Previously, the SEO analysts at Radd Interactive explained the different kinds of Google manual actions & penalties. Now it’s time to take a closer look at one kind of manual action penalty – or rather, one penalty that deals with two different kinds of content. Let’s explore hidden text and keyword stuffing.
First, a refresher on these two terms.
Hidden text is text that’s targeting Google’s search engine algorithms but is hidden from the user. Putting white text on a white background, burying text in the source code – these techniques may add valuable keywords to the website, but if the user can’t read the related text you aren’t going to get any points from Google. A decade or so ago, this was a viable SEO strategy! As Google’s algorithms have gotten more complex and sophisticated, though, this way of getting keywords on the page has fallen out of fashion. With Google’s increased focus on user experience, text that looks to game the algorithm at the user’s expense is definitely frowned-upon.
(Don’t worry about text that may be initially hidden from the user but revealed later – website elements like drop-down menus aren’t considered hidden text by Google’s algorithms.)
Keyword stuffing also attempts to reach the algorithm and not the user. Unlike hidden text, however, text that has been keyword stuffed is immediately obvious to the reader – with keyword stuffing, your keywords are present in the text so many times that they become overwhelming and create an unpleasant reading experience. This may happen when spinning software is involved – that is, a program that takes content already available on a website and “spins it” to create new-looking content. Mostly, this just makes gibberish! You may think it’s valuable gibberish – after all, it gets your keyword on the website – but if your content isn’t user-friendly Google won’t do it any favors. You’re more likely to be punished for excessive use of your keywords than praised for it.
So your website has been flagged for hidden text or keyword stuffing. Now what? Well, the solution is obvious: delete the content! For hidden text, this may require going into the source code of your website to find blocks of text that have been added in secret places. It’s possible that your website was hacked, and the hidden text was added maliciously – be sure to be thorough when you’re looking through your code and take precautions that your website is secure once you’ve scoured it for hidden content.
For keyword stuffing, the solution is easier – your content should be visible right there on your page, so delete it from any pages that Google has flagged. To go above and beyond, you can look into all of the pages on your website and clear out any content that looks keyword-stuffed or spammy. This will keep your website from being flagged later for the same penalty, which would be bad news.
Don’t forget to document your cleanup process! While you’re clearing out your spammy text, keep a log: what you found, where you found it, and how and when you fixed it. Also explain how this ended up on your website in the first place – was it rogue SEO? was your website hacked? did your CMS have a bug? – and how you’re going to stop it from happening again.
If your website was full of keyword-stuffed content and is now freed of it, you’ll need new content! Check out our article on Thin Content to learn more about what to write and how to write it so that Google’s algorithms recognize that your content is benefiting user experience instead of taking away from it. Once hidden text is cleared off of your website and your content has an appropriate amount of keywords, you’re all set and free of the penalty!
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