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It is effective if done properly but still requires constant updates and attention to detail.
Your cloaked page should resemble your HTML page as closely as possible except for design elements like tables and script.
Unless there are specific design concerns that can't be solved with "standard" SEO procedures I don't recommend it.
If you are serious about your site position I don't recommend buying an out of the box solution and installing it. Hire someone that that you KNOW will provide information, technical support and will spend time with you until you are comfortable with it.
It is not a magic bullet and the same level of optimization is required for cloaked pages as for standard pages. A cloaked page that follows all of the other rules the SEs set forth and uses the proper delivery has very little chance of detection.
I am not a great supporter of cloaking, but have used it in the past.
As a non-expert I can confirm that it is not that difficult with the right cloaking product, providing you are comfortable installing a cgi script.
It is not acceptable for us to post links to software, (it opens the forum up to spammy advertising), however if you chose a package that has some sort of auto-updating for the spider list, it will make your life easier.
Also, if the product has its own on-site forum you can catch a glimpse of any problems and the speed at which the company provides support.
Search on Open Directory for list of software and watch out for over priced packages - many good ones are available for between $50-$200.
Hope this helps.
IMHO a cloaked page done well is not any different from a normal page - it should just avoid all the elements of web design that give problems for spiders and ranking. The advantage is that you can use any techniques that you don't want the competition to know about.
Its a controversial subject though and others more experienced than I will no doubt 'chip in' to the thread shortly.
I agree that the installation of the script itself is not a technological hurdle if you get a good script and it is well documented. CHMOD the files and you're done.
You expressed concern with the terminology but I can't gauge your level of expertise to any extent other than what was indicated.
The learning curve doesn't apply to the installation of the script. Matching your human content with the "delivered" content takes some consideration. Simple things like PL times are often overlooked. Doesn't take much to figure out that a page that is graphic and script intensive should take more time to load than a page without all the added fun. Cloaking detection agents know that too.
Attention to detail becomes much more important. Methodology is more important. Other than myriad details involved with getting page matches down, it's pretty straight-forward though. :)
Ya, it takes time an study, but if you are doing a modern dynamic website, some form of cloaking is going to be there anyway - might as well use it effectively.
That about sums up the way I feel about cloaking these days BT, the FUD campaign has made tremendous inroads and scared off many from cloaking. I still think it's a viable and useful technique, you just need to be more careful now to hide it from other webmasters.
My observation and experience is that despite the strong statements, most of the SE's won't take action on a site just because it is cloaking, if you're spamming then that's a different story. This is the way it has always been, and seems to be still.
I would say though, if you are not a confident webmaster (yet), it is probably better to stay away from cloaking (and probably SEO in general).
Just when I think I'm getting somewhere, I look over my shoulder and there's another busload of learning curve waiting to be dealt with! When I think I'm getting to be a confident webmaster may be too late!
DG was kind enough to look at my site and give me some specific advice by email - this showed just how far away I am with my SEO despite attempting to put into action some of the so-called "guru tips on SEO" over the last few months.
I need some traffic so I must progress. I cannot afford to use a specialist. So, taking on board your comments, I accept that cloaking is probably well above my skill level at the moment. Is there a half way house where experienced folk (on a paid basis) will show the best way with SEO but leave me to do the donkey work? Many thanks
What's the most user-friendly package to use for cloaking?
There are many out there, also, I can say that I have worked on all(good ones) of them (for one or other reasons - trying to see how the each program works) I would not recommend the use of cloaking, however, if you are looking for a cost effective solution that gets the job done nicely, I would highly recommend Kloakit.