Cloaking Can Ruin Your SEO
If you’re using any sort of cloaking on your website, you are ruining your SEO. Google regards cloaking as something that leads to negative user experiences, and they give an extensive video explanation of their policies on the matter on their Webmaster Tools site.One of the issues that webmasters might run into is in not knowing whether they are actually cloaking. Here are some of the things that Google will constitute as cloaking, even if you’re not aware that you’re doing it. The most important thing to keep in mind is that, as far as Google is concerned, there is no such thing as white hat cloaking.
The biggest sign you should look for to determine whether you are engaging in cloaking that could damage your search engine optimization efforts is treating the Google Bot differently than you treat another user. An example can help webmasters to understand this, using one of the worst imaginable types of black hat cloaking schemes.On a site that’s engaging in cloaking, when Google’s Bot comes around, that Bot gets a different version of the website than a user would. The website either identifies the user agent as the Google Bot or it identifies the IP from which the Google Bot crawls. Either is considered to be cloaking by Google.A website doing this might, for example, serve up HTML to the Google Bot that would index the site as being about car repair. When a user goes and visits the site, however, the site would detect that it is not the Google Bot visiting and serve them a page about getting high interest, scam loans for purchasing cars. This is a form of web spam and there are specific reasons why Google tries to limit it.Google wants the site that returns in response to a user search to be exactly the same as the site that user visits when they click on the link in the search engine. This is their ultimate goal. When they fail to deliver the site that they’re advertising, it makes Google look bad. Therefore, they don’t want users to feel like they’re going to get a random page in exchange for clicking on a Google link.
What Won’t Hurt You
There are some instances where users may be served up a different site based on various criteria. For instance, in the video, Google gives the example of a visitor coming from another country. It makes perfect sense for a visitor to get a version of a page in their own language. The key here is that nobody’s trying to cloak from the Google Bot. The user is getting exactly what they expected and the Google Bot is not being shut out from indexing such a site correctly.It is also safe to identify user agents as being mobile devices or other devices that may need special types of pages served up to them. Again, there is no deception going on in such instances. It makes sense to give the user a version of the webpage that they can use and it makes sense to identify their user agent so they actually do get that webpage.Where flash and other elements are concerned, making certain that meta-tags and text descriptions are filled out is imperative. Some WordPress templates come set up to make this easier, particularly those that do rely extensively on Flash and other enhancements. Other content management platforms have the equivalents and, if you are coding by hand, you need to make certain that meta-tags are filled in correctly and that Google gets exactly the same page you serve to users.