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What is Cloaking in SEO?

by | 30 Jun, 2022

More Definitions

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What Are Breadcrumbs In SEO?

Breadcrumbs are a type of navigation element that helps users understand their location within a website.

What are LSI Keywords?

LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing) keywords are simply phrases related to the target keyword in your search engine.

What are Stop Words?

Stop words are words that are typically ignored by search engines when indexing web pages for relevancy.

What is a Backlink?

An SEO title tag is a concise description of your content made from relevant keywords.

What is A Slug In SEO?

A slug is a keyword-rich URL that is used to identify a web page.

What is a Web Crawler?

A web crawler, also known as a spider, is a program that visits websites and scrapes data: the content and the HTML structure.

What Is A/B Testing In SEO?

A/B testing in SEO, or “split testing”, is a process of making two versions of the same content, showing them to the same audience segment, and comparing their performance.

What is Amazon SEO?

Amazon SEO is a combination of optimization strategies that help your product listing rank higher on Amazon search results pages.

What is an SEO Title Tag?

An SEO title tag is a concise description of your content made from relevant keywords.

What is Anchor Text In SEO?

Anchor text is the visible, clickable text in a hyperlink. Other names for anchor text include link title, link text, and link label.

Cloaking is the practice of presenting different content or URLs to human users and search engines than what they’re expecting.

It can improve search engine rankings by hiding information from the crawler that could lower the website’s ranking. However, cloaking is considered a black hat technique because it attempts to deceive search engines and can result in penalties.

Cloaking can also be used to show different content to users based on their IP address, User-Agent, or other factors. This can be done for a variety of reasons, such as showing different language versions of a page to users in different countries.

When used for SEO purposes, cloaking is done by:

  • Presenting different content to human users and crawlers
  • Hiding information from the search engine that could lower the website’s ranking
  • Showing different content to users based on their IP address, User-Agent, or other factors

Cloaking can be used for a variety of reasons, both good and bad:

  • Presenting different language versions of a page to users in different countries
  • Showing an optimized version of a page to search engine crawlers and a less optimized version for human users
  • Hiding affiliate links from search engine crawlers but showing them to humans
  • Blocking access to certain pages or content from human visitors but allowing search engine crawlers to access it
  • Showing a “coming soon” page to human visitors and a different page to search engine crawlers

What are the Different Types of Cloaking

  • User-Agent Cloaking
  • IP based cloaking
  • HTTP_REFERER cloaking
  • HTTP Accept-language header cloaking

User-Agent Cloaking

A client is a software program that acts on behalf of the consumer. A web browser, for example, is a user-agent that uses an operating system to access website data.

When you submit a query into your browser, it transmits information to the server, which recognizes and identifies the user-agent. Only certain types of user agents are shown clad content. This is done by detecting the agent and then sending them different content.

For example, a search engine’s user-agent may be shown one version of a web page, while a browser’s agent would be shown another.

IP Based Cloaking

An IP address is a unique numerical label assigned to each device connected to the Internet.

Just like a street address or telephone number, it is used to identify and locate computers and other devices on the network. When you type in a web address, your computer sends an IP address to the server, which is used to identify and locate your computer on the network.

IP-based cloaking is a type of cloaking where content is shown only to users with a particular IP address.

HTTP_REFERER Cloaking

The Referer header is an HTTP header that tells the server where the user came from. It is sent by the browser with every request and can be used by the server to identify the user’s location.

HTTP_REFERER cloaking is a type of cloaking where content is shown only to users with a particular Referer header.

HTTP Accept-language Header Cloaking

The Accept-Language header is an HTTP header that tells the server what languages the user can accept. It is sent by the browser with every request and can be used by the server to identify the user’s location.

HTTP Accept-language header cloaking is a type of cloaking where content is shown only to users with a particular Accept-Language header.

How Does Cloaking Work?

Let us now look at how to apply cloaking with a few easy ideas:

Flash-based Websites

While we understand that Flash is not advised by SEO standards, it is still used on some websites.

Some sites, therefore, rather than rebuilding the whole website in plain HTML, produce content-rich webpages and deliver them to search engine crawlers and flash pages to visitors.

Invisible or Hidden text

This is a black-hat cloaking technique where the webmaster stuffs the keyword into the background of the website’s code so that it is not visible to visitors but can be read by search engine bots.

The purpose of this is to get a higher ranking for those keywords.

Creating Doorway Pages

A doorway page is a web page that is created for the sole purpose of getting a high ranking in the search engine results pages (SERPs) for a particular keyword or phrase.

Doorway pages are usually packed with keywords and have very little other content. They are often used in conjunction with other black-hat cloaking techniques, such as keyword stuffing.

Showing Different Content to Different Users

This is a type of white-hat cloaking where the webmaster shows different content to different users based on their location, IP address, browser, or other factors.

The purpose of this is to provide the users with the most relevant and targeted content possible.

This is a perfectly legitimate cloaking technique and is often used by large websites, such as e-commerce sites.

Replacement of Java Scripts and iFrames

JavaScript and iFrames are often used to display content on a web page.

However, search engine crawlers are not able to read JavaScript or iFrames. As a result, the webmaster may replace the JavaScript or iFrame with plain HTML on the page that is shown to the crawlers.

Should Cloaking Be Done in SEO?

The short answer is no, cloaking should not be done in SEO.

While there are some legitimate uses for cloaking, the risks generally outweigh the rewards. If you are caught using cloaking for black hat SEO purposes, you could face serious penalties from the search engines, including being banned from the SERPs altogether.

So, if you are considering using cloaking on your website, make sure that you are doing it for the right reasons. Otherwise, it is not worth the risk.

Mihael D. Cacic
“Digital Marketing Mad Scientist”

Physicist turned SEO Content Marketer. For the past few years, Mihael worked with many big SaaS and service businesses helping them rank higher and get more customers. Now here to share his secrets on how to make hyper-profitable blogs in hyper-efficient ways.

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Founder, MailShake

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