Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Hidden Text (Revisited)

Just over a year ago I posted on the dangers of hidden text and concluded with the advice “…don’t use hidden text to try to improve your rankings“.

Here is a practical example of what may happen if you do.

Yesterday John Frost who runs the very popular Disney Blog posted that his blog had been delisted from the Google index and sure enough it had:


Such is the power of popular blogs that within a couple of hours of John’s plea for help their was an explanation and a resolution from none other than Google Engineer and spam fighter in chief, Matt Cutts. He explains in a diplomatic and friendly comment that hidden text was responsible for the ban. Specifically this page code:

<h2 id=”banner-description”>Informing Disney Fans the World Over with the latest news and updates from all Disney companies, divisions, and related stories. Disney World, Disneyland, Disney Cruises, Disney Animation, Pixar, ESPN, and more are covered in as much detail as I can muster.</h2>

With this in the external CSS file:

overflow: hidden;
width: 0;
height: 0;
margin: 0;
padding: 0;
text-indent: -1000em;

As it happens this appears to be a generic Typepad problem in that when you set up a Typepad blog you are asked to enter a Weblog description which ends up being hidden by the CSS. However after Matt had pointed it out and John had removed the text, Matt helpfully submitted a reinclusion request.

Matt has gone off to talk to Six Apart the Typepad developers and The Disney Blog will be back in the index sometime next week.

The moral of the story is still the same – don’t use hidden text to try to improve your rankings.

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Wednesday, May 3, 2017

What are keywords?

Keywords or keyphrases are the search terms that a user types into a search engine text box in order to find information relevant to their search. For example if you search Google for |chess| you will see something like this:

This is called the Search Engine Result Page or SERP and Google tries to put the most relevant result first, then the next and so on. What you see is the top ten results out of, (in this case) over 24 million pages ranked in order of relevance.

Google can’t know if the user is looking for something more specific like for example; chess sets, chess clubs or the rules of chess, so the results will be a broad range of pages related to chess in some way.

A user seeking a chess club in Chicago is more likely to search for |chess club chicago| in which case they would see something like this:


Notice how for this more specific search the number of candidate pages has gone down from over 24 million to around 1.8 million. As Google says “Choosing the right search terms is the key to finding the information you need”.

The obvious corollary for site owners is that choosing the right keywords to optimize for is the key to maximising the number of visitors and conversions (the percentage of visitors who take a desired action like buy a product or subscribe to a newsletter). In general the higher you are in the SERPs the more visitors you will have and the more specific the keywords the higher the conversion.

Users search in different ways with different words and site owners need to know what these keywords and phrases are for their particular business.

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