In the past, I've made recommendations to positioning seo friendly content higher in the code for the spiders but it appears at the bottom of the page to not interfere with UE. Does anyone have a working example of this?
Also google see's elements in larger text as more important than if it is in smaller text. This even means the use of h1,h2,h3,h4,h5 it's good to follow a order when using those and not just plop them anywhere.
I am actually looking at css positioning as a mean of taking what is not interesting to the search engine and placing it further down in the code.
For example navigation bars are almost always near the top but the search engine will find your home, contact, privacy, tos, site map no matter where they are in the code but if they are near the top they take away 'space' from the famous 'first 50 words' which, if keyword optimized, are relevant to seo.
So I think that if people stop thinking in terms of tricking the se and use css positioning to make the page more se friendly than the se can only reward you for that.
Another common situation is when you have a sidebar on the left site of the page. Normally all the content of the sidebar would be the first thing the search engine 'see'. (The se is programmed to look for links so it will find your links where ever they are.. they don't need to be at the beginning of the code)
Well if you use css positioning to place the main section of the page near the beginning of the code... the se will see your content first.. which is what it wants to see.
If you were to put a nav-bar further down in the HTML and then CSS it up to the top, that is considered grey-hat SEO. IE - putting keyword heavy content text at the top of your HTML and then using CSS to move it underneath other elements.
In a properly designed page, your theoretical sidebar would already be after your content and then floated to the side. The only obstacle in your standard webpage would be the nav-bar, which is moot if using HTML5 as the <header> and <footer> tags are properly recognized by search engines and ignored in favor of your content.
I've done it before with a header, gave the main content a top margin and absolute positioned my header over the margin. I did this for keyword content and for screen readers, it could be crossing a line, but structurally I thought it made sense having global content at the bottom.
I agree with rainborick, this sort of thing is less important than it used to be.
If you have a load of templated text that's repeated on every page before your real content, that could be an issue, but for just a few menus and stuff I wouldn't worry about it.
Something I see a lot though is where text clearly meant for search engines is included in what is obviously a footer - search engines can pick up on this sort of thing and give it much less weight than content in the content area of the page.
In my experience CSS positioning does matter although not the only factor for SEO. It is not cloaking no matter you hear and it's very good to have. It can be painful to redo the site structure because you may have different sections where the height of containers varies and absolute positioning may not always apply. It is also harder to maintain/manage.
I've seen sites who do cloaking instead of CSS positioning because the designer/coder is lazy enough to restructure the pages and instead duplicates the important content right at the top of the body section in a hidden div.
SEO-wise implementing everything you know about optimization over the years helps. You never know how the SE algorithm will be tomorrow so treat everything as important. META Keywords may not be as important as they use to but who knows few months from now what will happen. Page loading wasn't a great factor in the past it is now, etc.