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Cloaking Forum

Protecting your message board against bad outbound links
Would my solution be considered bad cloaking?

 1:50 am on Dec 15, 2003 (gmt 0)

Hi. I'm new to this forum. I read the Charter, Library (including Air's excellent "Newbie Cloaking Primer") and a few threads but couldn't find exactly what I was looking for. I am a total novice when it comes to cloaking. This would be my first attempt at it.

One of the websites I run has a message board section in which we currently allow users to post links in messages when it's appropriate. We try to follow the same basic rules that WW uses.

My concern is that if someone posts a link to a site that is considered bad by the search engines it could negatively affect our ranking. Considering how often Google crawls the message board I'm referring to the effect could be felt in a matter of days.

We currently average 7th out of 4,750,000 matches on Google for our most popular two keyword combo and I don't want to risk losing what I've worked so hard to achieve to get us on the first page because of some bad links.

In your opinion how much trouble am I asking for if the cloaking I do is limited to not displaying any links posted in message board threads?

I'm willing to go so far as to limit the display of links to members only, in which case I wouldn't really be cloaking in what seems to be the classic definition of the word.

But I'd like to try classic cloaking first so, let's concentrate on my concerns about that for now. Thanks.



 5:51 pm on Dec 15, 2003 (gmt 0)

Perhaps I've been a bad boy. As penance I'm going to try answering a few other orphaned threads in hopes someone will take pity on me and offer a suggestion or some comments. :)


 8:31 pm on Dec 15, 2003 (gmt 0)

Ya, I think you are looking at problems if you do it specifically for engines. If you are thinking about engines and a forum, forget entirely about them as something to be considered. Do whatever is best for your members and your system - engines and engine traffic to a forum, are not even a consideration to me. The only reason they are even still allowed on webmasterworld, is to use them as a site search engine.


 8:59 pm on Dec 15, 2003 (gmt 0)

Wow, when you do your penance you get results from the man himself, LOL.

Thanks for your comments Brett.

I am puzzled about your casual attitude regarding the potential negative effects of bad links in your message boards. Especially considering it seems the vast majority of WW is comprised of message boards.

Is this a topic for a different forum? If so I'd like to continue it there.


 10:36 pm on Dec 16, 2003 (gmt 0)

It isn't the engines that will have the problem, it is your competition that will have the problem and report it.

>bad links

I do take some interest in it by tracking outbound referrals and looking for problem areas.


 6:44 pm on Dec 17, 2003 (gmt 0)

Here's what we've decided to do about this situation and I don't think it will be considered cloaking since it will be part of our TOS.

To see links in messages you have to be a member of the website and logged-in. It's a double opt-in system that takes fives minutes or less to join and costs nothing.

All our members seem to think this is an excellent idea. I personally see no problems with it because if anyone accuses me of cloaking I can point them to our TOS that states you have to be a logged-in member to see the usually very valuable links.

I also think it could have the added benefit of getting more people to become members and take part in the great community we've built and continue to work on.

Does anyone see any possible downside to this approach?


 7:47 pm on Dec 17, 2003 (gmt 0)

Garyk, I think it's a great solution, and I don't see how you could be penalized for it!



 2:18 am on Dec 18, 2003 (gmt 0)

Thanks for your feedback, Dan.


 2:52 am on Jan 21, 2004 (gmt 0)

GaryK, that sounds like a great solution. How are you coding this, i.e., what do non-members see when they read a post with a link in it and is there a key bit of logic that lets you do this?


 7:22 pm on Jan 21, 2004 (gmt 0)

Non members see a small icon that attempts to convey the idea it's a link they cannot see. If they mouse over the icon they get a more in-depth explanation. I use regular expressions to find all URLs and links in a message and replace them with my little icon.

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