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What is Hidden Text?

By T. Carrier
Updated May 16, 2024
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Hidden text is text that is not visible to the average reader. More specifically, the term references text within a computer document that is invisible unless certain measures are taken by the document user. Hidden computer text may serve several purposes, including advertising, convenience, protection, and secrecy.

Most hidden text is achieved in a relatively simple manner. The document creator sets the desired text’s font color on transparent, so that the individual letters appear invisible. Text color may also be changed to coincide with a document’s background color, which would also render the text hidden. A less common technique occurs when a text’s font size is put on zero. An individual may change fonts by perusing the document menu for a page layout or some similar heading, or by utilizing HTML code for a world wide web document.

Keyword stuffing presents one of the most common and most controversial uses for hidden text. In this practice, a document creator such as a website designer may put blocks of this text containing keywords within his or her website. This step is intended to improve a website’s search engine ranking by giving the website the appearance of expertise on a particular topic. For example, a site that wishes to achieve a top ranking and thus draw more visitors for digital photography may pepper the website with hidden text containing the keywords digital photography. Many search engines view this practice as unethical, however, and will significantly lower search engine rankings or even ban websites after discovery.

Less contentious uses for hidden text are available as well. Some websites use the practice for convenience by making text invisible until a visitor clicks on a certain area, thereby reducing screen clutter. Special navigation links for handicapped individuals may also be made hidden. In other instances, website creators may make site passwords hidden so the site may be better protected for frequent users. Further, some sites may want to maintain secrecy around certain information, such as upcoming plots, or spoilers, on television websites.

An individual may often view hidden text by highlighting the document. This precaution will make most text — whether readily seen or hidden — visible to the viewer. Some creators can bypass this method of discovery by placing their hidden text on the fringes of a document and outside a typical computer monitor’s viewing range. Layering techniques found in style sheets may also be utilized by a creator to keep text truly hidden from document users.

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