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What is div spamming?

Posted by Michael Bloch in web marketing (Wednesday April 12, 2006 )

I received an email today from someone who had heard of using hidden “divs” to improve search engine rankings and wanted to know if it was a legitimate technique.

Short answer: no
Long answer: hell no

“Legitimate” is in the eyes of the beholder I guess. Purposeful search engine optimization in itself is hotly debated by some as qualifying as “spamming”, but most search engines frown upon this particular practice – in fact, using hidden divs crammed with keywords can get your site penalized or banned.

So how is hidden div spamming done? It’s pretty simple – a div is a useful tag used to contain an element such as text or an image; there’s nothing wrong with using them in general page construction at all, it’s how you use them that counts.

Here’s an example of hidden div used for trying to gain higher search engine rankings:

<div style="visibility:hidden"> block of text stuffed full of keywords </div>

If you copy and paste that code into a page, then view the page in a browser – don’t do it on your live site of course :), you’ll notice that the “block of text stuffed full of keywords” line is invisible. Some people also use it in conjunction with the Z-Index and other attributes to ensure that no white space appears on the page that may indicate it’s existence.

As with the div tag, the use of z-index and visibility:hidden are not in themselves viewed as being evil by search engines, they are very useful functions; it’s just how they are applied that matters.

So, if you’re checking out a competitors’ site and can’t figure out why they are ranking ahead of you; take a look to see if these little beasties are buried in their code. Even if they are, don’t be tempted to follow suit; it’s only a matter of time before they’ll get slammed.

Also, if you engage the services of an search engine optimization company, check their work for this sort of thing. It’s not uncommon for unethical or inexperienced SEO companies to use spamming (aka “black hat”) techniques as they can sometimes give you a short term rankings boost – just long enough for the company to pick up a nice fat fee from you.

I’ve listed some other common spamming techniques in my article “Why some sites aren’t listed in search engines

By the way, if you’re interested in having some optimization work on your site, you may like take advantage of this free site evaluation offer from an ethical company I highly recommend.


2 comments for What is div spamming?
  1. My site is about motorcycle tours. I didn’t mean to use hidden div, but many sites try to employ it and they got ahead of me despite of the fact that they had very few information about this services. They haven’t been banned for a long time and I don’t know if a good paragraph in hidden div helps. I understood stuffed with keywords are not good.

    Comment by Tuan Anh — July 26, 2006 @ 1:38 am

  2. Hi Tuan,

    You’re an honest person to admit it :). Yes, I see the hidden div in your coding. That’s a mighty big chunk of hidden text you have in there – 1600 words – oh my :).

    My advice would be to remove it – while your competitors may be doing it as well, there may come a time when it raises a flag with Google, Yahoo etc. and they’ll be wiped – and possibly you as well. A penalty can be really difficult to recover from.

    I know it’s really tough when others are spamming and you see them get ahead of you in rankings; but sometimes the short-term gain isn’t worth the risk. The other problem you may face is that someone might report you to the search engines (possibly a competitor) and then you’ll be manually removed from the SERPs.

    That’s why I’ve removed your URL from your comment, to prevent a reader of this post from possibly doing that to you :). I’d seriously rethink the hidden div strategy.

    Here’s an idea – remove the hidden text from your own site, wait for a while and then report the sites that are continuing to do it; that may help to level the playing field in your sector. ;)

    Comment by Michael Bloch — July 26, 2006 @ 2:33 am

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