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"hidden" text (in Google's eyes)
how hidden do you have to be, to be "hidden"?

 4:55 am on Nov 9, 2006 (gmt 0)

I've searched and looked thru lots of posts regarding hidden text and haven't found a definitive answer.

Our merchant services group has promoted the addition of their html which will help to "certify" our site as being secure.

The code they provide is essentially java scripts which display a logo which when clicked, says your site is certified. They also include a 1pt size link which goes to their web site.

The color of the 1pt link is set by their scripts and we cannot modify it other than change the background which will make it more / less visible.

The problem is that we want to place the certification logo (that has 1pt black text) in an area of our page that has a dark green color (almost black). We've used this color since day 1 and have tied a number of other things to it, so we don't want to change.

Do we run a risk in Google thinking we have hidden text? How different in color does foreground/background have to be to not be considered hidden?



 12:32 pm on Nov 9, 2006 (gmt 0)

There is 2 things you shouls consider here:

1. If you format that area of your site using CSS it should not be a problem for googlebot since it is unable to read CSS. You can keep your colour and it will be safe.

2. The very cheeky certification website you are using is going to have a link from every single page of your website where you place their logo pointing to their site. PR leaking their way (althouhg not relevant inbound for them still annoying).


 3:02 pm on Nov 9, 2006 (gmt 0)

You will probably get away with it, but any time you have an indexing/ranking problem, that little hidden link is going to cross your mind.


 4:05 pm on Nov 9, 2006 (gmt 0)

I wouldnt chance it

One site we work with had a section of pages about 250 that had unique content on them. After the new google infastructure was rolled out all 250 were dropped from the index. Couldnt understand it, couldnt see any issues with the pages all W3 etc, PR4/5 pages.

On the pages involved a previous webdesigner had used a small square box image on the left hand side in a line of other images with the code as background =/images/box. Within the small box was some basic text "widgets Here" but they centred the text by adding "---/" in white FFFFF just before the text. We were in two minds as to remove this white text as it had a background to it so like you assumed it wouldnt make a differance.

Anyway, it did. It was the only thing we changed on the pages and they are still starting to return to the index (slowly)

IMO for what its worth, remember the bot is a computer its not human. If the new google infastructure is designed to bin pages with say white text on them or any page that may even look to it to be not 100% it will bin it imo. After all it doesnt matter to google if 5% of good pages get taken out if they have killed 100% of the primary problem.

I conclude if it was my site or one of my clients i wouldnt risk it, but each to their own. Your call.

Good Luck


 6:24 pm on Nov 9, 2006 (gmt 0)

I'm seeing a remarkable number of posts in other places (where URLs are not only allowed but encouraged) about poor results with pages that turn out to have a lot of stuff at the bottom of the home page that is barely legible - light grey on white. Even with a good screen it's hard to read.

I wonder if Google has implemented some "minimum shade separation".


 6:55 pm on Nov 9, 2006 (gmt 0)

I don't know why you would want that "certification" in the first place.

Do you really think it will add to your site's prestige?

Does it add or subtract from your site, to use a "certification" from a company that uses dirty tricks like 1pt type to try to influence search engine rank in their favor?

Do you think their "certification" is meaningful? Do you think they have integrity that you can borrow? You can't borrow integrity from somebody who has none.

What is a "merchant services group", anyway? Oh. Do these people process your credit card orders? Really? You trust them with your customer's credit cards? And you think their cheesy logo is going to add to customer's trust?

Sorry to be so harsh. Just thinking like a customer.


 8:02 pm on Nov 9, 2006 (gmt 0)

Thanks for all the responses.

The term "merchant services group" was used so as to prevent any finger pointing. And agreed, it does seem like a cheap trick on their part to get "free" links, considering what we're already paying for transaction fees and discount rates!

I think our approach will be to not risk a penalty by selecting a location which has sufficient background contrast, and to minimize the point(s) of presence (like maybe at checkout time only).

Taking this approach raises a question regarding "certification" logo visibility: does anybody think that G might actually use these links in its "trust" ranking and we might now shoot ourselves in the foot by minimizing its use / accessibility?



 8:34 pm on Nov 9, 2006 (gmt 0)

Place their code in an iframe or something to get it "off your page".


 8:51 pm on Nov 9, 2006 (gmt 0)

Have you researched the public's trust in trust seals and logos?

With a very few exceptions, it's pretty low, and may do more harm than good. They are seen by many as a gimmick to make untrustworthy sites seem trustworthy.

If your "merchant services group" is a well-known name that the public trusts (i.e. PayPal), just make sure your customers know that you use them, follow whatever REQUIREMENTS they have to use their logo, and leave it at that.

I would think this belongs on your checkout page, "policies" page, home page, and probably nowhere else. No need to plaster it all over the place.

If it's somebody that no one has ever heard of, the less you say the better.


 8:52 pm on Nov 9, 2006 (gmt 0)

I've often wondered about the white text on a page myself. We have black menu background with a light grey link for the menus.

The "official" background of the page is the same light grey, however the links are over a black background and we did call the css style for the bg color Black.

I do believe that google reads css files else why would the bot request them every once in a while?


 9:11 pm on Nov 9, 2006 (gmt 0)

The code they provide is essentially java scripts which display a logo which when clicked, says your site is certified. They also include a 1pt size link which goes to their web site.

In agreement with many other posts above, there are two possibilities here. One is that this is a "real" certification service. If this is the case, then remove the hidden link from the markup completely, and they won't mind because they're not doing it for the backlink.

The second possibility (read probability) is that the certification process is just a cheap little scheme by the merchant to get a bunch of links back to their site added blindly by innocent webmasters who don't check what they are copy/pasting into your pages. Why fall into the trap and take risks with hidden text for some spurious certification scheme that will bring you no benefit?

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