• Technology

What is Cloaking? And why you should avoid it

  • Sreeram Sharma
  • 4 min read
What is Cloaking? And why you should avoid it

Intro

Cloaking is a technique where different content or URLs are shown to humans and search engines. This is against Google's Webmaster Guidelines as it provides our users different results than expected.

In other words, cloaking is a technique to hide a website or web page's identity. It prevents search engines from indexing the site and users from seeing the website in search results.

Cloaking can also be used to display different content to users than to search engines. This can be used to improve the user experience or to trick users into clicking on ads. Cloaking is considered a black hat SEO technique and can result in penalties from search engines.

What is Cloaking?

Link Cloaking is the practice of transforming lengthy, unattractive affiliate links into shorter, more aesthetically pleasing ones.

In other words, the cloaking technique is known as affiliate marketing laundering, and professional affiliate marketers use it to improve their affiliate marketing earnings.

For Example,

This is how your affiliate links will appear and may vary slightly depending on the affiliate program you pick.

Your Affiliate Link: https://productname.com/?product_id=xxx&affiliate=xxx

You will receive a weekly or monthly bonus if you reach the specified milestone.

The Cloaked Affiliate links will look similar to this:

Cloaked Affiliate Link: https://site.com/recommends/abcproduct/

By cloaking your affiliate links, you can earn commissions through 301 redirects. You can even track your cloaked affiliate links for website growth hacking.

What are the benefits of Cloaking?

Cloaking can be used to improve the user experience by displaying different content to users than to search engines. This can be used to show users relevant content or hide content that is irrelevant to them.

Cloaking can also be used to trick users into clicking on ads. This can be used to generate revenue for the website owner, or to increase the number of visitors to a website.

What are the risks of Cloaking?

Cloaking is considered a black hat SEO technique and can result in penalties from search engines. Cloaking can also lead to user frustration and make it difficult for users to find the information they want.

What are the risks of Cloaking?

How do I know if a website is cloaking?

There are a few ways to tell if a website is cloaking. One way is to look at the website's source code. If you see code meant to be hidden from users, or if you see different content when you view the source code than what you see when you consider the website, the website is likely cloaking.

Another way to tell if a website is cloaked is to try to access the site from multiple devices. The website is likely cloaking if you see different content on different devices.

What should I do if I think a website is cloaking?

If you think a website is cloaking, you can report it to a search engine. Each search engine has a different process for reporting cloaking, so you will need to research how to report it to the specific search engine you are using.

You can also try to access the website from multiple devices, which is likely cloaked if you see different content on different devices.

What should I do if I think a website is cloaking?

Why do you need to prevent cloaking?

When developing, implementing, or optimizing a website, you should always avoid any form of cloaking since these methods are widely prohibited by most prominent search engines today, with an excellent cause.

While cloaking may seem like a good idea, it will do more harm than good to your website. Let me explain why.

By definition, cloaking delivers a particular set of pages to search engine crawlers while simultaneously providing a different set of pages to human visitors.

There are several options for accomplishing this. While some recommend employing IP (address) delivery software to hide, the jury is still out on this, and opinions vary widely. The issue of cloaking has long been and continues to be a highly debatable subject.

Even though cloaking software is complex, and I could spend this whole article explaining it, I'll give you a more straightforward overview of how it works. IP delivery cloaks pages by...

  1. Identifying the IP address of the search engine crawler
  2. Checking for a user-agent match
  3. If there's a match, return one set of pages; if not, then return another set of pages

This is all well and good, but what's the harm in cloaking?

This is all well and good, but what's the harm in cloaking?

The potential harm lies in the fact that you're showing different content to human visitors than you are to search engine crawlers. Search engines have long assumed that what they see when they crawl a website is what everyone else sees when they visit that website.

If this weren't true, it would create many problems for search engines. They wouldn't be able to trust the information they were getting, so their whole indexing system would break down.

Link Cloaking example (Source - sitereform)

This is why cloaking is such a big no-no in SEO. When you cloak pages, you're trying to trick the search engine into thinking your page is more relevant than it is. This not only violates the trust between you and the search engine, but it also goes against the user experience.

Users come to expect a certain level of consistency when they visit websites. They don't want to be served one set of results when they click on a link from a search engine only to be shown something completely different when they visit that website. This creates a frustrating user experience, which no one wants.

If caught cloaking by a search engine, you could be penalized or even banned from their index. So it's not worth the risk.

Conclusion

Make sure your website has a lot of good content that is valuable to your visitors and the search engines. Make sure the search engines can find the exact pages your visitors see, and your site should rank high in the search results if you follow all the other advice on this website.

At all costs, avoid cloaking; it's never an option. Remember that today's search engines are solely concerned with two things: the relevance and quality of their search results.

At all costs, avoid cloaking; it's never an option (Source - Unsplash)

There's much more to search engine optimization than simply linking your website to the right keywords. It would help if you got links from Google and Bing, but you also need to ensure they are high-quality links that will bring visitors and potential customers. The approach may seem simple, but getting links is anything but that easy.

Furthermore, remember that it's their search engine, so they make the rules. As a result, any type of cloaking would be foolish unless you're prepared to risk having your site penalized or permanently banned from major search engines.

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