Recently a colleague of mine sent me an e-mail about one of his clients (this is an excerpt):

“The marketing manager of one of my customers, based on his experience, is suggesting to use hidden text “white fonts” to introduce additional KW and phrases. Based on what I have read on the valid practices for Penguin, Panda, and Hummingbird, I understand that this is considered “word stuffing”. “Noscript” tags are another way to place hidden content within a page. While they are a valid optimization method for displaying an alternative representation of scripted content, they may be abused, since search engines may index content that is invisible to most visitors.

“Could you please share your thoughts in whether this is a valid practice? Should he use the KW density within a range of 3-4%? Is there a book, blog or reference that you could suggest regarding this good practices that can help me to set the right framework and guide the type of strategies to follow?”

With no disrespect to my friend, quite frankly, it amazes me that this question still comes up. His client is still operating on the assumptions that you can cheat your way to the top of Google.

I told him that this is a very old on page search engine optimization technique that’s been around for a long time, and Google is completely onto it. At best, they will ignore it. At worst, the page will be penalized for violating their rules.

Let’s pull these apart one at a time.

Using Hidden Keyword Text Vs. Creating High Quality Content

There are lots of ways to hide text on a page for SEO purposes: white fonts on a white background, using a tiny font, using a div tag with style=”display:none;” or even a div that places the text off the page way over to the right or left (like a negative margin).

Ranking algorithms are no longer about how many times a specific keyword is on the page. That’s why Google completely ignores the keywords META tag – people were stuffing their keywords there too. Google uses artificial intelligence (AI) to determine the “quality” of the page content. Does it match the correct grammar and sentence structure of that particular language? Does it match similar content structure in other published pages? Does it match the theme of what Google “knows” about that particular topic?

There are at least a couple hundred other factors at play here when it comes to ranking on Google, so hiding a few instances of “how to train a dog” on the page isn’t going to get it there. This is why one of the SEO basics is to simply focus on creating high quality content for your site.

What’s the Right Keyword Density?

Assuming you have chosen the best keywords for your site, you still have to work those into the content of your page. Keyword density is the number of times that specific keyword shows up in your copy. So for simplicity’s sake, if you have 500 words of copy, and your target keyword is in the copy ten times, you have a 2% keyword density (10/500 * 100% = 2%). Is that good? Bad? I’ve heard people say that the best SEO practice is to keep it to 1-2%. Others say 3-4% as my friend did, and even up to 10%. Wow, that would mean your keyword is repeated every ten words. How awkward would that sound?

See the hidden text section above. Again, Google uses AI to “read” the copy. They aren’t counting your KWD and giving a boost to the page that has a higher KWD than the next one. It’s all about high quality of content. Does it add value to the reader? Are there social signals that indicate people are liking and interacting with the content?

Using a Noscript Tag to Hide Text

The Noscript tag is actually a valid way to insert html onto a page and is used for instances when a browser doesn’t support a type of scripted content. However, If it’s for placing hidden text on a page, then it’s considered cheating, and it doesn’t help your ranking on Google. This is not a good practice for on page SEO. See the above sections.

Google is quite clear in its webmaster documentation, and they explicitly tell you all the things you shouldn’t be doing to try to cheat:

My friend asked for a book that talks about good practices. It’s not a book about SEO tips per se, but I’ve been recommending and giving away copies of David Meerman Scott’s The New Rules of Marketing and PR for years. His 5th edition just came out, and I always recommend that ALL business owners read this book.

What other cheats have you heard recently? Tell me in the comments.