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I have a key marketing page with customer testimonials. I want to show my customer's names to make the testimonials more convincing. I'm not sure all of my customers would want this page to appear in SERPS when someone searches for their name.

How can I hide just their name from being indexed, without harming the ranking of the page?

Now that Google uses Fetch & Render it's harder to show text to users but not to Google.

2 options I've thought of:

  • Show names by JavaScript after a delay. This seems like too obvious a black hat trick, Google must have worked round it by just fast-forwarding the clock.

  • Put the text in an image. Which creates horrendous design issues, trying to get it to match the size of other nearby text can't be easy.

  • Check stephen answer on that if you're fine to use iframe, but I am using javascript to render social media icons for sharing links, and I block that JS from robots.txt. I don't think there is any problem if you just hide only name or some icons. I don't go with delay option, because Google will wait for script execution if it is not blocked via robots.txt. And delay option with js blocked is not necessary at all. – Goyllo Jan 28 '18 at 11:46
  • I've heard that Google penalises those who hide their js files, in order to prevent abuse of this technique. I'm wondering if the same could be true of iframes - but perhaps that's not abusable in the same way as you can only add by iframe, not remove. Thanks for the link - that pointed me to stackoverflow.com/questions/11320407/… which is promising. – Jonathan Jan 28 '18 at 16:37
  • I heard about cloaking, but I don't think if you block only few parts of your site then you get penalty, G sometimes come to your site with different user-agent, and they check how many things you've hide from their main bot, if its very small then it's fine. Recently too many wp blogs block wp-admin directory where most of plugins(js) and css files are stored, that time G said please don't block those files, so we can understand your layout better, they didn't said otherwise you will get penalty. Also banner, ads, social media plugins(like addthis, sharethis) also hide from Gbot. – Goyllo Jan 29 '18 at 6:23
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I think you're approaching this all wrong. Generally speaking if you don't seek permission prior to publishing their name online then they may not like that regardless if it does not appear in Google or Bing search results.

You want to seek permission from hereafter

When obtaining reviews and testimonials you should have a privacy notice informing the customer that you will publish this online. With that said many businesses forget to do so and therefore they run into issues like this.

Editing Testimonials

It is perfectly acceptable to 'edit' previous testimonials, so that they are less identifiable, this can be simply done by removing parts of their 'full name' or anything within the testimonial e.g

  • from: "my wife jane loves it, thanks James Brown"
  • to: "my wife loves it, thanks j.brown"
  • or: "my wife loves it, thanks j.b"

Most previous customers will not complain if you use this method, and if they do... you remove it from the site.

Now and on-going

The correct method opted by the biggest E-commerce websites in the world is to use one of three methods:

  • First Name & Surname Initial
    • e.g Simon.H
  • First Name Initial & Surname
    • S.Hayter
  • Nicknames (Amazon, eBay, eBuyer, Pro Webmasters etc)
    • This allows customers to choose how they want their name to appear on the site e.g:
      1. SimonHayterUK
      2. Jonathan
      3. Goyllo
  • Thanks Simon. I had considered this, but you've made me think about it more. Without a very simple technical solution, I think you're right that first name and initial is the best approach. – Jonathan Jan 29 '18 at 11:10

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