Can Invisible Text in CSSs Slip Under Search Engine Radar?

I'm literally inundated with questions on the subject of invisible text & hosting so in I thought I'd debunk some myths and give you the facts straight up.

What is invisible text? Invisible text is the body text that's the same or similar color to the background. You know, the stuff you can very easily see on a page if you press Ctrl-A or highlight everything on the page with your left mouse button.

Will invisible text hurt your search engine rankings? Undoubtedly! If you attempt to use the same color text as the background color of your web pages the search engines will penalize you.

Why? The use of invisible text is commonly considered black hat seo by the search engines and a blatant spam tactic. If your visitors can't see or read the text then what good is it anyway? It's deceptive period.

Trust Google when they say in their Quality Guidelines & Specific recommendations to avoid hidden text or hidden links.

http://www.google.com/webmasters/guidelines.html

Now here's why this topic is so interesting? and I know you're saying, why should I worry or care about invisible text if I've never used any on my web site? Well the answer is simple.

You may be hosting invisible text on your website right now & not even know it. In fact you were never intended to know it... That's why it's invisible!

WHAT? Yes... you may be getting duped!

So just what exactly am I talking about? I'm talking about your hosting company (usually the free ones) leeching your Google PageRank & building link popularity for their clients off your web pages & bandwidth. If you don't think they do it? guess again. It's a lucrative business.

Now with that said I'm not going to name or badmouth any specific hosting service. What I am going to do is tell you how to determine if you're an unsuspecting victim.

Here's an invaluable tool to help you detect search engine spam penalties!

http://tool.motoricerca.info/spam-detector/

Secondly, double-check your cached pages to see what the search engine robots actually see when they index your page. Look for additional links & advertising in the source code that isn't in your original source code.

If you find additional advertising or links that aren't on your current pages? your host MAY be killing your search engine rankings. The simple solution to this problem is to immediately transfer your domain to a trusted service provider.

Now let's talk about the invisible text you can't see at all on a page. Yes, you could still be hosting invisible text. Even if you press Ctrl-A or highlight everything on the page with your left mouse button & nothing shows up!

Just for the record you'll find some content management programs employing this very technique. Imagine my surprise when I discovered my PageRank 5 realty site had two sets of Meta keywords on my pages, easily seen when I view Google's cached versions....

I was choked... especially since their user agreement didn't disclose this fact!

Is using invisible text in cascading style sheets good? Nope!

There's a new school of thought claiming you can use an alternative cascading style sheet (CSS) approach to placing invisible text on your web pages without penalty.

The theory is predicated on the premise that you could employ an external style sheet in another directory. There you' d simply define a special class for a tag like < P > where the font and background colors are identical.

The claim is there's no way for the current search engines algorithms to distinguish the color codes and penalize you. While this may or may not be the immediate situation it's fundamentally WRONG!

Invisible text is invisible text & it's spam.

Since many invisible text tricks utilize CSS positioning properties to hide their contents, you'll soon see (if not already) the search engines employing advanced algorithms to find hidden text in CSSs.

If you subscribe to the CSS theory you'll undoubtedly be revisiting your strategy or paying later by being blacklisted or removed entirely from the various search engine indexes.

Incidentally, before you roll the dice on this one you might want to consider the fact that the tool I just referred you to is only the beta version and the developer is already planning to add support for identifying invisible text in CSSs! Just how much more advanced and further ahead do you think the search engine techs are?

So what does it all mean to you & what should you do?

1.Check your cached pages for invisible text.

2.If you find Invisible text or advertising determine it's origin

3.Read every user agreement very carefully

4.Take action & do something about removing it!

The bottom line lesson here is simple. Trying fool the search engines with Spammy tricks or hocus pocus schemes has never worked for long in the past. Don't employ unethical spam techniques and don't become an unsuspecting victim yourself.

Copyright 2005 Lawrence Deon

Lawrence Deon is a Search Engine Optimization/Marketing Consultant Author and Developer of the popular search engine optimization and marketing model Ranking Your Way To The Bank. http://www.rankingyourwaytothebank.com

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