2 minute read.

Undocumented SEO – Google On / Off Tags

Paul Anthony / October 8, 2013

Posted in: Archive

Want to specify which parts of your page Google index? Have you got content you would rather they didn’t index at all? Quora is using a pretty interesting SEO tactic to hide the text from Google so that it doesn’t violate Google’s policies on content cloaking. 

They hide the content of many answers from anonymous users — at least when they’re clicking through from Google. So how do they do it without violating Cloaking Guidelines?

Although not officially supported by Google’s search engine, they are documented for an (internal) search engine use with Google Search Appliance.  See here for full breakdown of the tags.

Either way, it is working. Google does not index the blurred text that appears in Quora answers.


Quora answer as it appears in the source code.


Interestingly, Bing and Yahoo both seem to be honouring these tags.





Is this cloaking by bending the rules? Or smart SEO? Google are unlikely to penalise as they likely already utilise these tags on the open web to prevent enterprise content from showing up in the main index.

Be interested to hear your thoughts.

Hat tip Dan on Quora


John Mu (Google Engineer) showed up in the comments to debunk the myth, so the jury is out

  • cloaking
  • quora
  • SEO

2 responses to “Undocumented SEO – Google On / Off Tags

  1. Hi Paul,
    Great article (as always). It’s a very interesting concept. It would certainly help balance the need of the user experience compared to helping the search engines read the important content on your site, but it does seem to open the gate to some pretty heavy manipulation.

    Perhaps the question will be if this can be manipulating content in a bad way (I’m sure the black hat SEOers amongs us will have a few ideas!)

    Will prove interesting reading in the future….

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