An interesting note from Barry Schwartz over at Search Engine Roundtable today… Barry spotted a thread over on the Google Webmaster Help forums, where Googler John Mueller (aka JohnMu) noted that a particular site had approximately 3 metric tons of text stuffed into title attribute of links, and said:
To our algorithms, that might look a bit sneaky — and in practice, it doesn’t make that much sense, so I’d recommend going through your pages and making sure that you’re using title-attributes as they would normally be used.
In case you have no idea what I am talking about – the title attribute is used on images and links to provide a “tool tip” when you mouse over it. So a sensible title attribute for a link might say “click to sign up” but there’s not much point in even doing that, if the link already says the same thing.
Anyway – this is the first time I’ve heard this specific issue raised in public by a Googler, but it’s consistent with what we’ve been seeing in the “Penguin cases” I’m working with.
A number of folks who were hit had learned from some-guy-who-called-himself-an-SEO-expert that they should stuff keywords into the title attribute of images and links. That’s a Ridiculously Terrible Idea™ – and in fact, at the time, none of the major search engines was even indexing the title attribute as content. It was a total waste of time, at best. Which is what I’ve been telling people for years – “waste of time, don’t do it.”
For all I know, they’re still not indexing that attribute (they shouldn’t be, but we’ll run that test again) – but in the thread Barry found, the site in question actually uses so much text in there, that the actual text behind the “tool tip” isn’t even fully visible with the mouse pointing at it.
This points at Google looking for “spam signals” even in places where what you are doing would have no impact on their algorithms. Which the results of the Penguin update already hinted at pretty strongly, no?
As a result, I’m officially changing my recommendation from “stuffing keywords in your meta description means fewer people will click on your search listing, so don’t do it” to “stuffing keywords into your description tag is not just stupid, it’s also risky, so don’t do it.” Please adjust your explanations to clients accordingly.
Before anyone asks, you should also not “stuff” your keywords meta tag. If you have one. In fact, my recommendation remains “do not even bother using a meta keywords tag.”
That’s all – just thought this was interesting, and potentially important to some people out there.