I think Matt hit on a couple of key things on this subject that easily translate in to our current experiences with the Panda update. Using words like “trust” and “user experience” tell me that while it may not be a direct ranking signal…. It is being signaled from other relevant areas such as we see in the quality guidelines Google has given us in regards to Panda.
Panda has become such a daunting and distressing word in our world lately. Makes me wonder why such a cute and loved animal such as the panda was used to name/describe the utter mayhem. I mean seriously, isn’t something such as wolverine, crocodile or even tasmanian devil seem more fitting?
Hidden text can occur for many reasons, most are in no way malicious. Text can be same color text and background, hidden in html commenting, stuffed in to alts and titles and hidden with numerous CSS styles. All of the common findings of hidden text, malicious or not are a violation of Google’s quality guidelines for hidden text.
This is a pretty vague patent application, in my opinion, and I really think that mining data in this way should not be legal, nor approved. Fact is, the means in which this is presented is very combative, and identifies SEOs as the cause of link spam. It’s like saying lawyers are the reason for lawsuits, or dentists the reason for cavities.