This week we were contacted on twitter by @georgebaily about some text we use to create the dynamic background on our homepage. They wanted to know if this was keyword stuffing.
This raises an interesting point - is CSS embedded dynamic text a legitimate technique for creating background text? Or is it viewed as keyword stuffing?
Read on if you’d like to know more about why we decided to use a dynamic text background and what impact we’ve seen on our SEO efforts, SERP rankings and site performance.
A bit of background
We redesigned our website about 18 months ago with the release of our new keywords tool.
During the design process we made the decision to test dynamic text that populates in the background of our site including the home page, blog and academy pages. With no clear documentation on how this would affect our SEO, testing was the best way to see if it served our purpose without causing harm.
Where the two worlds of SEO and coding collide there is often the only way to truly understand the impact is to test it out for yourself. In this instance we wanted to test if it would, as we intended, be viewed as a stylistic approach that is meant for the benefit of our visitors, and not for search bots.
So that’s what we did.
This is what it looks like this in the source code:
Using dynamic text we have been able to display the ‘wordy’ background which represents our brand without having to upload jpgs. Cleverly the text updates as people use the search bar, to reflect their own keywords.
The potential risks
One concern we faced is that the code would be viewed as keyword stuffing.
Stuffing may have worked for a moment in the 90s when ranking well for a term could be pushed along by using the keyword over and over again. There are still some misconceptions about keyword density being a ranking signal, but search engines are well aware of this and it’s not an effective strategy, and hasn't been for a while.
The other risk is that it would be viewed as hidden text. This is another old-fashioned way of spamming search engines, which can attract it’s own penalties.
Google’s guide to hidden text outlines how you can violate their guidelines:
• Using white text on a white background
• Locating text behind an image
• Using CSS to position text off-screen
• Setting the font size to 0
• Hiding a link by only linking one small character—for example, a hyphen in the middle of a paragraph
“When evaluating your site to see if it includes hidden text or links, look for anything that's not easily viewable by visitors of your site. Are any text or links there solely for search engines rather than visitors?”
Our intention is to provide text that is there solely for visitors and not search engines.
In addition to this our site already ranked well for target keywords which are highly relevant to our industry. Armed with a strong back linking profile, a domain that has been around for over a decade, and, while we’re only human, we do aim to practice what we preach and build web pages that use strong on-page SEO techniques.
All these things help build our site’s authority and helps us rank well for search terms.
What we have experienced is that the use of the dynamic text has been fairly uneventful.
We haven’t been penalized by Google or the other search engines, we’ve not seen any massive drop offs to our indexed pages or page rankings, and we haven’t received any notifications from webmaster tools.
We also haven’t seen any unnatural improvements to our rankings or traffic for those keywords.
One thing we have seen is that for some search terms the dynamic text is being pulled out and displayed as the description.
This isn’t very attractive and could affect our CTR which is not ideal.
In response we’ll definitely be paying more attention our pages’ description tags so that they contain relevant information not a long string of repeated words.
We will continue to use our site as a platform to test and explore ways of creating websites, testing ideas and methods related to SEO, website coding and software development.
We’d also like to hear what you think, have you had any similar experience in this area? Let us know.