Dumb SEO Questions

(Entry was posted by Matthew Stuart on this post in the Dumb SEO Questions community on Facebook, Tuesday, September 10, 2013).

SEO for password protected community website

I have a site where I am hiding content until the user is logged in, but in doing this, I am reducing the search results for the likes of google. I have thought about adding the content in a div which is set to display: none; but am not sure if this is frowned upon.

If it is considered to be black hat SEO, does anybody know how I can get google etc to read my page content without having to log in.

I`m not actually trying to spam, I am just hiding content from a user where I want them to sign in to be able to see that which I have hidden. Basically, I am trying to create a community on my website, but need SEO to help it build momentum.


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Selected answers from the Dumb SEO Questions G+ community.

  • Dave Elliott: We have a client that has a similar problem. Does the CMS in question allow different content/modules/whatever to be viewed for logged in viewers and logged out?<br /><br />If so, what we tend to do is for the logged out users we give an introductory paragraph/summary of the page with a &#39;please log in or register  ;to view more....&#39; type link on the bottom of the summary.<br /><br />This content is crawlable by the search engines and therefore you get your SEO boost without falling foul of google guidlines.<br /><br />Hidden content in the way you describe is very much frowned upon.
  • Matthew Stuart:  ;Hmm... that&#39;s a shame it&#39;s frowned upon as I am really only asking users to log in to see the full content that is hidden rather than use the hidden area to load it with keywords and links etc.<br /><br />Yes, the CMS does allow for a title and an intro, so we can get around it that way, but it devalues the reason to ask people to register for free and sign in!<br /><br />I have just installed a phpBB forum for another client and I see in the phpBB code that it has code for bots, but the code is so complex and all over the place that I can&#39;t figure out if it does allow bots access without logging in, and if it does, how it works.<br /><br />Thanks Dave
  • W.E. Jonk: You have a couple of options.<br /><br />- Like Dave already suggested you can have the first post (or parts of it) in a thread visible to the public.<br />- You can use the &quot;first click free&quot; where you serve the page if the user is coming from Google. [1]<br /><br />What you shouldn&#39;t do is<br /><br />- Hide content (display:none or text-indent: -9999px; can be viewed as hidden content). [2]<br />- Cloaking (serve content to Googlebot but not to users coming Google.com). [3]<br /><br />[1] ;<br />[2] ;<br />[3] ;
  • Matthew Stuart: First click free is interesting...<br /><br />Thanks guys. This is the first time I&#39;ve used google to ask peers, and it seems to be high value responses returned very quickly
  • Ian Dixon: The article you mention in point #2 says nothing about using display: none  ;<br />It is in fact quite commonly used to create FAQ type pages where the user clicks on the question to dynamically see the answer before moving on.<br />Of course, it can be abused but then so can almost every web page element.
  • W.E. Jonk:  ;indeed I should be more specific. It <b>can</b> be viewed as hidden content. ;<br /><br />If you use display:none or ;visibility:hidden in a &quot;normal&quot; way (like you described) then there is no problem.
  • Justin Y: If it were me, I&#39;d have a page that&#39;s built to convert that&#39;s optimized for the same content instead of worrying about SEO value to a hidden page. I don&#39;t think Display:none is frowned upon if it&#39;s used properly. Using display:none though doesn&#39;t block the user from getting to the content though, inspect element and change to display:all, I can see it all. 
  • Matthew Stuart: Yeah, I&#39;m aware that inspect will show the hidden content, and that&#39;s the reason for using it. I&#39;m not trying to hide anything from google for sinister reasons because once the user signs in, they&#39;ll see exactly the same content. The average user won&#39;t bother with inspecting, I think they&#39;d rather register as it&#39;s free.<br /><br />There are other pages that will be entirely locked down and redirect to a login page, so in order to get at these users have to register.<br /><br />I&#39;ve read no end of stuff now, and as far as I&#39;ve seen, nothing relates to using display:none;, but lots relate to hidden links etc, so I am still hesitant!
  • W.E. Jonk: With regard to display:none. I imagine that you put a one line php code where you check whether or not an user is logged in or not. If not you set the display:none and serve a login/register form. I think you have to view it more from Google&#39;s users point a view. The users go from google to your site and they don&#39;t see any useful content, instead they get a login/register form. While to rank you use display:none so that G can crawl and index. In other words, you want to use display:none for search engines only. In still other words, the display:none is useless to the user. To me that does sounds malicious, where you manipulate the css to serve something different to robots then to users.<br /><br />If the display:none is being used to optimize for users, like a FAQ or in a dropdown menu then there is no issue. But in this case you are doing it for search engines only and I strongly oppose to the proposition in the original post.  ; ;

View original question in the Dumb SEO Questions community on Facebook, Tuesday, September 10, 2013).

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