Sunday, November 15th, 2009...9:43 am

Hidden H Tags by Google

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Look at the source code of Google’s SERP page and you’ll see the following:

<h2 class=”hd>Search Results</h2>
However, on the page you don’t see this bit displayed anywhere. Sure enough, you won’t see it because the stylesheet makes this bit invisible:
.hd {
height:1px;
overflow:hidden;
position:absolute;
top:-1000em;
width:1px;
}
And mind you, this is not the Ajax bit that can be hidden or shown by the user clicking anything. Hm hm… but don’t Google’s webmaster guidelines say:
Don’t deceive your users or present different content to search engines than you display to users, which is commonly referred to as “cloaking.”
Google sets the rules and violates them itself. Nothing new of course, not the first time we see it. But what’s weird is, why would Google want this hidden heading if its search results aren’t even supposed to be indexable?
See http://www.google.com/robots.txt:
Disallow: /search
Where’s the logic then?

11 Comments

  • Obviously, the thing is in the accessibility. While this bit is invisible to the casual users, it is read aloud by screenreaders and helps make sense out of a SERP page for blind users.

    Stop looking at SEO benefits in everything.

  • I think it’s probably a presentation element that’s used elsewhere (e.g. mobile; print styles), but easier to hide here than deliver different mark up to different platforms.

    Or maybe they’re about to make their SERPs indexable and the world is going to collapse into a black hole of arbitrage ๐Ÿ™‚

  • I think it’s probably an accessibility thing. It’ll be read by screen readers and it’s pretty useful if you can’t see the layout of the page.

    Have a look with CSS off and it makes a bit more sense.

  • Is it possible that Google only display the tag for text based browsers and mobile/pda devices? when not using the standard stylesheet….

  • Hmm… if your CSS doesn’t have the class that isn’t seen… but if you were to run it through a program and render it with the CSS… clear evidence of scraping results.

  • That could be the reason why Google is not at the top when you search for “search engine” at Google. ๐Ÿ˜€

  • @Hetllwyd: oh-kay, Google guys ever heard of audio stylesheets then?

    >Stop looking at SEO benefits in everything
    – well I’m an SEO so what should I be looking at? and as for benefits – I don’t really see any benefits here, more like some clueless HTML coding…

    @Terry Van Horne: could be a way to catch some uncanny scrapers – but anybody who’s done any amount of scrapign would know what to scrape and what not to scrape.

  • Negative offset is great for header graphics, as long as you are not doing it deceptively, Google is most likely going to be fine with it on any site.

    Then again some SEO consultants have the first link to their home page from their blog with the anchor text “home” ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • […] Hidden H Tags by Google โ€“ funny stuff here.. Google using some hidden tags? Yikesโ€ฆ say it ainโ€™t so! Go get โ€˜em Irish! […]

  • Hehe good call Andy – but I guess I just don’t bother with the rat race that ranking for stuff like “SEO Consultant” is ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • I think the key item noted above may be more true than we want to admit, when you search for “search engine”, it’s hard to find Google. Or if you look for the offending hidden text, “search results”, Google is showing up around 3rd place. Given that the header and accompanying copy used to be visible on the page, it is more than likely a mistake that it would be hidden with no navigation elements to show it. Maybe their automated agents caught the mistake and auto-corrected their results before they were able to take it out.