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What is Cloaking?
Cloaking or word cloak when seen in the dictionary, means something that covers or conceals. But when in reference to SEO, it is considered as a technique to have better indexing.
What is Cloaking with reference to SEO?
Cloaking is an SEO ( Search Engine Optimization) technique to have better indexing. In this technique, the information presented to the user is different from that presented to search engine crawlers. Cloaking is an illegal practice. It is a trick or would say cheat. It is considered a “Black Hat SEO”. In this technique, web servers are programmed in such a way that they return other content to search engines than it would return to its regular users, by making a cloak content by distorting search rankings. Google or any such search engine would ban from the index any site or it’s authors that are involved in cloaking.
According to Google, Cloaking is a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. Whatever result they have expected differs from the provided result.
Example of Cloaking
A page of images or Flash to users is been shown while you were serving a page of HTML text to search engines. Keywords or text is inserted only when the user-agent requests the page is a search engine and not human visitor.
To improve the rankings by search engines by making them think the content on the page is different than it really is, cloaking is done. A spamdexing technique (search engine spam, search engine poisoning)is often it is referred as, to try to trick the search engines to give higher rankings to site which are relevant. Page cloaking and web cloaking, you must have heard these terms.
How is Cloaking done?
Cloaking is done by delivering the content. The content is based on the IP address or User-agent HTTP header of the user which is requesting the page. Whenever a search engine spider is identified, a different version of the webpage is delivered by the side script. Different versions could be that contains content and not present on the visible page or the other that is present but is not searchable.
Cloaking in SEO is to deceive. They display the page which is not to be displayed just to have a higher ranking. This is termed as Black Hat SEO, as stated above. It can be a functional technique as well used for informing the search engines of content that they would not be able to locate. It is embedded in video or certain Adobe Flash components or any other non-textual containers. Better methods of accessibility are available now, so cloaking is no longer necessary for regular SEO. But just in order to have better rankings both of them are displayed differently. For Google, it’s a violation and is not recommended to do so often.