Testing if tabs and accordions could be hurting your SEO

By Ilana Davis

In a past article, I shared how product descriptions tabs could kill conversions.

I shared one of the (many) issues with tabs is that depending on how the tabs are coded, you may be hiding the content from Google. This effectively tanks your SEO.

Naturally, I received some push-back on this statement…

“But! Google says they can ‘see’ what’s behind tabs.”

Their reasoning was that the content still shows in full in the HTML. Those naysayers are partially right. Google MAY be able to see the content, but that’s not a risk I would take.

A possible alternative presented by Baymard was to use accordions. Now we learn this may not be any better.

What we didn’t know is whether the hidden content actually has an impact on search results. The content exists, but what’s the actual impact if it’s not visually on the page? Could that cause customers to feel frustrated and leave the page without finding what they were looking for?

Dan Sure, SEO Consultant, was testing accordions and they believe that hiding information behind accordion dropdowns does hurt rankings.

Dan goes on to say “… some of the content was hidden to the user behind accordion dropdowns (but still fully rendered in the HTML). We made the content visible to the user by default and so far have seen an immediate improvement in traffic/rankings”

Google says this test is inconclusive and I don’t disagree. It’s not an exact science and this is a small test in the grand scheme of things.

I’ve been in this game long enough to know that Google employees aren’t right 100% of the time.

If you feel strongly about having content hidden behind tabs or accordions, consider a similar assessment to see how your ranking changes when you pull content out to be visible by default.

Don’t just test your rankings though. Check rankings, click-through rates, bounce rates, and conversions.

One thing that John Mu of Google and I do agree on is this:

“… not everything is a SEO factor :-). A better UX is good even if it changes nothing else.”

A better user experience is definitely good even if it changes nothing else.

This is potentially a win-win opportunity. Removing tabs and accordions could improve both your SEO and UX… which in turn could help your conversion rates. So it’s a win-win-win. Why not give it a shot?


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