What Is Cloaking In SEO?

Every content marketer seeks to achieve rankings higher on the search engine results page. Search engine rankings can be achieved in a number of ways, some good and some bad. It is the goal of every content marketer to achieve the highest ranking possible. In order to achieve high rankings, people often resort to bad methods, such as cloaking. It is considered a violation of SEO techniques and can even lead to getting banned by Google. 

When it comes to content marketing, it is important to know that no matter how good your content may be, it must keep in line with Google’s parameters. This means unethical SEO practices should not be encouraged.

Unethical BlackHat SEO techniques may get the results you want, but at the same time, Google condemns the practice. Going against Google’s search engine guidelines can lead to penalization and even a ban.

In this article

  1. What is Cloaking?
  2. 4 Cloaking Practices You Must know
  3. Consequences Of Cloaking
  4. Wrapping Up
  5. Related Reads

What is Cloaking?

Cloaking is a technique where a website shows two URL versions to trick Google’s crawl bots into ranking the page higher. The same website will show one version of the URL or content to the search engine but will show another version of the content when a user goes to their website.

If you want to get better results for your website as a content marketer, there are two ways to achieve that. One is using search engine optimization techniques that are results driven and ethical. The other way is using black hat techniques to get results. However, there is a catch. There is a high chance your website might get banned. Cloaking is a black hat technique that goes directly against Google’s search engine guidelines

It is a technique that many marketers hesitate to use because doing so is a direct violation of Google’s webmaster guidelines. 

Cloaking can sometimes happen accidentally, and it is important to remember what practices can lead to accidental cloaking. 

4 Cloaking Practices You Must know

These are some cloaking practices that you must keep in mind as a content marketer.

4 Cloaking Practices You Must know

1. IP Cloaking

IP cloaking is the most common use of the cloaking technique. With this technique, the user will be redirected to the website they want via a second site. The second site that redirects them will likely have a higher search engine ranking than the original site. This is done by setting up a .htaccess reverse DNS record, controlling high-level access to a website. 

2. HTTP Accept-Language

This is a technique where the HTTP accept-language header will be hidden if the visitor is a crawler. The HTTP header information will be checked to see if it is a standard visitor or a crawler. If the visitor is a crawler, the cloaked version of the website will be shown to it, whereas if a normal visitor clicks on the page, they will be shown a different version of the site content. There are many reasons why some sites do this, but the most common reason is to trick the search engine spider (crawler) into thinking the site content is good quality and therefore make it rank higher than it should be.

3. Hidden Text

In this cloaking technique, website owners use small text hidden inside the content to trick the search engine spider. It is the text that is invisible to the readers but can be read by search engine crawlers. Some even use Javascript and CSS to hide the text.

4. User Agent Cloaking

This is a cloaking technique where a dedicated program called “User-Agent” is situated in the place of a standard user. The purpose of the user agent is to check web users and determine which version of the content to present them with.

To do this, a code is sent to the server directly. When a visitor visits the page, they will be evaluated to check if they are a bot. They will be presented with cloaked content if they are identified as a crawler bot.

Consequences Of Cloaking

Black hat seo techniques can lead to consequences like

1. Penalization

Using cloaking to get a higher ranking in the search engine can work, but the catch is that Google does not allow this. If caught cloaking, the user/website could get penalized for their actions. This means all your search engine rankings would plummet. Once a site gets penalized, it is difficult to bring it back to the top, and sometimes it may take months to recover.

2. Banned

This is another fatal punishment that should be avoided at all costs. When a site is caught cloaking, Google can take severe action by banning the site for unethical SEO practices. When Google bans a site, it becomes non-existent. The site cannot be recovered once banned, and even if you use the keywords to find it, it won’t appear in the search results. The web page will no longer be available once it is banned.

3. Brand Image

Using an unethical SEO technique like cloaking can create a bad reputation for your company or website. You must gain trust to create a good rapport with any audience. Using cloaking to trick search engine users is not the best way to gain trust. This is not good for your company’s reputation and will also leave a stain on the website’s image.

Wrapping Up

Cloaking is a simple example of why black hat SEO practice is not recommended. The risks are too high, and it also does not build audience trust. Ultimately, it is an SEO practice that is not worth using as the stakes are too high. The time it takes to recover or attempt to recover from penalization by Google is just not worth the risk of using a black hat technique like cloaking. The gains you make in cloaking will not last too long because there is a very real chance of being caught.

It is better to avoid unethical SEO practices. Plenty of ethical SEO practices offer good results without being banned from Google.

Related Reads

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