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"The primary reason I don't recommend cloaking to Google, is that even if you are not penalized, it doesn't do much good. Since pagerank is the primary factor in obtaining a decent ranking for your chosen keywords, the doorway page technique that cloaking proponents usually use is not very effective.
With the rise of Google, cloaking is just not as necessary as it used to be in SEO. I would say it's more of a usability issue now, and that the future of cloaking will be to provide content customized for various browsers, platforms, etc."
I'm curious as to whether this still is the case? It would seem to be a redundant technique for ranking purposes to get tons of links to a shadow domain to rank for your main site. Why not just get tons of links to your main site?
Or is there some kind of benefit from an anchor text standpoint?
I guess it could be argued that if you have hundreds of shadow domains on seperate IPs then they pass some good page rank. On the other hand, you don't need to cloak to make these kinds of 'link farms'.
I guess my question is not does cloaking work, but Why Does It Work.
For instance...Graphic intensive sites and Flash intensive sites could both have difficulties ranking due to a lack of indexable content.
Cloaking isn't dead. It's simply that the type of cloaking that Volatilegx was talking about isn't very effective anymore.
I am still seeing successes in Google and other engines for cloaked pages, so it is not really as obsolete as many people think though.
Cloakers could get caught out by simply missing a new IP of one of the search engines. If your IP lists got out of date it was very risky.
As to how good the engines are at spotting this is their constant battle. In fact the best solution that they have come up with is "the sandbox". Or, in other words, they're not going to beat hidden text any time soon - there are just too many possibilities.
So, cloaking has become the definition of before, plus hidden text.
In terms of who is doing it I heard the phrase "grey hat" come into play in an article the other day. That's those people that use a bit of "black hat" with the selling charm of "white hat".
True cloaking is server-side, meaning the "optimized" content is never served to a human visitor at all, so there is no chance of them viewing it.
Essentially through as the spider and the user are seeing different pages it is a type of cloaking. Actually SEO industry knows this but they keep churning out the definition about cloaking because its convenient.
I think the terms "cloaking" should be brought in to line with what a large part of the industry is doing. Too many times friends of mine have been approached by companies that say "we do not cloak" but essentially the only difference is that they "hide text" where a cloaker simply hides the text more absolutely.
Sure a cloak is more water tight until either you get a new spider IP visiting, or your cloak evaluates incorrectly a visitor and serves your non cloaked page to a search engine, instead of the cloaked content.