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While observing the source of the Swiss airlines website, I noticed the use of hidden text. I first looked it up on Google and found many SEO-related benefits but also the risk of negative scoring in search engine algorithms.

The text being hidden on Swiss.com though doesn't look SEO related, e.g.:

<h2 class="is-visuallyhidden">navigation</h2>

<h2 class="is-visuallyhidden">Skiplinks</h2>

So my question is what is the purpose of hidden text if not SEO trickery? Could it be accessibility related?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Text/content is usually hidden for one of two reasons:

  1. That content should not be displayed until a certain event occurs (i.e. a user performs an action like clicking on a link or pressing a button).

  2. That content is only necessary for users who have special needs (e.g. accessibility).

I didn't review swiss.com but based on the snippets you posted it looks like that content is hidden for accessibility purposes. Skiplinks are handy for screen readers but not so much for normal human beings. Hiding them from visual users makes sense while leaving them available to users who can take advantage of them to reach content that may have normally been difficult for them to reach.

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It is quite a dynamic, responsive design. They use is-visuallyhidden on many of elements which need to be shown/hidden at various times, and then use the css or javascript to toggle between the two states.

For example, shrink your browser window down, and you will see certain page elements appear or disappear depending on the window size.

This is common coding practise, and so not the sort of thing Google are looking out for as a spam signal.

Google's Matt Cutts on this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EsW8E4dOtRY

The SEO Chat article you link to seems pretty hyperbolic and scare-mongering. For example, "hidden text is likely to get your site banned from the search engines instead of helping it!" - without giving any examples of a 'banned' site, and ignoring the fact most websites use it for genuine reasons.

I'd imagine more simply that cloaking has very little use in black-hat SEO nowadays because keyword spamming doesn't work (visible or invisible). No one is going to hide content which is about a different subject to their site, and writing "keyword keyword keyword keyword keyword keyword keyword keyword" in hidden text no longer cuts it.

The only exception to this I can think of is that hackers will often add hidden links to the pages of a site they have accessed for the Page Rank (and hiding the links from the webmasters, rather than Google).

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