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What I was planning to do was display a JS link which says "View phone number", which when clicked will reveal the phone number, while in the background a jquery ajax call will record the request.
This would only affect a small percentage of the content of each page, but if I use it everywhere (which I need to for it to be much use) it would affect several thousand pages.
Hidden text has a bit of a bad name. I've never used it, or wanted to, as an aid to 'optimisation' and can see why it could be looked upon with disfavour by G and other SEs.
Is a small amount like this OK? The other possibility I'm considering is an iframe, but it's much less elegant technically.
We've done this for probably 5-6 years and have never noticed a problem in search engine rankings.