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Is it just a myth put about by the Search Engines because they just cannot keep up with the various technologies?
Is it a case of we tell you not to use cloaking or you’re going to get banned. So we do not use cloaking. When in fact if you do use cloaking you are not going to get banned.
I'm on the fence with this one - please let me know about your experiences.
The myth part involes the belief that search engines dedicate any substantial resources to tracking and killing cloaking. While it is something that is technically possible, and many search engines talk about it publicly, from a cost point of view, it certainly isn't the smartest thing for them to spend money on.
The majority of spam, that contributes to the end user getting poor results is generated without the use of cloaking. Allocating the type of resources necessary to regularly run phantom bots whos whole purpose is to show up unidentified and compare file sizes, just doesn't make a whole lot of sense. That money would be much better spent on things like developing systems that can actually detect hidden text, or JS redirects.
Not only would an all out assault on cloaking not contribute much to the reduction of spam, it would also result in a great many babies being thrown out with the bathwater. Most people believe that cloaking is something only done by pornographers, gamblers and crooks, but the truth is that IP delivery is used by many fortune 1000 companies, many of which also purchase advertising at search engines on a regular basis.
Many search engines also still accept and display advertising from companies that either sell cloaking software, or are known to use cloaking technology to position clients. Inktomi has even taken it a step further and entered into partnerships with several companies that are known cloakers.
At that time, my cloaked pages were poorly listed so I uncloaked them and immediately jumped into the top 20s on most INK partners. I had been enjoying a penalty but not a ban, my only bad experience.
I agree substantially with WebGuerrilla, busting cloakers is not cost effective, won't solve the spam problem, and will create more headaches then it solves. And the SEs KNOW all this.
Use a good script, keep your IP list up to date, don't cloak spam, and you won't have problems.
For cloaking itself? I've never heard of ANYONE being banned for cloaking itself - ever.
I've tested the waters thourghly (search the forum on: shopping the competition). Never did a search engine respond by deleting a site for cloaking. None of the majors will ban for cloaking itself.
They will ban the page or site if it is using decieving or keyword stuffing methods such as repetitive text or hidden text. But that's nothing to do with cloaking.
There's no way you'll ever get a 100% guarantee. Publicly, they all talk bad about it. Privately, they spend time figuring out how they can profit from it. (AV's new trusted feed program is a perfect example).
If you follow DaveAtIFG's advice, more than likely, you won't ever have any problems.
A few years ago there was a time that cloaking was pretty scary to use - many of us quit. Then came the wave of UA cloaking, language cloaking, and IP cloaking. The se's would be hard pressed to address even 1% of those sites that are cloaking for various reasons and methods. Just don't do anything spammy and it will be 100% a-ok.
Lastly, when you read different from those that are out fear mongering about cloaking in the SEO community (and there are several) you need to ask yourself why and what their motivations are for doing so. This is a litmus test issue.