Bear with me while I explain the background..
I have a webpage the main content of which we will consider as people selling widgets. Now most people who are buying widgets want to buy a widget of a specific colour and/or a specific location. However sellers can give quite a bit more information about their widgets in their individiual listings. In virtually all the cases they provide their email address.
The information on widget sellers in obviously all stored in a database. Buyers generally come to the site and indicate what area they are in and/or what colour of a widget they want and submit the form and a list of sellers that meets their criteria comes up. Obviously robots don't submit forms and therefore never get the list of widgets.
To address this, I give google and other search engines a number of pages such as "sellers of blue widget", "sellers of green widgets", "widget sellers in Vancouver" etc... I told Google not to cache the page, and I set it up so that if you follow a link from google of "Blue Widgets" you will get my advanced search page allowing you to select what colour and location of widgets you are interested in. In the future I will be adding some more advanced features on this page so that if someone came from google looking for "multifaceted widgets" it would automatically fill in a search field with "multifaceted widgets" and then when the user clicked on find they would get all of the sellers who mention multifaceted widget...
Another little thing I do as part of this is that I don't tell google (or any other robot) any of the email addresses of any of the sellers. This is to protect peoples email addresses from spam bots. With my system the only way you can get someones email address is to submit the "find widget seller" form with some variables set.
I had read the terms of service of Google and it seemed reasonable to me. However, on reading some of the threads here it seems other may consider this cloaking.
What do others think of this system, is it cloaking?
Any ideas on a better way of doing it?
I've thought of a couple, but I don't like any of them:
- Allow anybody who follows a link from google to see the exact same thing as google. The problem with this is that some of these pages are very large. I generally prefer to page the output into more manageable sizes. Also this would mean that people who come this way would not see any email addresses of sellers.
- Provide the same paged output to google that I would for users who do a listing on our website. This would be somewhat useless for users as the page that any specific widget seller appears on changes daily as new sellers come and old sellers go, and I would loose the protection from spambots.
I should say that by far the majority of visitors who come to these pages is searching for the general "blue widgets", "green widgets" etc terms.
I also make not attempt to hide what is going on. If come to one of these pages by following a link in google, the page will have a note on the bottom saying 'I see you came here from a search engine. The search engine found the phrase you were searching for in one of the widget seller listings for "blue widgets", if you look through the blue widget sellers listings I'm sure you will find what you are looking for'.