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Houston SEO MythBusters: Hiding Text to make up for images used as headings on a page

Houston SEO MythBusters: Hiding Text to make up for images used as headings on a page

I’ve been thinking for a few days (perhaps more) on something truly interesting to blog about for the Houston SEO space. I have also been thinking of how to convey useful information to our clients and friends. That said, the intersection of form and function is a place with high potential for learning.

Let’s take the thought of learning one step further. When I think of becoming savvy in business and internet marketing, I think of Leo Durocher’s quote on baseball. “Baseball is like church. Many attend, few understand. “By the same token, many “attend” search engine marketing and read Mashable. However, not as many actually know what’s going on under the hood – and that’s okay. A lot of fun we have at Forthea revolves around getting to know what makes the web tick.

So where does MythBusters come into this? Out of the blue a morning or two ago, I got inspiration from my oldest nephew.  As a grade-schooler, I love how he still has the insatiable desire to learn how things work. Hopefully this has a good run before the desire for sleeping in becomes too great. One of his absolute favorite, drop-everything-you’re-doing shows to watch is MythBusters.

MythBusters presents neat legends and stunts from pop culture and life that push the boundaries of reality. The hosts of the show, Jamie and Adam, examine these legends and determine if they’re actually possible in the real world or not. For instance, cars, explosions and special effects scenes from movies are usually involved.

What we’ll do is examine an SEO myth, and see if it’s true or not!

Myth: Hiding text to make up for an image title or heading will help my site in search engines.
I ran across this question on a Quora web marketing forum one recent evening. The question is certainly relevant. Sometimes when you’re designing a website, the desired look and feel can’t be met by bold, small caps Arial. It’s not uncommon to see titles, headers and action links represented by images with text in them. Of course, as an internet marketer, it is important that a good-looking site rank highly to attract customers.

Demonstrated below is an example (sans hidden text) of how images can be used to visually represent text content to a user. The button is indicated by a red rectangle.

In context of the question, the seeker wanted to know if taking text and using CSS to push it off the page out of user view would benefit his site in terms of search engine optimization.

What do you think? Read on.

Verdict? Busted.
The essence of this myth distills down to whether or not hiding content to trick search engines is okay or not. Short answer, it is not okay, at all!

Hiding content means you are trying to misrepresent your site to users and search engines alike. Engaging in this practice puts you at risk of frustrating users, and getting buried by the search engines. Google has become extremely vigilant and skilled in finding hidden content. Once Google finds out, they take decisive action that leads to your website becoming invisible in search for some time. See the case of JC Penney from a couple of years back.

Furthermore, we would encourage you to follow search optimization industry practice by supplementing your image with alternate text. This practice allows search engines users unable to visually engage to derive some meaning from the image.

We hope you found this interesting and informative. Do you have an SEO or internet marketing question you would like learn more about? Leave a comment, let us know how we can improve, or drop us a line.


MythBusters image from here.

Nick Lindauer
Nick is the vice president, client services and operations at Forthea. He’s been working in internet marketing since 2002, when – ironically – he answered an ad in the newspaper. When he’s not at work, he’s off spending time with his family, working on his house, building furniture, cooking on his two Big Green Eggs & brewing hot sauce.


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