithm update in the future.

Source: Everything You Need to Know About Hidden Text & SEO

29- Jun2017
Posted By: DPadmin
139 Views

SEO Best Practices For Every Page On Your Site

 

teachers-blackboardIn terms of getting the best search rankings, you can broadly break your SEO efforts into two areas: site-wide optimisation and optimising individual pages. Today we’re going to focus on the second of these two subjects, looking at how to maximise the search ranking of every page you publish.

By following the steps in this guide, the individual pages on your site will earn more exposure, generate a higher volume of leads and contribute to better rankings across the rest of your site.

The challenge of creating ‘quality’ content

The phrase “quality content” is used so much these days that it’s lost all meaning. So, to be clear, for your content to be considered quality by search engines and people it must be two things: valuable and discoverable.

Valuable content provides information people actually need and discoverable content is easily accessible when people need it most. Hitting this sweet spot of providing the right information at the crucial moment is a real challenge but one we need to overcome in the age of micro-moment marketing.

image: http://cdn2.business2community.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/m-m.png

Think with Google: micro moments best practices
Source: Think with Google

The key is to understand the consumer journey of your target audiences and the role each of your pages plays along the way. This tells you the kind of information users need from each page and the kind of conversion goal you should be targeting.

10 steps to follow

Your next big challenge is creating unique content on every page you publish, which can be particularly difficult for services pages. When you have five, ten or any number of services to promote, how do you make every page unique and valuable?

Follow these SEO best practices steps to get you started:

  1. Introduce the service
  2. Differentiate from similar services (eg: SEO vs PPC)
  3. Make the unique benefits and selling points of each service clear
  4. Identify questions users will have and provide answers
  5. Explain which kind of clients use this service and what you’ve done for them
  6. Consider testimonials, case studies and social proof specific to this service
  7. Use visual content to reinforce your message
  8. Have a prominent, compelling call-to-action
  9. Provide access to further information for users who aren’t ready to commit yet
  10. Direct users to another service page if this isn’t the one that meets their needs

Try to be as specific as possible with each of your service pages, otherwise you’ll find they all end up being very similar. You need to make it perfectly clear why this is the service your visitors need and, if it isn’t, make it obvious where they should go next.

Multimedia ranking factors

It’s widely accepted that Google and other search engines take multimedia content into consideration when ranking pages. Humans are visually stimulated creatures and search engines know images, video and other visuals are the perfect way to spice up a page full of text.

Strong visual content is also more engaging than text, which can reduce indirect ranking factors like bounce rate, time on page, number of pages visited, etc.

image: http://cdn2.business2community.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/b2c-content-priorities.png

Top Priorities fir B2C Content Creators

Source: Content Marketing Institute

So visuals are important to people and search engines alike, but the same old issue of quality/value comes into play. A bunch of naff stock images aren’t going to engage people and reduce those indirect ranking factors.

Aside from this you also need to optimise your visual content so search engines can recognise them and also reduce the negative impact on performance. This starts by using the right format for images so make sure you understand the difference between JPEG, PNG and other images file types.

Hopefully, you’re well aware by now that Flash is a no-no and HTML5 video is the way to go. Here are some other things to consider:

  • Relevance is still important for videos
  • Engagement metrics like views, comments, shares, etc. have an impact
  • Metadata tells search engines what your video is about
  • Keywords are believed to also have an impact

With video content there’s always the question of hosting the video on your site or embedding via YouTube. While embedding YouTube videos can by boost engagement metrics (views, shares, etc.) you could be taking ranking points away from your page by hosting your video elsewhere. So, in the case of service pages, it’s probably best to create highly specific videos and host them on that service page only. This way all the SEO points go to that page and nowhere else.

In term of performance, speed is your biggest enemy with visual content. Optimise your images and videos to reduce file sizes as much as you can without hurting quality too much. Also think about content delivery networks (CDNs), web caching and optimise your code for the best possible speed.

Also, don’t underestimate the importance of your hosting provider/package when it comes to speed and performance.

Make your visual content discoverable

As mentioned earlier, even the best content is useless until search engines and people are able to find it at the key moment. This is more challenging with visual content because search engines can’t watch videos or see infographics, which means you need to give them a helping hand.

  • Avoid loading content with AJAX (Google still has trouble crawling this)
  • Create descriptive descriptions with relevant keywords
  • Optimise your titles and meta descriptions where possible (not every image can have a title, of course)
  • Consider transcriptions for your video content
  • Use descriptive captions
  • Avoid infographics with no written content (similar to transcriptions)

The key is to provide context with your visuals so search engines can understand the purpose they serve to users.

Write for users, optimise for search engines

We’ve already spoken about creating content that meets user needs, answers their questions and provides value. This is your priority for every page you publish. Write for users first and then optimise for search engines – once again, to make your pages discoverable and prove their relevance.

Here are the SEO essentials for on-page optimisation:

  • Descriptive titles in H1 tags, including your target keyword
  • Descriptive page URL with keyword included
  • Correct formatting with subheadings (in H2, H3 tags, etc.) including keywords if they’re relevant/useful
  • Meta data, Schema and rich snippets where relevant
  • Inbound and outbound links to/from other relevant pages on your site (internal linking)
  • Optimised visuals for performance and discoverability
  • Mobile optimisation
  • Fast loading times

There are a few things on that list that we haven’t covered in-depth yet so let’s go into some more detail about meta data, URLs and the remaining on-page essentials.

Writing effective meta data

Meta data is a subject that causes a lot of confusion because it has little-to-no impact on how search engines rank your pages. However, users still see much of this information on results pages, meaning it has a direct impact on how many people click-through to your site.

Optimising your title tags

The title tags determine what users see as the blue headline text of your search results. Here’s an example of what this looks like on a listing for Search Engine Watch:

image: http://cdn2.business2community.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/title-tags-sew.jpg

Google search result with title tag highlightedFor this page the HTML title will look like this:

<title>Title Tags Guide | Good & Bad Examples | Search Engine Watch</title>

This is a common formula for optimising title tags: Keyword #1 | Keyword #2 | Brand name. However, this approach is outdated now because it doesn’t provide the most descriptive title for users trying to find the most relevant result to their query.

Here are some best practices to keep in mind:

  • Be descriptive: Your priority with title tags is to accurately describe the content users will see on the other side. You want the highest number of clicks vs the lowest possible bounce rate – and this means compelling but accurate title tags.
  • Aim for queries, not keywords: Placing keywords in your title tags won’t help you rank higher but matching a user’s search query will tell them your page has what they’re looking for.
  • Include your brand name: Users are more likely to click results from brands they recognise so it’s still good practice to include your brand name in title tags.
  • Be mindful of length: Search engines tend to give you 50-60 characters (or 512 pixels more specifically) and everything after this will be cut off. Ideally, you want your full title to be visible but don’t obsess over this. Be mindful of length but focus on creating titles that will generate the most clicks.

Meta descriptions

Once again, meta descriptions have no impact on where you rank but they give users vital information about what your page contains. Much like your page titles, these only appear in search results, not your actual pages. Their role is simply to give users more information about what they can expect to gain from clicking on your listing.

image: http://cdn2.business2community.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/meta-desc-sew.jpg

Google search result with meta description highlightedIn the listing above, Search Engine Watch aims to get people clicking by matching the questions they have in mind within their meta description. It may not be the most readable of descriptions but it provides a lot of information about what users can expect to find on the page. They’ve also squeezed a number of potential queries into that description, which will show up in bold when users search for them.

This approach won’t be ideal for all meta descriptions but it’s a good example of the things you need to consider when creating your own:

  • Be descriptive
  • Include search queries
  • Make it readable
  • Get users excited about clicking through
  • Focus on the value your page has to offer
  • Aim for a maximum of 150-160 characters

Think of meta descriptions as a mini sales pitch about why people should click through to your site. Every page you create should have a clear, concise goal and this where you get to put this message across to searchers in a short sentence or two.

Create amazing URLs

The final key element in our trio of meta data essentials is your page URLs. The reason URLs were created in the first place was to provide users with a descriptive version of web addresses – otherwise we’d be typing in a bunch of IP addresses to access everything online.

image: http://cdn2.business2community.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/meta-url-sew.jpg

Google search result with URL highlightedThis is important because it basically tells you everything you need to know about URLs. Like the rest of your meta data, they should be descriptive for users – and this is something many brands have forgotten over the years.

Generally speaking, the shorter and more descriptive your URLs are, the better experience they provide for users. Here are some things to consider:

  • Cut out unnecessary words: Stay true to your page titles and/or headings with URLs but feel free to cut out unnecessary words.
  • Forget punctuation: There’s no place for question marks, commas or any other punctuation in URLs.
  • Stop words can be ok: Stop words (the, and, or, when, how, etc.) are generally considered unnecessary but it’s fine to use them if you think they make your URL more meaningful.
  • Use hyphens: Separate words in your URLs with hyphens (“-”) as these are considered more readable. Avoid underscores (“_”), spaces and any other special characters to separate words.
  • Target search queries: This one keeps coming up with every piece of meta data we look at – and for good reason.
  • Avoid dynamic parameters: These make URLs incredibly long and unreadable.

That last point is a tricky one, because many brands want to use dynamic parameters to track user journeys across their websites. The problem is they make a real mess of URLs and it’s not only search engine results pages where this can cause problems. Users are also left with a mess when they try to bookmark your page or if they try to remember the URL of your site/specific page.

Bringing it all together

A few years ago, the idea that content marketing was the new SEO became popular in the industry. This was largely due to Google’s Hummingbird update that put less emphasis on keywords and more on matching context between search queries and content. And, while it’s true content is the most important part of your SEO strategy, ignoring the more technical side of optimising your pages is a mistake – especially with loading times and other performance factors becoming increasingly influential in search rankings.

As businesses invest more time and money into creating content it would be a shame if your efforts fall short because your pages aren’t as discoverable as they could be. So pay attention to the smaller aspects of on-page optimisation best practices and give your content the best opportunity to make things happen.

Source: SEO Best Practices For Every Page On Your Site