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Front Line SEO: Devilish Dropdown Menus

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Yesterday, we explained the value of footer links on your website. Today we'd like to talk briefly about header navigation links and menus.

In a Google training video last year, it was explained that Google didn't penalize you for putting a small amount of hidden text on your site when that that text is part of navigation or interactive information. We wrote a Daily Nugget about that video earlier this year.

In that training video, Google didn't say how much, if at all, of that hidden information would be use for ranking, and at the time we didn't have any valid data either, but we do now.

Using Google's SERP preview feature in recent testing, we've consistently noticed that jewelry websites don't rank at all for words hidden in dropdown menus. Our tests were far from scientific, but the results were consistent across several sites.

Here's how we tested:
1. Found a few jewelry sites that use similar features for hidden dropdown menus that appear when hovering.
2. Looked at the words used in the dropdown menus.
3. Searched for several of the word phrases from the menus.
4. Looked at the Google Preview and the Google Cache pages.

In all cases we tested, words hidden in the menus did not rank, but words hidden in the menu that also appeared within visible copy did rank. And words that were in the hidden menu, appeared in the body and appeared in the footer links ranked even better.

Years ago, we considered JavaScript powered drop down menus to be worthless and never recommended them in design. Few people use those old JavaScript menus any more since they were replaced with more efficient CSS versions.

Unfortunately it seems that, just like before, Google is still discounting any links and phrases from the hidden CSS menus. Our conclusion is that hidden menus are good for design, but bad for SEO.

As a final note for today, please don't jump to any other conclusions about hidden page text because our testing was only conducted with dropdown menus.
AT: 05/24/2011 10:54:10 AM   LINK TO THIS GOLD NUGGET
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