In his hangout on 10/1/2021, John explained not to use CSS display: none on internal links.
A webmaster was concerned about a client who was using these types of CSS display properties on their links en masse.
And the client had been doing this for the past nine months.
John said that Google considers this a type of cloaking. While it’s not a significant value on the website, and not likely something that could be taken action on, Google still doesn’t like the practice.
This exchange occurs at approximately 17:06 in the video.
John Mueller Hangout Transcript
I’ve been working with a client for like, two months now. And I found in my research that they were cloaking internal links.
Webmaster 5 17:26
Yeah. But then I checked in the Way Back Machine and I found out they have been doing this before they made a certain template change. And it’s about footer links. And these footer links were there back in January. But when I checked Search Console, I don’t really see anything happening with a penalty as such. So I wonder, how long does it take? Because I want to advise him, of course, hey, you need to take action before we get a penalty. But I can imagine the response, hey, we’ve been doing this for apparently nine months. Should we be afraid?
Yeah. So what kind of cloaking do you mean, or what…
Webmaster 5 18:16
The display is not display is not on a… With CSS. And there is no way to make these links appear with a link or such.
Yeah, I think it’s something where, theoretically, we don’t like that. But I don’t see the web spam team taking action on that. Because especially when it comes to internal linking like that, it’s something that has quite a subtle effect within the website. And you’re essentially just shuffling things around within your own website. I think it would be trickier if they were, I don’t know, buying links somewhere else and then hiding them. That would be problematic. That might be something that our algorithms pick up on, or that even the web spam team at some point might manually look at. But if it’s within the same website, if it’s set to display none, then I don’t think it’s a great practice. If you think it’s an important link, then kind of like make it visible to people. But it’s not going to be something where the web spam team is going to take action and remove the site or do anything crazy.
Webmaster 5 19:36
Okay, so in this case, you would say leave it as it is?
Well, I wouldn’t leave it as it is. I would see it as something to try to improve for the long run. Yeah, the sense of like, if you think this is an important link to an important page, then it’s like, just like be straightforward about it. Yeah, because users are going to use it too. Or maybe if users don’t care about it or maybe it isn’t actually an important link, but I wouldn’t see it as something where it’s like, drop everything we need to fix this this week, kind of thing.