What is Cloaking?

Clocking is the procedure of using some deceptive techniques which allows the user with a different version of the website than that presented to the search engines.

What does Cloaking mean?

Cloaking is a technique used to deliver the content on a Web page to a search engine in such a way that different content than what is delivered to a regular human user appears on the search engine. The goal of cloaking is to boost a website’s search engine rank on certain keywords.

In cloaking, the search engine and the user are literally not on the same page. Therefore, both the user and the search engine are being deceived.

Explains Cloaking

Cloaking takes a user to other sites than he or she expects by disguising those sites’ true content. During cloaking, the search engine spider and the browser are presented with different content for the same Web page. HTTP header information or IP addresses assist in sending the wrong Web pages. Searchers will then access websites that contain information they simply were not seeking, including pornographic sites. Website directories also offer up their share of cloaking techniques.

Many of the larger search engine companies oppose cloaking because it frustrates their users and does not comply with their standards. In the search engine optimization (SEO) industry, cloaking is considered to be a black hat technique that, while used, is frowned on by most legitimate SEO firms and Web publishers. Getting caught cloaking can result in huge penalties from the search engines, including being removed from the index altogether.

A few  tactics discussed include:

  • Using IFrames (“You can prevent the target of the <iframe> tag from being indexed by using a robots meta tag set to “noindex” or disallow the page in with the robots.txt file.”);
  • Using AJAX (here is a post describing a simple method to block a form from bots and search engines with Ajax);
  • CSS positioning the elements (like in the” Source ordered content” method);
  • Using text on graphics. (Please, note this quote from Google guidelines referred to above: “Some examples of cloaking include: Serving a page of HTML text to search engines, while showing a page of images or Flash to users.”)