Should You Use Expandable Content On Your Website

expandable content

As a website owner/operator you have undoubtedly heard the saying “Content is King”. It is true.

Personally, I learned this lesson during the early days of the Internet after developing a site for a friend. As I was reviewing the traffic statistics for this website back then, I noticed we were getting a lot of traffic from the top 10 search engines for certain words. None of these words that were getting all this traffic from sites like Lycos, AltaVista and Yahoo, were for any of the targeted keywords we were trying to rank for. They had to be contained within the site somewhere so I did a quick review to find out where these keywords were located. Turned out these words were within the content of the short stories my friend was writing.

Soon after I started developing written content that specifically targeted contentious keywords that worked so well that before I knew it, I had gained top rankings across the major search engines for whatever words I wanted to. While this was a wonderful personal discovery during the early days of the Internet the truth is that this was no huge secret. There is nothing mystical about it, it is simply a matter of “you can’t be found for words that are not on your site”. Add the words if you want to be found for those words. Not much of a coronation but that is what makes it king.

Slowly the concept of “Content is King” has become more widely accepted and put into practice. Unfortunately, just like so many other successful online marketing elements, content itself was targeted as a tool for spamming the search engines to gain better rankings. It started with keyword stuffing followed by hiding text by coloring that text the same color as the background of a page. Soon after that the technology of building websites grew to include layering which in turn gave us new places for keyword stuffing that included the placement of content off the visual part of the browser by burying the code within negative page coordinates.

Hot on the heels of these black hat content techniques we saw content scrapers that would steal content from a site and then run it through a content spinner. All this nonsensical content needed a place to reside which gave birth to private blog networks. Despite these attacks on content to cheat the search engine rankings, content remains king. The search engines just got better at detecting low quality, spam content and started assigning penalties and deindexing sites.

Which brings us back to point behind this post; should you use expandable content on your website? Is it considered hidden text? Will using it get my site penalized or deindexed? These are all very good questions that I will try to answer as best that I can.

According to Google; expandable, hidden content as used in Tabs, Accordions and expandable boxes will not be weighted as highly as sites that do not use expandable content. This little rule comes with this caveat…it applies only to desktop sites. For mobile sites, they claim the use of expandable content makes more sense given the size restraints attached to mobile sites. When used to enhance the end user’s experience on your mobile site then your expandable content receives full weight by Google.

So where does that leave us with regards to using expandable content? From my perspective, it is a design element that when used properly, enhances the end user’s experience on any given page, mobile or otherwise. For example, you see a lot of FAQ pages use expandable content for tight, more presentable information. Also, you see a lot of e commerce pages that use expandable content to offer things like tech specs, answer questions by the consumers or to show larger images. To me it doesn’t make sense for Google, or any other search engine, to downgrade a page that uses expandable content wisely whether it is used on a desktop or mobile site.

This doesn’t even take into consideration the “mobile first” indexing that will be rolling out soon but that is a whole different article for the future.

In short the answer is quite simply this; yes, you should if it makes sense to your design and the purpose behind the use of expandable content. If your desktop page already has great rankings for your targeted keywords, then including some expandable content might not be your best move. But otherwise I think the user experience is more important than a slight variation on your weight.

My advice would be to develop a responsive website so that all your content is virtually identical on a page by page comparison and go ahead and use that expandable content as long as it makes sense to do so. After all you developed your site for people to use and not to appease Google’s ever changing rules.

The following two tabs change content below.
Search Engines are now one of the biggest lead generators for any online company, and Les Romhanyi is passionate about Google and Bing and everything ‘SERP.’ Truly an SEO expert in organic search optimization, Les has optimized websites for search engines before it was even called Search Engine Optimization, going back to 1995 while working on the Net Sheppard project. In the nearly two decades since, Les has provided SEO services to some of the most competitive and difficult business verticals, such as online gambling, pharmaceuticals, and real estate.