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Google, your web site and CSS spam

Hiding content and links in CSS code that is not visible to human web surfers has become popular among webmasters who want to trick search engines.

How does CSS spam work?

CSS (cascading style sheets) allow webmasters to specify the location of a web page element in a web browser. Some webmasters create keyword rich text that is not intended for human web surfers in a CSS element that is not visible to normal surfers.

For search engines, the invisible CSS element looks like a normal part of the web page. As the invisible element contains keyword rich text, search engines might think that the web page is relevant to the keywords mentioned in that text.

Why is CSS spam a bad idea?

Just like any spam technique, CSS spam can lead to good short-term results. However, just like all spam techniques, it's extremely risky to use CSS spam. A new post in the blog of Google's spam fighter Matt Cutts indicates that Google could detect CSS spam at least in some cases:

"[The site] had spam (specifically hidden text) on [the] pages. When Googlebot visited http://www.thepeoplescube.com/Truth.php on Sun, 05 Mar 2006 12:17:12 GMT, the page looked fine to users, but had hidden text."

Using spam techniques puts the success of your your web site at risk. It doesn't matter if you use CSS or any other technique to trick search engines. As soon as search engines find out that you're cheating them, they will ban your site.

What does this mean to your web site?

It's very important that your web site is spam-free. The most common reason why a web site gets banned from Google is spam. If your web pages contain spam elements, it's likely that they'll get banned from Google sooner or later or that they don't get listed at all.

Even if you're not intentionally spamming, make sure that your web pages don't contain hidden text or other spam elements by mistake.

There are better ways to get your web site listed in search engines

Don't try to cheat Google. Focus on your web site visitors and offer them what they need. Your web pages should offer good content and they should be useful to human web surfers.

If you have such a web site and then optimize your pages so that they can be found for your most important search terms then it's very likely that your web site will get high rankings on Google. If your web site has optimized content and good incoming links, then it is very difficult not to get high rankings on Google.

Further information on how to optimize your web pages for Google and other search engines without using spam techniques can be found in our free SEO book.

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March 2006 search engine articles