Hide (and Shrink) Keywords - dummies

By Peter Kent

Another old (and very crude) trick for cheating search engine optimization is to hide text; that is, to hide it from the site visitor but make it visible to the search engine, allowing you to fill a simple page with keywords for the sake of search engine optimization. (Remember that search engines don’t want you to show them content that isn’t also visible to the site visitor.)

This trick, often combined with keyword stuffing, involves placing large amounts of text into a page and hiding it from view. For instance, this page was found in Google some time ago. It has hidden text at the bottom of the page.


If you suspect that someone has hidden text on a page, you can often make it visible by clicking inside text at the top of the page and dragging the mouse to the bottom of the page to highlight everything in between. You can also look in the page’s source code.

How did this designer make the text disappear? At the bottom of the source code (choose View→Source), is this:

<FONT SIZE=7 COLOR="#ffffff"><H6>glucosamine glucosamine glucosamine
glucosamine glucosamine emu oil emu oil emu oil kyolic kyolic kyolic
wakunaga wakunaga wakunaga</H6></FONT>

Notice the COLOR=#ffffff piece; #ffffff is hexadecimal color code for the color white. The page background is white, so — abracadabra — the text disappears.

Surprisingly, this trick is still employed now and then.

  • It may help. The trick actually can work, though not nearly as often as it used to.

  • It might not hurt. You still find pages using this trick, so clearly the search engines don’t always find it.

  • . . . but it might. But search engines do discover the trick, frequently, and may penalize your site for doing it. The page may get dropped from the index, or you may have your entire site dropped.

  • So why do it? It’s just way too risky . . . and unnecessary, too.

Here are some other tricks used for hiding text from the visitor while still making it visible to the search engine:

  • Placing text inside <NOFRAMES> tags: Some designers do this even if the page isn’t a frame-definition document.

  • Placing text inside <NOSCRIPT> tags: <NOSCRIPT></NOSCRIPT> tags are used to put text on a page that can be read by browsers that don’t work with JavaScript. Some site owners use them to give more text to the search engines to read, and the major search engines often do read this text, or at least they did a few years ago.

    However, the text inside these tags probably isn’t given as much weight as other text on a page, and over time will probably be given less and less weight.

  • Using hidden fields: Sometimes designers hide words in a form’s hidden field (<INPUT TYPE=HIDDEN>).

  • Using hidden layers: Style sheets can be used to position a text layer underneath the visible layer or outside the browser. This trick is quite common and probably hard for search engines to figure out.

Some web designers still stuff keywords into a page by using a very small font size. This trick is another one that search engines may look for and penalize.

Here’s another variation: Some web designers make the text color just a little different from the background color to make it hard for the browser to catch. However, the text remains invisible, especially if it’s at the bottom of the page preceded by several blank lines. Search engines can look for ranges of colors to determine whether this trick is being employed.

And remember, it’s not just the search engines looking, it’s your competitors, too. They might just report you.

A variation on the old hidden-text trick is to hide links. Links provide important clues to search engines about the site’s purpose. They also provide a way for search engines to discover pages. Thus, some web designers create links that are specifically for search engines to find but are not intended for site visitors.

Links can be made to look exactly like all the other text on a page or may even be hidden on punctuation marks — visitors are unlikely to click a link on a period, so the link can be made “invisible,” allowing a search engine to discover a page that the site visitor will never see.

Links may be placed in transparent images or invisible layers, in small images, or in <NOFRAMES><NOSCRIPT> tags or may be hidden in any of the ways discussed previously for hiding ordinary text.

But, what’s the point? There are so many legitimate things you can do in SEO, why bother with something like this?