Cloaking: Is This Good Or Bad For Your Site? - The Answer By Khachaturyan Nataliya, Semalt Expert

Khachaturyan Nataliya, Semalt Content Strategist, explains that cloaking can be termed as a black hat SEO technique used to improve the SEO ranking by confusing the search engines. The method involves representing content differently for search engine crawlers and website users. Most website owners are tempted to use cloaking to improve their indexing in search result pages.

Cloaking is a violation of the Google's expert guidelines that could lead to penalization. Some examples of cloaking include:

  • Inserting a keyword after the search engine has requested it. In this case, when an individual is searching for the text he/she will not find it, but a search engine sees it thus improving the search results.
  • Showing a page of HTML text only to the search engines while the website users are only able to see images or Flash.
  • Cloaking works by misleading the search engine crawler so that it may think that the page content is different from what it is. It can also be referred to as search engine spam or search engine poisoning used to trick the search engine to give a particular website a higher ranking.

How is cloaking done?

Most people are aware of cloaking, but they do not know how exactly it is performed. They do not understand how the website content is displayed for search engines differently from what the users see. In the internet field, every internet device is identified by IP address. When applying cloaking, content based on the user-A gent HTTP header or the IP address of the user who is requesting for the content.

Cloaking allows .htaccess to achieve its purpose. It contains a module known as mod rewrite which helps in the application of cloaking in your website. It helps .htaccess to confuse the search engine so that your site can gain a higher ranking. The module can distinguish the IP address of a regular site visitor from that of the search engine. If it detects the IP address of the search engine, it lets the server-side script to deliver a different web page version. If the IP address does not belong to the crawler, mod rewrite knows that it belongs to a regular visitor and it shows a standard web page.

Different types of cloaking

  • IP address based cloaking - This is a strategy of displaying separate content versions based on the server's IP address. The IP address of the search engine allows it to receive different content while all the other IP addresses receive a different version.
  • User-agent cloaking - With this plan, the server script delivers different pages or content version based on the user agent.
  • HTTP-REFERER header cloaking - Different users using particular websites are offered different versions of website content based on the HTTP REFERER header value.
  • JavaScript cloaking - If users have a JavaScript enabled browser, they will receive a different version from those whose JavaScript is turned off.
  • HTTP Accept-Language Header Cloaking - The different content versions received are shown based on the web browser language.

Cloaking can be dangerous, and you should avoid it. Instead of bettering your SEO ranking it could ruin your business if Google notices that you are using this method to gain traffic to your website.