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We want to increase our rankings. We have relevant quality text content ... However we need the page to visually appear less texty. We are therefore considering a design with very little text immediately visible. "Learn more" icons will offer this additional content as popovers or tooltips. The content will be in divs on the page.

Will this content be considered as content for an improved page rank?

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You are talking about rankings in the SERPs, not PageRank. PageRank is a metric from Google that measures the number and quality of inbound links. You can see your PageRank by installing the Google Toolbar into your browser. Changing the text on your page does not in any way cause PageRank to change. –  Stephen Ostermiller Mar 8 '13 at 14:25
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migrated from stackoverflow.com Mar 8 '13 at 21:49

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3 Answers

Google does not approve of "hidden content". Content that can never been seen by the user is considered spam by Google. Sites that hide text are penalized.

Putting text into areas that can be seen by users upon mouse over or click is a gray area. There are very legitimate uses for such a technique such as menu systems. There are also html elements that make text behave this way in most browsers. For example the title element on an img tag. Google is unlikely to penalize your site for making text less visible to your users, however that text is less likely to count towards your rankings. Google puts much more weight on text the more visible it is on the page. Heading tags carry more weight than paragraph text. Even text that appears above the fold carries more weight that text that is shown in the footer. Google may not even index text in tooltips such as the text in the title attribute of an image tag.

Making text less visible will lessen its impact for the search ranking algorithms. Whether or not that hurts your rankings depends on other factors:

  • How much competition there is for the terms for which you are ranking
  • Your usage of the terms in the text that is still visible in the page
  • How many pages you have on your site about the keyword, and how well you cover the topic
  • How well you write your title tag
  • How many inbound links you have, what quality they are, and what their anchor text is.

Also keep in mind that more text is not necessarily better. Google has been doling out "over-optimization penalties" for keyword stuffing much more frequently in recent years. Many webmasters have improved their rankings by removing keywords from their pages. For more information on this trend, see this thread on WebmasterWorld: A close look at what over optimization really is

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If you are simply moving copy into hidden divs this is not going to improve your pagerank. If the content on your page is already pretty relevant and high quality (as you said) moving that content around is going to best case scenario do nothing. Worst case if the google bot doesn't consider the text in the hidden divs, your page rank could actually go down.

Assuming your content is good, by far the best way to improve your page rank is to get some inbound links from relevant sites, so I would concentrate your effort in that area!

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First off PageRank is but one of the signals Google looks at, among many other things. If you want "positive SEO", then always focus on quality. Googlebot is smart (most of the time), just because your designing your website with usability in mind, doesn't mean your website will be penalised.

Quite the contrary, your helping your users read a page with heavy text. This is good.

That said. It is true that Google doesn't like hidden text. However this would only damage your site if the hidden text contained spammy text and links. A hidden link to a Viagra website will hurt you. If the hidden text is completely relevant, then by all means go ahead.

I would instead focus on providing a great user experience, and make sure the hidden divs are visible to Googlebot. Meaning use clean code. A good indicator of search engine friendly code is using a text browser to see what a search engine crawler will see when crawling your site.

Lastly, like I said earlier, and as a friendly suggestion, PageRank is but one of the signals. You should widen your grasp of how search works today, specifically with Google. ;D

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