Do Accordions and Tabbed Content help or hurt SEO?
Most new SEOs and blog owners in general doubt if tabbed content or content under accordions can adversely impact the SEO of their website.
If you are here for a simple yes or no answer then the answer is a straight “No”.
The reason why many of you have had this doubt in the first palace is probably because of the famous saying that Google hates hidden content.
In the past, there were hundreds of thousands of websites that put up tons of hidden content on their websites to confuse the Google algorithm. This was done with the hope of ranking their webpage higher.
Black hat SEOs also tried to display different pages for the Google bot vs a real user thereby violating the SEO guidelines set by Google. They do this in order to funnel users into affiliate schemes that make them a lot of money.
These techniques were considered to be black hat by Google. As a result, when Google found such websites they were immediately penalized.
Getting penalized by Google can be really scary. I get it!
But it is time for you to understand the difference between what is hidden text and accordion/tabbed content…
What is accordion content?
The accordion content is in the form of a list with up to five headings. Each heading can be clicked to expand and reveal the hidden content. The expanded content can be hidden again by clicking on the heading.
The example given below is that of a live accordion. Feel free to click the headings and check it out. I have presented this accordion in the form of an FAQ. This accordion is part of the Gutenberg block editor on WordPress.
What is tabbed content?
Tabbed content can be used on a website that needs to publish multiple pages around a similar topic. Tabs help in dividing content into meaningful sub-sections.
Screen real estate is used effectively and the user can access the content in each tab efficiently and effectively.
Here is an example of tabbed content implemented using the Gutenberg block editor.
Tabbed content can be used on a website that needs to put up multiple pages around a similar topic. Tabs help in dividing content into meaningful sub-sections.
This is mearly an example to show how tabbed content can be used in WordPress
Can Google crawl the content in accordions and tabs?
Yes, Google can see and crawl all content present in accordions and even tabs. There’s more… Google does not see this content as hidden text (text hidden from the user) but rather as information that has been presented in a rich format to add to the user experience, especially on mobile devices.
Everybody knows that Google provides a great importance on user experience and would favor anything that promotes it.
It is pretty evident from this that although Google does not consider accordions/tabs to be a direct ranking factor it does consider the effect on user experience as a result of adding them to your page.
Proof that Google crawls accordions and tabbed content:
Matt Cutts the former employee of Google clearly says in this video that Google crawls everything on a page including the content in accordions or collapsable content.
He also adds that this will not be classified as spam unless people intentionally hide content in there from the user in order to manipulate rankings.
Take note that this video was published way back in 2013 and Google has come a long way over that period of time.
Here is a more recent video of Jhon Muller where he reiterates what Matt had said in the previous video at time stamp 13:20
When should I use accordions on my webpage?
- When you are writing long info posts or when you need to present data to your users based on their need to view it.
- Use it to enhance the user experience on mobile devices due to their effectiveness and format of presentation.
- Use it for the FAQs on your page.
- Use it to present user reviews that can be expanded when clicked on “read more”.
- Use it to present complex topics in a simplified manner.
- You can also use it to present the various segments/verticals/categories of information on a particular page.
When should I use tabbed content on my webpage?
- Use it to group related content into various tabs.
- Use it to arrange tab labels in an order that follows a certain hierarchy.
- Use it to present long complex topics in a structured manner.
- Use it to help users navigate through your content intuitively.
What exactly is hidden text and why is it bad for SEO?
Google has a hawk’s eye for hidden text and by hidden text, I don’t mean the kind that you find in accordions or tabbed content (when done right) but rather the kind that you find on spammy websites.
Let me clarify with an example. Let’s say somebody created a website for selling shoes and has all the viewable content on the topic on that page which is visible to both Google and the user who visits the page.
Now let’s say that the website owner or the SEO of the website puts up extra-textual content in the background of the page that has the same color as the background of the page.
Let’s make this even more simple. Imagine writing something on a white page with the text color set to white. This makes the content unreadable to the user while viewable by Google. This is one kind of hidden text.
You may have come across sites that have these kinds of content sometimes slightly shifted to the side of a page. This is another type of hidden text.
Then there are pages with a bunch of gibberish with no value at all. No user will be able to make any sense out of that kind of content and is an extremely bad user experience.
This type of content usually contains a list of keywords that the site owner wants the page to rank for. This type of content is frowned upon by Google and users alike.
Hidden text can also be found in collapsible content which includes accordion and tabbed content as well. Site owners sometimes try to reduce the size of the dropdown button in the accordion to a small dot thereby making it hard for users to locate them on their screens.
They also include a flood of text in the dropdown as well with the intention of including a bunch of keywords. This again is a black hat SEO practice that could earn the site penalties from Google.
FAQs schema and Accordions:
The most common place to look for accordions is the FAQ section of a page. FAQs generally go with informative posts which require answering multiple questions related to the topic.
FAQs also make for a strong case when used on product pages to answer questions on the product itself.
In order to have these FAQs pop up in search, they need to be implemented using the FAQ schema. While implementing FAQ schema on the page Google’s SEO guidelines also require us to have the same FAQs on the page.
This is a great use case for accordion. This is the reason why it is easy to spot accordions at the bottom of a page encompassing the FAQs.