Google on hiding links using CSS
During one of his Google Office Hours, John Mueller answered a question about internal links being hidden by CSS and whether doing this would be problematic. The person who asked the question seemed be less than well-versed in SEO, so there was some confusion. Mueller said:
I think that's something that theoretically we don't like that.
But I don't see the web spam team taking action on that. Because especially when it comes to internal linking like that, it?s something that has quite a subtle effect within the website and you're just essentially just shuffling things around within your own website.
I think it would be trickier if they were ?buying links somewhere else and then hiding them.
That would be problematic, that might be something that our algorithms pick up on or that even the web spam team at some point might manually look at.
Many blogs covered this topic referring to how the person asking the question was confused about cloaking and simply hiding links. But what they missed what much more important.
Mueller?s words reveal how terribly equipped Google is at dealing with link spam (especially those done with care). Based on what Mueller says, link buys can still work assuming the buyer is not careless about how the buys and placement are done. This has always been the case, and will continue to be unless Google hires enough people for its spam team to call webmasters and coax out of them whether or not they sell links and which links on their sites are paid.