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Avoid cloaking

‘Avoid cloaking’ – from the Google webmaster guidelines 1

What is cloaking?

The Google webmaster help pages explicitly defines cloaking for us…

“the practice of presenting different content or URLs to human users and search engine robots” 2

Googlebot looking at webpage

When Googlebot visits your webpage, it should exactly the same thing as a human user does.

Cloaking is a “black hat” (bad) technique

Let’s see what Wikipedia says about cloaking…

“Cloaking is a black hat search engine optimization (SEO) technique in which the content presented to the search engine robot is different from that presented to the users’ browser.”

In plain language, cloaking is a technical ploy that people have used to deceive search engines. A new webmaster need not
worry about it too much, because in order to be cloaking you pretty much know you are doing it. If do not know how to cloak,
you probably are not doing it.

Cloaking is explicitly against the Google webmaster guidelines

It can get you removed from the Google index.

I recommend the video by Google employee Matt Cutts who provides a simple, easy to grasp definition of cloaking.

Examples of Cloaking

  • Serving a page of HTML text to search engines, while showing a page of images or Flash to users
  • Inserting text or keywords into a page only when the User-agent requesting the page is a search engine, not a human visitor

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