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Do CSS drop down menus cause a Google penalty?
is Google treating drop down content as hidden text?

 6:39 pm on Jul 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

Hi, I use drop down menus on my site which use css and are supposed to be search engine friendly. But I have recently been given a penalty on google (950 I think) which I thought was down to the fact I was inadvertently using more meta keywords than I should have been. Using this site though: < a spam detector site >

It is flagging up the drop down menu as having hidden text, could this be the problem?

many thanks

< No tool sites, please.
See Google Forum Charter [webmasterworld.com]>

[edited by: tedster at 6:26 am (utc) on July 18, 2007]



 1:21 am on Jul 18, 2007 (gmt 0)

hmmmm...just revamped a site and used the css drop down menu to escape the javascript type and this tool seems to be telling me the same thing. The key seems to be in the phrase it uses
"Invisible text found. Method(s): CSS 'display' property set to 'none'. Same text and background colors.
Invisibility purpose: Impossible to say."
May have to fix that.


 6:29 am on Jul 18, 2007 (gmt 0)

I would not be concerned about a non-authoritative automated tool. I've never seen Google penalized a display:none rule in a menu system where user action can change the visibility to display:block.

Now, overstuffing keywords into menu links anywhere -- that can be a problem. But I strongly doubt that it's the menu system CSS that is the issue here.


 7:22 am on Jul 18, 2007 (gmt 0)

In fact, it would be mighty silly of Google to ever penalize for that, knowing that it is a very common (as well as a very practical and user-friendly/accessible) method for structuring your links.

The day Google penalizes for things like that is when I take my business elsewhere :)


 9:06 am on Jul 18, 2007 (gmt 0)

I have a related query. My drop down menus at the top of my site (on every page) are showing up as content in Google search results, and these are going supplemental. Should I be asking my programmers to hide the text and labels in some way? Thanks


 11:52 am on Jul 18, 2007 (gmt 0)

This is just a guess... but...

I imagine that CSS is disabled - and so impossible to 'evaluate' - when a page is being indexed

I have developed a few sites with CSS drop-down menus and ALL of the pages are ranking well, despite very little (or no!) 'active SEOing' or whatever the phrase is for hassling G to rank you


 12:26 pm on Jul 19, 2007 (gmt 0)

If you have drop down menus make sure you use nonubtrusive JavaScript method or you will not get the links crawled...

Would like to give you a link to the article but tedster asked me not to post links, so Google the term unubtrusive JavaScript


 1:58 pm on Jul 19, 2007 (gmt 0)

I have been working with a site that uses a CSS-driven fold-out menu.

On visiting the root index page you see 10 categories listed down the left.

If you click any category link, you are taken to the category index page, and the category sub-page links for that category drop into view in the left-hand nav bar. You can now see 21 links.

If you are on any content page, the navigation bar shows the index page link, 10 category index page links, and the links to the 10 content pages in the current category.


The navbar is an included file. It works on nested DIVs and it includes all 111 links every time (index page, 10 category index pages, 10 content pages inside each category).

The main point is that for 100 page views, 90 of those links are hidden links, only 21 links are actually visible on the page. On the index page, there are 100 hidden links and 11 visible links.

Only 10 category page links drop into view on any page, all the category page links for all the other categories are hidden each time.

This does seem to have a few negative (Duplicate Content-like) effects which I am currently investigating. The snippet also seems to be composed of nav bar text more often than seems necessary.

The nav bar code makes up almost 60% of the code on each page.

The site navigation may be changed to a PHP solution that only shows the required 21 links per page. Instead of hiding the other 90 links using CSS, they will not be there at all.


 4:12 am on Jul 20, 2007 (gmt 0)

It wasn't too long ago that Google suggested limiting the total links on a page to 100. When the menu system STARTS with more the 100 links per page, I've always seen sub-par performance in the SERPs. And every time I've made a change, things have improved.

I think the algo (which as we know is hevily focused on links and anchor text) just chokes on figuring out the relevance of each page -- they all end up looking quite similar and things get a bit "foggy". Google does deal with it, to a degree. They can see that the menu area is in a different block from the content block. But the way I think it works out, the scoring picks up a bit more static along with the page's relevance signal.

[edited by: tedster at 9:50 pm (utc) on July 20, 2007]


 9:30 am on Jul 20, 2007 (gmt 0)

Thanks everyone who has input for my problem, much appreciated.


 10:43 am on Jul 20, 2007 (gmt 0)

From a SERoundtable post "Google Offers Advice on Flash Web Sites & SEO" Bergy of Google is quoted as saying

"..common sense tells us that not all hidden text means webspam--e.g. hidden DIV tags for drop-down menus are probably not webspam, whereas hidden DIVs stuffed full of unrelated keywords are more likely to indicate webspam."


 7:48 pm on Jul 20, 2007 (gmt 0)


>> The main point is that for 100 page views

should have been...

>> The main point is that for 110 page views

Robert Charlton

 2:08 am on Jul 21, 2007 (gmt 0)

For me, the main problem with global drop-downs is their indiscriminate distribution of PageRank. These can totally short-circuit any hierarchy you set up.

I also think many, if not most, of the drop-down or mouse-over menus I've seen are an excuse for poor planning, giving you everything at once so that the designers don't have to come up with a logical navigation hierarchy. Excellent post by tedster and discussion here...

Mouseover Menus - or DHTML indigestion


 3:11 am on Jul 21, 2007 (gmt 0)

I'm working with a site now that has a drop-down menu (not CSS, not JS, not CGI) at the very top of the page sitewide, and the phrases used show up as plain text, not links. To see most all of the site you have to click on the "similar pages" link.

I've believed for a few years that it isn't a good idea to have identical text across a site at the very page top (even a byline or slogan), and nothing has ever led me to change my mind.


 2:04 am on Jul 24, 2007 (gmt 0)

I don't like mouse-over menus. They act/seem unstable. You move your mouse slightly off and it gives this 'skating' feeling and 'flashing' on/off. I'm old school. Anchor text, "anchored." Underlined text, always visible.


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