Blue Widgets – Google and CSS Files

With all this talk about Google Crawling CSS files I thought it might be nice to get an idea what’s within guidelines and what’s not.

This is a CSS tip I picked up from CSSZenGarden that allows you to satisfy lots of people at once. For example this element could easily exist in top or side navigation


Viewing source code it would look like this:

<div class=’navtop’><a href=’blue-widgets.html’><img src=’images/blue-widgets-nav.jpg’ alt=’blue widgets’><span>blue widgets</span></a></div>

The CSS would look like this

.navtop span {display:none;}

IMHO that’s perfectly fine, you give the client what they want, the designers gets what they want, and the spiders get what they want. I would certainly hope that this implementation wouldn’t trigger an automatic ban and if it came under hand review that it would pass as well. The problem is when people do something like this:

<div class=’navtop’><a href=’blue-widgets.html’><img src=’images/blue-widgets-nav.jpg’ alt=’blue widgets’><span>buy cheap blue widgets online</span></a></div>

I’d say that’s a pretty clear intent to trick the search engines, but what about this

<div class=’navtop’><a href=’blue-widgets.html’><img src=’images/blue-widgets-nav.jpg’ alt=’blue widgets’><span>large blue widgets</span></a></div>

Is the addition of “large” enough for it to be considered “bad”. If I were a search engine engineer (stop laughing) I’d have to say yes it is bad. If the text in the image said “large blue widget” then you’d be ok. Now what happens when you use a photo or illustration and not a textual image? The spam line becomes a lot fuzzier. For example I could use the image below with this technique and link to a page about ‘Paris Hilton‘ or ‘cheeseburgers‘ and still be accurate and non spammy?


It’s an interesting and difficult problem for search engines to come to try and solve.


Tags: , CSS,

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