Mueller Explains The Bigger Issue In Using CSS To Hide Internal Links
In a Google SEO Office Hours hangout, John Mueller of Google addressed a question about internal SEO links in the footer. He said that it’s not an issue about getting SEO penalties for having too many hidden internal links; rather, it’s more of a problem with site improvement.
That is somewhat perplexing since, in the past, hidden links have been regarded as a serious problem.
Hiding Links Is Not Cloaking
The person asking the question appeared to have a misconception about what cloaking meant, as they used it to describe internal links that were hidden using CSS. This is accomplished by applying the CSS display property to an HTML element, which instructs it to be hidden from the page while maintaining the layout. The display:none CSS declaration may be applied to any web page to conceal links.
The individual asking the question was concerned about a new client who was presumably hiding links on the website. They were surprised that the site was able to avoid Google issuing a penalty for at least nine months by hiding links in the footer.
The person was also concerned that the customer would be unmotivated to address the hidden connections because they had been there for so long, and the site hadn’t been penalised. They needed answers to their questions concerning the lack of punishment and whether they should solve the problem right away.
Hiding An Internal Link Isn’t The Same As Cloaking
Mueller asked the SEO what sort of cloaking was involved, and they explained that the client concealed internal links with CSS in the footer. Mueller responded by saying that hiding links is not considered cloaking.
“Cloaking” refers to displaying one type of content to Google (for ranking purposes) while hiding the real thing from users. Cloaking, as it is commonly known, is the process of concealing the actual information from Google by using a script that detects when Googlebot comes and changes the content to something else. That’s cloaking in a nutshell. So, Mueller initially stated that the person’s query was regarding the hidden internal links rather than cloaking.
Mueller responded that Google’s webspam team would likely not be concerned about a website hiding their SEO links in the footer with CSS.
He noted that Google is typically against it, but he doesn’t expect the webspam team to take action on it. This is because, when it comes to internal links like these, they have a very small impact on the website as a whole.
The second thing that he mentioned was that it would be more difficult if the customer were purchasing links elsewhere and then hiding them. That would be a problem; Google’s algorithms could pick up on it, or the webspam team might take a closer look at it.
Spam Team Won’t Take Action For Hidden Internal Links
According to Mueller, the Google webspam team would probably not penalise websites just because they had hidden internal links.
However, he acknowledged that he doesn’t think it’s a good idea either. If a site owner or publisher considers a link to be critical, it should be visible to visitors. But the webspam team won’t take action and delete the site or do anything crazy like that.
Hidden Links Are An Opportunity To Improve The Site
The individual who asked the question followed up by asking if Mueller was telling him to leave the site as it is.
Mueller said he wouldn’t leave things as they are. Instead, he’d see it as an opportunity to try to make things better in the long run. If the owner of a website thinks that it is a vital link to an important page, they should be honest about it.
There may be a number of reasons for that; maybe users will use it as well, or perhaps if users aren’t concerned about it, it isn’t really a vital link. But he wouldn’t consider it something that needed to be fixed right away.
The Value Of Re-framing Question Around Site Visitors
For addressing SEO challenges, Mueller advises reflecting on the impact it has on the website visitors.
If links on a web page aren’t useful to visitors, they probably aren’t helpful for SEO. The reason the links are hidden is that the site owner fears that they might hamper web conversions. The links are obscured so that consumers can focus on making a purchase.
That page is about selling a product, so internal links to other items may not be entirely relevant for SEO. However, if they are relevant to visitors, then they may be useful for SEO. Identifying whether something is advantageous for SEO is frequently resolved by asking how it affects site visits.
Another interesting finding is that the webspam team isn’t overly concerned with hidden internal links. It appears to be more about bad insight into what’s best for SEO rather than breaking the rules at the expense of Google’s algorithm.
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