Concealing content behind captchas is a crappy SEO practice – Know Why?

2 min read

After popups, captchas are probably the most annoying thing on the Internet. Even if you don’t care whether your visitors leave your site angry or not, captchas have another unintended consequence that can be disastrous: they kill conversions and most importantly Google Can’t See Content Behind Captchas. And this is too much for you to bear because it hits you right on point.


But, considering the other way around, Captchas are still very important for website security, and, at least once every few years, you’re bound to run into some kind of spam or security issue. Regardless, it is critical to take every preventative action possible, and one of the most common is to use CAPTCHAs.


You have to ask yourself: Even though a CAPTCHA is sometimes great for website security, is it going to hurt my SEO?


Captchas are bad for usability, and as previously stated, they prevent search engine spiders from indexing pages behind the captcha, they are bad for SEO as well. When it comes to conversions, however, the real damage is done. Captchas simply destroy conversions, and this is likely their most significant disadvantage in terms of SEO.


Hiding content behind captchas is bad SEO because Google’s web crawler can’t see what is inside them.


Google warns that if websites hide content behind captchas, its web crawler will be unable to see it.


When Googlebot crawls webpages, it does not interact with anything.


It will assume that if it lands on a page with a captcha blocking the main content, that is the only thing on the page.


However, there are workarounds. While captchas are inconvenient, they should not be avoided.


All of this was stated by Google’s John Mueller during the Search Central SEO office hours on September 24, 2021.


To this john Mueller stated 

“Googlebot doesn’t fill out any captchas. Even if they are Google-based captchas we don’t fill them out. So that’s something where if the captcha needs to be completed in order for the content to be visible, then we would not have access to the content.


If, on the other hand, the content is available there without needing to do anything, and the captcha is just shown on top, then usually that would be fine.”


But there is more to it as he said sometimes you can use captchas but it should not block the content, keeping this in mind he also suggested how we can use Captcha effectively for user-friendly and optimum usage.


To ensure that a captcha doesn’t block your Google view, Mueller recommends using the Inspect URL tool in the Search Console.


“What I would do to test is use, in Search Console, the inspect URL tool and fetch those pages and see what comes back.


On the one hand [check] the visible page to make sure that matches the visible content. And [then check] the HTML that is rendered there to make sure that includes the content you want to have indexed. That’s kind of the approach I would take there.”


That would solve the problem for you. But in case you still need to use a captcha for the content, you can actually transfer or show Googlebot to another version of the page.


Googlebot has access to a captcha-free version of the page, whereas users must complete the captcha before viewing any content.


The content will then be used for ranking, while you can still accomplish your goal with the captcha.


“From a policy point of view we’re okay with situations where you serve us the full content, and you require a captcha on the user side. If you need to do that slightly differently for Googlebot or maybe other search engines than you would for the average user from our point of view, that’s fine.”