The reason behind why I wrote this post is to inform you about the negative impact of this type of hidden content. It can adversely affect your search engine ranking. Many of you are not aware of this negative impact.
Google’s representative came out and clearly mentioned that “In the mobile-first world, content hidden for UX should have full weight”
@schachin no, in the mobile-first world content hidden for ux should have full weight
— Gary Illyes ᕕ( ᐛ )ᕗ (@methode) November 5, 2016
According to this statement, there is no negative impact of hidden content on SEO or search engine rankings. But while working with a 12 Million pages’ website, I observed that there’s still some disadvantages for the websites hiding content behind tabs or accordions.
Though the impact is very small, but when it comes to online marketing or online business, every small thing matters. If doing small tweaks and changes to the webpage can help you in achieving that small positive bump in your efforts, then it’s worth doing.
Let’s know something about hidden content…
What is Hidden Content for Google?
In Google’s point of view, if the content or a piece of content is not directly accessible to the user, then that content is “Hidden Content”. In other words, if the content is only accessible after clicking tab or link or performing some activity, then that is hidden content.
Some blogger or publishers also hide content by using “share to unlock content” plugins in their WordPress website. So, the content is not accessible until you share their post or like their Facebook page.
Also, if publishers are trying to add content or add / stuff keywords using CSS hiding trick or using the same font colour as the webpage and other shady stuff, then even that is hidden content. This is a dangerous way to hide content and can lead to serious ranking issues. You can even get a manual penalty for doing this black hat activity.
All these tricks of hiding content can drop your position in SERP. Let’s know more about Hidden content and SEO…
Tabbed Content and Its Negative Impact on SEO:
Google is not punishing sites with hidden tabbed content, but Google is discarding the content behind tabs.
What is Tabbed Content?
Tabbed Content is a piece of information which is obtainable only after clicking on the tab. In other words, tabbed content is a content which is “Hidden” behind tabs and it is accessible only when someone clicks on the tab.
You can see the example below.
Generally, big publishers use this method to give information only if asked (in this case, information is shown only if the tab is clicked).
Mostly, you will find this type of structure on e-commerce websites. Information other than the main product description is behind tabs on many or almost all the e-commerce stores.
I used to like, and I still like to use Tabs because it gives more mobile friendly experience. But I avoid using them because of its negative impact on search engine ranking.
Another method used by e-commerce websites and many other publishers is accordions. Mostly FAQ pages use accordions. See the example below.
People also use “Click to Know More” and “Read More” links. On clicking these links, you can see additional content.
So, you cannot use Tabs and Accordions?
No, it is not like that! You can use Tabs & Accordions on your page, but there are certain points to consider before using it.
You should not use Tabs and accordions for primary content (important content) of your webpage. Google understands that you are hiding content from the visitors on your site, and might not rank your page for that content which is hidden from the users.
This means, you can use Tabs and Accordions on your webpage, but make sure that you are not adding your primary content behind the tabs.
When is using Tabs a Good Idea?
Yes, sometimes there can be situations where using tabs can be a good idea. But you must smartly use these tabs and accordions in such a way that you get benefit by using it.
As an SEO who work in E-commerce industry or as a Product Review Blogger, many times you have to add the information which is required. Information such as product size, weight, serial number, batch number, warranty period, etc. and more such information which cannot be modified needs to added. This information also sometimes leads to duplicate content issue. So, what you can do is, you can keep all this information on behind the tab or accordions.
Google will ignore or will not give much importance to the hidden content behind the tabs. Which means, you can add that duplicate content, which is required by the manufacturer and cannot be modified, behind the tabs and save yourself from the duplicate content problem.
For Example, your page is about an electric shaver. Make sure all the important info about electric shaver is directly accessible for the users. The Review part, the description, user reviews, using tips, etc. should be directly available to your visitors. And use tabs for additional information which is not so important or is not your primary content.
This way, you can make positive use of Tabbed content and content behind accordions.
Is it fine to Hide content on Mobile but not on Desktop?
No. You should show all your important information on the mobile device. In my opinion, it is better to show complete content on mobile and desktop both.
After Google’s separate mobile index, Google is giving more importance to what you show to your mobile users. Many publishers hide a small part of their content on mobile, either by using tabs or by using CSS and show full content on desktop devices. Generally, this is done to improve the user experience for visitors using mobile devices.
Hence, the content directly visible on the mobile devices without any hindrance, will be considered as the primary content. So, make sure you are not doing this with your website or blog. All your important/primary content should be visible and accessible directly to your visitors using mobile devices.
Do not hide your content using the black hat tactics. It will get you penalized.
If you are using Tabs on your web page, make sure you are not adding important content behind it. Otherwise, you will never rank for the content hidden behind the tabs.
If “Basketball” is your main keyword, make sure all the important information regarding basketball is directly visible to users. If a large amount of data regarding basketball is behind tabs or accordions, then it is less likely that Google will rank your page for the term “Basketball”.
Make sure you are showing all the important data on mobile devices. Do not hide data on mobile devices and show it on desktop devices. Content available on a mobile device is considered to be primary content.
Google mentioned that there is no negative impact on search ranking if you are hiding content for UX purpose. But I would recommend you to play safely and smartly.
Hope this information helps you. Let me know your opinion in the comment section below.
Disclaimer: All the information shared here is based on my views, experience and knowledge. It may be opposing the information shared by other experts.