Dumb SEO Questions

(Entry was posted by Matthew Stuart on this post in the Dumb SEO Questions community on Facebook, 09/10/2013).

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 Facebook & 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?

    If so, what we tend to do is for the logged out users we give an introductory paragraph/summary of the page with a 'please log in or register  ;to view more....' type link on the bottom of the summary.

    This content is crawlable by the search engines and therefore you get your SEO boost without falling foul of google guidlines.

    Hidden content in the way you describe is very much frowned upon.
  • Matthew Stuart: +Dave Elliott ;Hmm... that's a shame it'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.

    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!

    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't figure out if it does allow bots access without logging in, and if it does, how it works.

    Thanks Dave
  • W.E. Jonk: You have a couple of options.

    - Like Dave already suggested you can have the first post (or parts of it) in a thread visible to the public.
    - You can use the "first click free" where you serve the page if the user is coming from Google. [1]

    What you shouldn't do is

    - Hide content (display:none or text-indent: -9999px; can be viewed as hidden content). [2]
    - Cloaking (serve content to Googlebot but not to users coming Google.com). [3]

    [1] ;https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/74536?hl=en
    [2] ;https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/66353?hl=en
    [3] ;https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/66355?hl=en
  • Matthew Stuart: First click free is interesting...

    Thanks guys. This is the first time I'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 +W.E. Jonk ;
    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.
    Of course, it can be abused but then so can almost every web page element.
  • W.E. Jonk: +Ian Dixon ;indeed I should be more specific. It can be viewed as hidden content. ;

    If you use display:none or ;visibility:hidden in a "normal" way (like you described) then there is no problem.
  • Justin Y: If it were me, I'd have a page that's built to convert that's optimized for the same content instead of worrying about SEO value to a hidden page. I don't think Display:none is frowned upon if it's used properly. Using display:none though doesn'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'm aware that inspect will show the hidden content, and that's the reason for using it. I'm not trying to hide anything from google for sinister reasons because once the user signs in, they'll see exactly the same content. The average user won't bother with inspecting, I think they'd rather register as it's free.

    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.

    I've read no end of stuff now, and as far as I'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's users point a view. The users go from google to your site and they don'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.

    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, 09/10/2013).

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