Whether or not hidden content affects SEO has been a question that’s been asked for years.
There have been some basic tests conducted, but there are quite a few variables involved with SEO test as per usual, and its not always to get a clear answer.
However, I was chatting about this with someone on slack that asked for a bit of help, and unhiding some hidden content was the only thing I could recommend to him.
He made the change, and only that change, and after months of stagnated results he sent me this;
Content that was hidden behind an expander, is now showing by default, and within a few days he saw rankings for the page shoot up a few spots.
This is for keywords he has barely seen any movement for, and after the core update was completed. Nothing else was changed that could have broken this ranking trend.
By default, it is relatively safe to assume that your content is indexable by Google if it is available in the HTML source code.
Right-click, view source, then just ctrl + F and search for your content.
However, you can directly check if its actually indexed by opening google and just searching for a piece of text inside quotations.
If Google has indexed your content, it will show up as a result. Even if the text isn’t directly visible on the page, and may be behind an expander or tab, Google should still show the URL.
This really depends on the jquery implementation.
Some client-side content is loaded, provided no user interaction is required to load it.
However, content that requires a user to click something, another action, for the content to actually load in, will probably not be indexed.
So any content behind an expander, tabs or accordions that is loaded via an onclick JS event, will probably not get indexed.
Google doesn’t click things like a user. It crawls, finds URLs, and then crawls them. It won’t see clickable elements.
Based on what I have just seen, and seen in the past, yes, content hidden behind expanders can affect SEO. The content will get indexed perfectly fine, provided it’s available in the HTML source, however it may not rank as well as it would if it was available by default.
To ensure the content behind the expander can provide the most SEO benefit possible, you must ensure the content is expanded by default, and not hidden.
Based on previous tests of mine, and the fact tabs/accordions act similar to expanders, yes, the content behind tabs and accordions can affect SEO. It is best to ensure the content is exposed by default, rather than hidden behind a tab or accordion.
Accordions are easier to expand by default, but tabs aren’t due to how they work. It would be recommended to tweak your design to allow the content behind the tabs to be fully exposed by default. You could still use the tab style design, just leverage CSS to move the browser window up and down, rather than having the content exposed/hidden.
The best practice for dealing with hidden content is to expose the content.
It’s that simple.
Whilst your content can still get indexed perfectly fine, results from tests are showing the exposing the content by default can assist you in ranking more than content hidden behind expanders.