Google values visible content

Seo > Important content should be visible by default

Created: January 30th 2016

DOGS CATS This page is more about dogs than cats Googlebot

"Make your site's important content visible by default. Google is able to crawl HTML content hidden inside navigational elements such as tabs or expanding sections, however we consider this content less accessible to users, and believe that you should make your most important information visible in the default page view."

- from the Google webmaster guidelines 1

What is default visible content?

  • Default visible content is the information displayed on a webpage that can be seen without user interactions like tabs or "click to expand".
  • In the case of tabs, the initially open tab is the default visible content.
  • In the case of expandable elements, only the content initially visible to the user is considered default.
user and google agreeing a page is about dogs rather than cats

A page displaying an open tab about dogs seems to both people and Google as a page about dogs.

How pages are judged

People judge a page by what they see when they first look at it.

Google does too.

Content that is initially visible to a user is considered by people and Google to be more important to the page than content behind tabs or expandable elements.

The subject of a page is determined by what is seen

Let's envision two pages. They both have the exact same content.

The only difference between the two pages is that one page displays all content by default, whereas the other page only shows the first paragraph of article with a "click to expand" that when clicked makes the rest of the article visible.

Even though Googlebot can see all the content, it will judge the page by what is visible to the user, just like humans do.

The two pages below seem very different even though they have the exact same content (but one has content hidden behind an expanding box).

two versions of sane webpage

Both people and Google judge pages by what is visible on the page.

Google understands what is visible to a user. It can "see" the page the same way as a human does.

If you hide too much content behind tabs and expandable content you run the risk of the page seeming to be about (or ranking for) something else than you intended.

Google recommends displaying your most important information visible by default

What is the most important information of a page?

  • What a page is about is determined by what is initially visible on that page.
  • If you want to have Google rank you well for "dogs" then the page should be clearly and mostly about "dogs"
  • Your shipping policy, your company, your other products and other offers are not the most important information for a page about "dogs"
  • The most important information about a "dog" page is "dog" stuff.

Long story short, a webpage about dogs should have the dog content visible by default.

Key points

  • Google can determine what is visible to a user on a webpage.
  • Content that is not visible by default is not considered as important as the content that is visible.
  • Do not expect content hidden behind tabs or expanding boxes to help you rank well in Google.

Patrick Sexton by