Last week saw the granting of a US patent that could ultimately present one of the biggest influences to search engine optimisation since Panda arrived. The license, granted to Google, uncovers an automatic approach to the detection of spamming in content.
The patent is named ‘Systems and methods for detecting hidden text and hidden links’.
It has been a long time in the coming too, with the search engine firm’s Matt Cutts and Fritz Schneider filing the request back in August 2009.
The rather too wordy and complex abstract explains how an automatic system creates a structural representation of any page hosted on the web, in order to determine hidden content.
The black hat SEO techniques it has been designed to counter include white text on white backgrounds, positioning text behind images, CSS off screen positioning and hyphenated linking.
In the guidelines for the patent, the complexity of the spam fight becomes just a little clearer for anyone interested. Google mentions that just one character (one pixel square) can be effectively used as a link, for example.
Whilst the patent has been over three years in the granting, the reality goes back near 10 years. In 2003, Google issued a patent request for a system to determine text and background colours being the same.
For some though, the use of hidden text is far more than those in unreputable SEO careers trying to scam rank.
It has been used as an effective web page design technique to deliver a better user experience. Used if employing a non standard text which affects page rendering, it allows all users to view a page comfortably.