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Optimizing for the Search Engines Should You Use Invisible Text?

© 2004 Virginia Lawrence, Ph.D.

A client recently suggested that we should just use invisible text to place keywords on the Web site pages to get the Web site listed on the first pages of the search engines. Well, there’s "legal" invisible text and "illegal" invisible text.

Legal Invisible Text – Meta Tags

We can add text that is not visible on the Web site page if that text is in a "meta tag." We insert meta tags into the head area of the page, and those tags give the search engines some information on the contents of the page. Note that the tags do not describe the entire Web site, but only one page of the site.

The most common meta tags are:

Title Meta Tag – gives the short descriptive title for the page. This tag is usually about 50 characters long.

Description Meta Tag – gives the longer description for the page. This tag is usually around 200 characters long.

Keywords Meta Tag – gives the most important keywords for the page.

When we write these meta tags we are writing only about the current page. We are giving the search engines a little more information than they find within the visible text on the page. Most search engines currently pay no attention to the meta tags other than the Title tag, while a few search engines require these tags. A few search engines use the description tag as the description displayed with the site address. We still use these tags, but they are not particularly helpful in increasing our rankings.

Legal Invisible Text – Alt Tags

We can also add text in a different "alt tag" for each graphic on the page. The alt tags are short, usually 20 characters or less. Again, when we write these tags we are giving information only about the current page.

The alt tag was created to give information to people who are using browsers that do not display graphics. The alt tags should be describing the graphic or describing where the graphic link leads. We should not be loading alt tags with keywords.

Most search engines currently pay no attention to the alt tags, yet the information in the alt tags can sometimes help the page to rank better for the keywords in certain search engines.

Illegal Invisible Text

If we add white text to a Web page with a white background, we are adding illegal invisible text. If we add invisible comments packed with keywords, we are adding illegal invisible text. Most search engines simply ignore this type of invisible text. However, the search engines that do notice the text will penalize the site for using such text. In particular, Google will drop any site using this type of invisible text. We never add illegal invisible text, because it can only harm the ranking of the Web site in the search engines.

Visible Text – The Most Important Text

Always remember that it’s the visible text that interests the search engines, particularly Google. Google is working very hard to give searchers the best possible results for any search. Google wants to present a list of the most important pages for every search term.

Google considers a page important for a search term when that page actually talks about the search term. The Google algorithm is very sophisticated. It easily drops pages that simply reiterate a search term, yet it raises a page in the ranks if that page actually discusses the search term in question. For Google, a page dedicated to the discussion of the search term starts to look important for that term.

Google is also interested in how other sites link to the page. If other sites link to the page, describing the page with that search term, then the page rises in importance for that term. The other sites must be legitimate sites, however, not just link farms.


Visible Page Text - We present real information to the visitor who is searching for the keyword phrase.

Meta Tags - We add the basic meta tags for the search engines.

Incoming Links - We get the site listed in other search engines and in related sites.

The search engines are truly interested in the visible text on the page. If we want a page to rank well for a particular search term, we must dedicate a page to that keyword phrase.

~ Virginia Lawrence, Ph.D. is a professional Web Designer and Online Marketing Consultant who publishes both in print and online. Contact her at or visit her Web site at



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