CURRENT VERSION IS SEY 2003
For an updated discussion on cloaking, please refer to the current version
of the Search Engine Yearbook.
There is a lot of hype around cloaking.
Let's start by getting the facts straight
In technical terms,
cloaking allows you to deliver different pages (for the same URL) based
on the IP address of the visitor.
In plain English,
cloaking let's you take a peek at who is visiting your site - just before
you show them anything. If the visitor is just an average Joe, you give
him your regular page. If it's a search engine spider dropping by to
add your page to its database, you dish out the spiderfood - a text
page saturated with your keywords - no images. The engine ranks that
page high - much higher than your regular page deserves.
And there are people that say there's nothing wrong with cloaking
problem(s) with cloaking
The obvious problem is that it is unethical. That's
also why this book does not go into the "how" of cloaking.
Webmasters who use it anyway risk getting their sites banned from search
engines. For life. To our knowledge, there is not a single engine
that condones cloaking. In fact, almost all of them explicitly warn
webmasters not to cloak.
The search engines' aggressive stance is understandable.
Their ability to return relevant results is their livelihood.
Cloaking directly messes with that ability.
So expect them to come at you with everything they
hiding cloaked pages
It's an arms race. You have to know the search
engine spiders' IP addresses. The problem is that they can have multiple
IPs. You have to stay up to the minute on changes to these addresses
to keep dishing out spiderfood to the right visitors.
Even if you recognize the spider - every time -
and get your spiderfood indexed, simple things like cached pages (used
at Google) will expose you in a flash. Should you risk a life ban on
your domain? The same domain you've spent months or years promoting.
The domain you've got on all your letterheads and business cards. Calculate
the dollar value of the potential damage before you consider cloaking.
argument in favor of cloaking (for the record)
Say you've got an online gambling site. You need
an image intensive, visually attractive site that recreates the razzle
dazzle and sense of excitement found in real life casinos - but there's
no way that that kind of site can score well on search engines. So you
create "honest" spiderfood. A cloaked page intended to guide
the search engine towards understanding your site. You essentially help
the engine form a more accurate idea of what the site is about.
reading on cloaking
A Promotion Guide
A good, comprehensive explanation of how cloaking works.
2 Fairly detailed, technical explanations of
Search Engine Cloaking: The Controversy Continues
(SearchDay Newsletter, July 18, 2001)
A discussion of the ethics.
Google's definition of cloaking
Search Engine Position
Another explanation with some comments (and warnings) about cloaking
from the search engines.
This utility allows you to open any specified webpage posing as any
one of the popular search engine spiders, robots, indexer or crawler.
It can uncover sophisticated search engines position techniques that
employ a custom bridge page for each specific search engine.
page is based on information contained in the Search Engine Yearbook 2003.
For more detailed search engine information & help, please refer to the
current version of the book.
up to date on changes in the search engine world with the EnginePaper
Newsletter. It goes out only when something important changes in
the search engine world. Subscribe now with a blank email to