More threads by JeffClevelandTN

JeffClevelandTN

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Looking for some feedback on other's experience with using hidden content tabs, (aka "read more" or accordions) and their impact (if any) on organic ranking. For clarification, I'm not referring to hidden text, strictly hidden tabbed content

Because of Google's continued emphasis on mobile-first indexing and other speed/experience factors (e.g. LCP) we've recently been more actively utilizing "read more" buttons and Divi's accordions a lot more frequently on our newly written content that is on the thicker side. We also were planning on implementing this on some older sites for hopefully improved loading times. Besides the benefit of speed improvements, it also helps in many cases with the UX, especially on mobile.

We made this decision after a decent amount of research with what we thought was reasonable evidence Google would not diminish the value of hidden "tabbed" content. But we are seeing instances where our newly written content using hidden tabs (i.e. "read more" and accordions) just doesn't seem to be ranking as well as we would have expected. Which really made me research a bit deeper on what had actually been said about this subject and if there were any comparative research about how hidden tabbed content versus non-tabbed content rank.

So it turns out there really isn't a whole lot out there quoted directly from Google. Back in 2016 Gary Illyes said: "no, in the mobile-first world content hidden for ux should have full weight." I emphasized "should" intentionally. More recently John Mueller said in 2020: Specifically when it comes to content on mobile pages we do take into account anything that’s in the HTML. So if there’s something there that might be visible to users at some point we will include that… so that’s completely normal.” Again, I emphasized the first portion of John's statement.

That is a bit concerning the use of "should have full weight" and "content on mobile pages", which seems to imply it might now have full weight and also it may not apply to desktop. Additionally, I've been a little cautious as some of Mr. Muller's comments occasionally don't hold water.

Therefore, we did a handful of changes and removed the "read more" and accordions on selective pages and just let the copy flow uninterrupted. In those cases, all the pages saw significant ranking improvement pretty much immediately after being indexed. There was no other work done that would have explained this sudden improvement. I then ran across this recent post: Bringing Content Out of Tabs: SEO Split Testing Lessons from SearchPilot

Now we are carefully selecting other pages with hidden tabbed content and will be modifying those too and comparing results.

Would very much appreciate hearing other's feedback and experience on this subject.
 

Conor Treacy

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We strongly recommend the use of accordions on pages/posts and tabs on product pages. Tabs are definitely more common with products.

I don't have any articles that we've written over the years on this, which is odd, but it's rare that we would make any new website for a client and not utilize the accordion. More content on the page for Google and users to read, without it being the dreaded "wall of text".

As far as Mr. Muller, it's rare for him to unequivocally say "yes" or "no", there's always a "it should" or "i don't think" or similar phrases that are used.

With regards to real world examples, I know that the pages that we have created for users are definitely indexing the content within the accordions. FAQs get their extra SCHEMA markup also, and behave in a similar way, but we've found that the content is indexed without issue.

As you said, it's visible text, not hidden text.

Gary Illyes also stated similar to John back in 2018 -

And of course, this all goes back to 2013 when Matt Cutts said something similar too.
 

Justin Mosebach

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Hi Jeff, since Google is mostly indexing sites based on the mobile version of the page, the quote you referenced from John Mueller in 2020 would mean that yes - it's okay to use tabs/read more.
 

cfazio

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I use accordions for my FAQs, they seem to work well.

Lately have been adding as many "people also ask" questions that are relevant to the pages keyword and have been seeing good results.

However, I recently realized that they were defaulting to just <a></a> tags without a heading assign. Have been adding h2 /h3 over the past few days hopefully this pushes their importance a little more.
 

GeekMade

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Lately, SEO is dramatically changing, google is not even showing the meta-data description as it used to, now it will display dynamic content in your serp results depending the user intent...

The good thing about accordion is that the user has to click on it to expand it, this is a good signal in google's eyes, clicks! so your CTR will increase.

As long as the user experience is not drastically affected it will be a good option! User experience is key!
 

JeffClevelandTN

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Update to my original post:

New user study about tabbed/accordion content vs fully visible content: https://www.seroundtable.com/seo-content-tabs-hidden-google-rankings-33045.html

This pretty much matches our experience, that the tabbed content, while it is fully indexed, will not rank as well as similar or same websites/pages having content fully visible. It is frustrating because often, not having tabbed content, has a negative impact to the UX especially when there is higher word count sections and the user may not need or want to read the entire section.
 

JeffClevelandTN

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So what's the bottom line? Accordions are more of a negative experience for websites, am I right?

Generally speaking, for the user experience (especially mobile) I believe most designers prefer to use tabs/accordions when dealing with a page that has a lot of content that covers multiple topics and/or questions. This is simply to enhance the user experience so they don't have to scroll, scroll, scroll, looking for information relevant to them. For most of our websites, we typically have used accordions on things like FAQ pages, Services pages, Product pages, essentially any pages with lots of text.

However, the initial reason for my post/question was because we have found that in many cases, Google ranks the same page content without accordions higher than the same page content using accordions. Based on the limited information that was out there, and the comments by John Mueller, this seemed to contradict the general consensus that tabbed/non-tabbed content are treated the same by Google. The recent link I provided reinforces what our experience has been, that untabbed/non-accordion content ranks better for us, but I'm sure more factors are at play here and it may not be a one size fits all solution.

In short, I believe there needs to be a balance of ranking the content as high as possible, but also providing content that will be most appealing/digestible to the end-user. If we have a high ranking page, but the end-user is frustrated with the experience, there will be reduced engagement/interaction. We're still trying to figure out that balance. Currently we are experimenting further, by having some of the collapsed content (e.g. a paragraph or so) followed by a "read more" to display the full text for that question/section if clicked. Kind of a hybrid accordion approach.
 
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Generally speaking, for the user experience (especially mobile) I believe most designers prefer to use tabs/accordions when dealing with a page that has a lot of content that covers multiple topics and/or questions. This is simply to enhance the user experience so they don't have to scroll, scroll, scroll, looking for information relevant to them. For most of our websites, we typically have used accordions on things like FAQ pages, Services pages, Product pages, essentially any pages with lots of text.

However, the initial reason for my post/question was because we have found that in many cases, Google ranks the same page content without accordions higher than the same page content using accordions. Based on the limited information that was out there, and the comments by John Mueller, this seemed to contradict the general consensus that tabbed/non-tabbed content are treated the same by Google. The recent link I provided reinforces what our experience has been, that untabbed/non-accordion content ranks better for us, but I'm sure more factors are at play here and it may not be a one size fits all solution.

In short, I believe there needs to be a balance of ranking the content as high as possible, but also providing content that will be most appealing/digestible to the end-user. If we have a high ranking page, but the end-user is frustrated with the experience, there will be reduced engagement/interaction. We're still trying to figure out that balance. Currently we are experimenting further, by having some of the collapsed content (e.g. a paragraph or so) followed by a "read more" to display the full text for that question/section if clicked. Kind of a hybrid accordion approach.

This is wild. Help me understand if I'm following the logic here...
  1. Content-rich pages (if written properly) rank better than content-light pages, all else being equal.
  2. Accordions and tabs are clearly better UX for pages (esp. on mobile) with lots of content.
  3. Google claims to reward good UX, and yet
  4. Google appears in this case to (indirectly) penalize good UX.
If this is reflective of what's going on here, Google is contradicting itself and does not, in fact, prioritize UX in its ranking algorithm. In my competitor research for SERP, I've found many cases where sites with superior UX all-around rank worse than sites with terrible UX (poorly-written, poorly organized, poorly styled, etc.).

Kudos to you, Jeff, for testing the conventional wisdom. And thanks for sharing your process and results with us.
 

JeffClevelandTN

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Not a negative experience for the user, but apparently for the indexing bots.

Hey Matt, thanks for your feedback! I really wanted to follow-up with a small case study but time hasn't permitted. But I can say, at least in our limited experimentation, that it does consistently appear that fully visible/non-accordion text is preferable for ranking purposes. However, it is a negative as far as UX goes to have a wall of text. As mentioned earlier, for those who are interested, this article sums it up very nicely: SEO Claims Higher Rankings Without Content Hidden In Tabs Again
 

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