John Mueller of Google clarifies that one violation of the webmaster guidelines isn’t going to get your site banned from search results.
Mueller stated this in a Reddit thread where an SEO was concerned about a competitor apparently manipulated search rankings with invisible, keyword stuffed text. To the SEO, why were they being outranked by this “cheating” competitor?
Mueller, in response, said that the hidden text alone would not be enough for one site to outrank another. In the end, that’s not enough to get a site banned.
“A site is not going to outrank your site just because of hidden text. We use many, many signals for ranking. Inversely, just having hidden text on a page won’t get the site banned from Google.”
Although it has been a violation of Google’s webmaster guidelines for a long time, hidden text by itself isn’t going to result in a manual action. The reason for this is that many sites have accidental hidden text.
“Lots of sites get things wrong, lots of sites have text accidentally hidden (or even purposely hidden until you interact with the UI) — sites aren’t perfect and so our algorithms work to deal with these imperfections in a reasonable way.”
When it comes to search rankings, Google is trying to serve the page best matching a user’s query, no matter its imperfections.
“Sometimes that means the top ranking site – the one our algorithms currently think is a good match for a user’s query – is one that does a lot of things technically incorrect.”
In the end, hidden text by itself isn’t going to help or harm a site. If a site is outranking you, more than likely their page are providing a better solution for the query provided in search.