More threads by Caroline

Jun 14, 2017
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A client I have has a developer who wants to use this h1 class="visually-hidden" to hide the H1 from visitors as it looks visually clumsy on the site and I am concerned about this due to the hidden text spam guidelines.

He has suggested that it is physically there but too small to be seen by users but will be seen by search engines and assistive technology so the pixel size of this heading is tiny and can't be seen by visitors but would be used by assistive technologies and that this is ok for Google

I'm not comfortable with this as it seems like why have an H1 if it can't be seen? And secondly - couldn't this be abused by everyone?

Thirdly, does this type of coding affect the authority of the H1 itself? So it is not being used for ranking purposes?

Any other SEO's who can give me their thoughts would be appreciated.

Thank you
Hi Caroline,

Agreed, it seems a little bordering on old school spammy SEO where a ton of keywords are hidden on a page. I don't know a ton about class="visually-hidden" but my understanding is this not the intended use.

This said.. It could be tested to see if Google would still probably see it as an H1 on the page by using a tool like SEO Minion
Hi @Caroline, @Ian Hammond is spot on, it sounds like it is not for the intended use. That class is intended for accessibility purposes, e.g. ADA compliance, readability, assistive readers. I think the key take aways from the article you linked to:

"...there’s no penalty or demotion for having such additional content on a page."
“In general, what happens in a case like this is that we focus on the visible, primary content of the page, and de-emphasize the hidden / out-of-view content. "

That pretty much sums it up, it shouldn't hurt your ranking, but likely is not a positive ranking factor either.

Based on your concern, you probably are already aware, H1's are critical for SEO for several reasons (direct and indirect). While Google may still index the content, hidden content (even if not spammy) does not have the same value to Google as visible content for ranking purposes. The direct SEO ranking factors of an H1 are easily found just by Googling. From an indirect point of view, the H1 should be visible for the person's benefit to reinforce what the page content is all about. We focus on creating content that follows the "F-shaped" structure and w/o having a traditional H1 (or equivalent header in appearance), it will affect the users' interaction/engagement with the page: F-Shaped Pattern for Reading Content

Mueller's statements are definitely worthy of consideration, and many people take his feedback as Google's gospel, however some of Google's SEO statements have been proven completely wrong. A good example, which is very similar to your concern, are the use of accordions or hidden tabs that help with usability but will hide a considerable amount of text. This is a little bit longer post, but I think worth the time to read: Does the use of "read more" or accordions impact SEO? | Organic SEO

Here are the relevant links from the above post:

We've never had the need to hide an H1, so I don't have any practical experience for its intended use. But as Ian mentioned in his reply, you should test it out and see how it impacts ranking.

However, IMO, the developer should make the H1 visible. If he/she doesn't like the appearance then change the length, font size, color, or a combination of the above to make it less "clumsy".
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We've never had the need to hide an H1, so I don't have any practical experience for its intended use. But as Ian mentioned in his reply, you should test it out and see how it impacts ranking.

"Queen of blackhat" Holly Stark mentioned this on a mainstream SEO podcast I saw last week, you are spot on, it's not the intended purpose. But, love or hate, if she uses it then it must have some effect. For the record I have never and will never use anything any techniques of that nature, but it's interesting to hear those people speak. She made it 100% clear that stuffing isa blackhat technique you and I should avoid. Cheers.

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