Late last year Search Engine Roundtable posted an article about the usage of tabs, accordions, and hidden content in websites. This article was a quick overview of how these design elements will negatively affect SEO within a website.
The article seemed to lie under the radar and most people missed it. It’s so far under the radar, I haven’t heard much about it since I read the post in November.
I decided this topic needed further discussion because a lot of designers and website owners are using WordPress accordion and tabbed content plugins without knowing the negative affect it has on the health of their website.
An Example of Accordion or Tabbed Usage of Content
Below is an example of tabbed content illustrated in a .gif image. It simply means that content is hidden behind a tab or other element until the user clicks to view and/or read more of the content presented.
Tabs and accordions have been widely used in WordPress because they offer an easy method for presenting a lot of information without overwhelming the user. This is very common on e-commerce product pages or information heavy websites that present legal, scientific, or technical content.
Up until I read the Barry Schwartz’s article I was a fan of tabbed content. Heck I even had tabbed content in our store product pages. That being said, I removed the tabs from our product pages as soon as I read this article.
Why this Google Announcement Matters to Website Owners and Content Marketers
Google has publicly stated they are ignoring content that is hidden behind tabs or accordions. Or at least in many cases they consider this content lower in value because it is not presented to the user on page load.
In a Google Webmaster Central office-hours hangout a Google employee stated hidden content is considered unimportant and therefore not index worthy. If content isn’t indexed, it won’t show up in the search results page and it won’t help the page or website’s overall SEO efforts.
Google’s suggestion was as follows:
If you want that content really indexed, I’d make sure it’s visible for the users when they go to that page.
That is a game changer for people who watch the search engines closely and try very hard to stay in their good graces. I’m one of those people and this is why I stopped using tabbed content immediately.
If You’re Using WordPress
While this applies to all websites, I’ll address how this pertains to WordPress users. If you search for “tabbed content” and “accordion” inside the WordPress plugin repository you’ll find almost three thousand plugins listed.
Some popular WordPress plugins include:
- WooCommerce – Downloaded 6,077,319 times
- Shortcodes Ultimate – Downloaded 1,161,764 times
- Squelch Tabs and Accordions Shortcodes – Downloaded 24,189 times
- Accordion Shortcodes – Downloaded 24,534 times
- Tabby Responsive Tabs – Downloaded 41,828 times
- WordPress Post Tabs – Downloaded 136,326 times
- Tabs Shortcode – Downloaded 22,897 times
If you are using any of the above plugins or the thousands of other options available, review your website content to see if the hidden text is index worthy. If it is, consider removing the tabbed or accordion feature so Google will spider and index this content.
If you are using WooCommerce, consider adding an extension plugin called WooCommerce Expand Tabs. This plugin will remove the tabs and make all the product information search engine friendly.