Last updated on December 7th, 2022
When first learning about SEO, I was introduced to a bunch of different techniques and methods that experts use for a range of purposes.
There are many of them out there and at first, it was difficult for me to keep track of everything.
Now, I know SEO like the back of my hand – so I thought I would help make things easier for SEO newbies by quickly and clearly explaining what cloaking is.
Here, I will also go into the different types of cloaking in SEO so hopefully, everything you need will be right here!
What Is Cloaking In SEO?
SEO is an important process businesses and marketers do in order to make websites more visible online. It’s a pretty complex process with lots of different areas, factors, and techniques to try, but the results are worth it.
So, SEO is something a lot of marketers and businesses (see also, ‘What Are the Best Niches for Affiliate Marketing?‘) want to try out, but there’s many different factors to try and perfect for search engines to trust your website.
Here are a few examples from Google, the search engine where 92.96% of all web traffic comes from:
- High Quality Content
- Page Loading Speed
- Internal/External Links
Google alone has over 200 ranking factors which marketers and business owners need to try and hit, which means that optimizing your website can take a lot of time and work.
So, some people end up trying different techniques and tactics to speed this process up – one of them being cloaking.
Cloaking is a technique experts use to trick search engines into thinking that a website carries a certain type of content but web users actually see something different.
It’s actually referred to as a ‘black hat’ technique, meaning that it’s usually seen as morally bad.
However, some people use cloaking to trick the algorithms of search engines into believing that their website is much more optimized than it actually is so they can climb the SERP ranks faster and improve their visibility without doing hardly any hard work.
Sounds great, right?
Except that cloaking will definitely get your website banned from search engines and wash any work you’ve put into your website down the drain.
The Different Types Of Cloaking
There are actually different types of cloaking in SEO, so here’s a quick run down of some of the most commonly used ones so you can understand cloaking fully:
This type of cloaking works by identifying the visitor’s user agent (that’s a special line of code that identifies every web user) and shows different content depending if the user agent is human or robot.
If it’s a human visiting the website, then the website will look normal. However, if the user agent is a robot, then the website will instead ‘show’ tons of code designed to boost optimization.
This type of cloaking works very similarly to user-agent cloaking but instead focuses on a visitor’s IP address.
IP addresses display the user’s location and internet service, and IP-Address cloaking works by displaying content that is more ‘optimized’ based on this information.
It can also identify crawlers used by search engines and display optimized code instead.
Other similar types of cloaking include Flash cloaking and DHTML cloaking.
HTTP_Referer And HTTP Accept-Language Cloaking
This method of cloaking displays different pages depending on the user’s HTTP_Referer header or HTTP Accept-Language header.
White-On-White Text Keyword Cloaking
This is an old-school type of cloaking that is pretty much useless today.
It used to involve stuffing your content full of key words and then displaying them as white on a white background, so visually they could not be read – search engines would still read them as optimized content.
Thanks to technological advances, this method no longer really works.
Why I Don’t Use Cloaking For My Projects?
For myself and many other marketers and business owners, cloaking is a huge no-go.
This is because cloaking has a lot of penalties and disadvantages which can completely ruin your projects.
Search engines hate cloaking because it can ruin their users’ experience and reflect badly on their branding.
Search engines like Google want to provide their customers with relevant, high quality content – and cloaking can make that impossible.
As a result, search engines come down on cloaking and Google itself will implement a Manual Action Penalty which results in lower rankings, lower traffic, and your website being removed from the Google index.
Your website may be gone for a few days to a few years, and you can practically lose your business.
This all may seem very extreme – after all, what’s the harm of hiding a few extra backlinks to simply boost your SERP rankings?
The issue is that a lot of sites that use cloaking for malicious purposes.
They can trick search engines into thinking they are normal, every-day websites but actually feature incredibly harmful content. Here’s an example:
Some websites use cloaking to pose as child-friendly spaces with lots of kid-related content, with games and keywords that trick Google into recommending it to its younger users.
However, the website actually displays graphic mature content but Google can’t identify this due to cloaking – but the poor kid can see everything on their computer.
This is why search engines come down so hard on cloaking. Google especially has gotten extremely good at catching websites that use cloaking and banning them.
As a result, most people (including myself) avoid cloaking their website altogether because there are more cons to it than there are pros.
So, to basically sum up this entire article: cloaking in SEO is bad and you shouldn’t do it.
Search engines view it as deceitful and malicious, so they come down hard on cloaking because they want to provide their users with safe, relevant, and high quality content.
Cloaking undoes all that so if you want your website to remain online, I wouldn’t try to use cloaking to optimize your website.