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What is Cloaking in SEO & Different Types of Cloaking

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What is Cloaking in SEO

Don’t we all want our webpage or website to rank on the first Search Engine Results Page (SERP)? To achieve this, all we need to do is to optimize our website to seem worthy of ranking well. But this can be a gradual process in Search Engine Optimization and we do not want to wait. 

An easier way is to use ‘Black Hat SEO Techniques’ to catapult into the top results of a SERP. And one such method is cloaking in SEO. Let us discuss more.

What is Cloaking in SEO?

Cloaking in SEO is a method used to serve users content or information that is different from what is presented to search engine crawlers (i.e. spiders or bots) to improve a website’s search engine rankings for certain keywords.

What are the different types of cloaking and how is it done?

  • User-Agent Cloaking
  • IP based cloaking
  • JavaScript cloaking
  • HTTP_REFERER cloaking
  • HTTP Accept-language header cloaking
  1. User-Agent Cloaking: A user-agent is a program (a software agent) that operates on behalf of a user. Example, a web browser acts as user-agent that fetches website information on an operating system. When you key in a query, the browser sends a code to the server that will distinguish/identify the user-agent. If the user-agent is identified to be a crawler, cloaked content is served.
  2. IP-based cloaking: Every user accessing a website has an IP address based on their location and internet service. In this, the users are redirected to the desired page through a page with good SERP ranking and high traffic volume. For this, you can use the reverse DNS records (available in the cPanel of your hosting company) to identify the IP address and set up .htaccess to redirect them. This is the most preferred method of cloaking. 
  3. JavaScript cloaking: This happens when users with JavaScript-enabled browsers are served one version of the content while users who have JavaScript disabled (like search engines) are served another version of a website.
  4. HTTP_REFERER cloaking: In this method, the HTTP_REFERER header of the requester is checked and based on that, a cloaked or uncloaked version of the website is served.
  5. HTTP Accept-language header cloaking: This technique checks the HTTP Accept-Language header of the user and based on the match result, a specific version of the website is presented. In simple terms, if the HTTP Accept-Language header is of a search engine, then a cloaked version of the website is served.

What are the common ways to implement cloaking in SEO?

Let us now understand how to put cloaking into action with a few easy pointers:

  • Invisible or Hidden text

This can be done by adding text in the same colour as that of the background so that it is not visible to the human eye.

  • Flash-based Websites

We know Flash is not recommended as per SEO guidelines. But some websites cannot avoid it. So rather than remaking the entire website in plain HTML, they create content-rich webpages and provide them to search engine crawlers and the flash pages to visitors.

  • HTML Rich Websites

A good SEO technique requires having a “TEXT to HTML ratio” that is as high as possible. In other words, the web page should have more text (content) as compared to your HTML tags. But if someone is writing short articles or posts, your text to HTML ratio will be very low. To avoid re-designing their website in such scenarios, people choose cloaking to meet SEO guidelines.

  • Replacement of Java Scripts

Here, one can use JavaScript to show content to a non-JavaScript enabled user that matches the textual information within a Flash or other multimedia element.

Does ‘White Hat Cloaking’ exist?

A Frequently asked question is – is there anything called White Hat Cloaking?

Matt Cutts has said:

“White hat cloaking is a contradiction in terms of Google. We’ve never had to make an exception for “white hat” cloaking. If someone tells you that — that’s dangerous.”

He further mentioned that if any site includes a code that differentiates the Googlebot on the basis of the user agent or IP address, Google considers it as cloaking and may take action against the site.

This answers our question that there is no such thing as ‘White Hat Cloaking’ in Google’s webmaster guidelines. So, do not be deceived if someone tells you to try white-hat Cloaking.

What is Google’s penalty for cloaking?

The search engine keeps updating their algorithm frequently and if you use cloaking, they will sooner or later find it out and may permanently ban your website from being indexed. In fact, Google “blacklisted” a German car manufacturer, BMW, for breaking its guidelines in February 2006.

Should cloaking be done in SEO?

In the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) industry, cloaking is considered to be a black hat technique that violates Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.

If you ask us whether you should do cloaking to trick crawlers and rank high, our answer will be NO, search engines don’t like to be tricked. Plus, your website is crawled multiple times using different IP addresses and their complex and strict algorithm will detect cloaking on your website if you use it. 

Make sure to keep in mind the methods we have mentioned in this post to know what is considered as cloaking by Google and what is not. Do let us know your thoughts by adding comments below.

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18 comments

Roy April 7, 2020 - 5:28 am

Great post

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Infidigit April 8, 2020 - 1:03 pm

Thanks, Roy

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Surrey SEO May 24, 2020 - 4:32 pm

This article is one of the best write up on the topic. It provide you true and insightful information regarding it. This article should be read by everyone. I enjoyed reading this article and would suggest others to come over this link and get all the information regarding it.

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Infidigit May 25, 2020 - 5:26 am

Thanks, Surrey. Do check our latest posts for more updates.

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Soumya June 23, 2020 - 11:57 am

Thanks for sharing such valuable information, certainly the detail provided about cloaking is worth of reading.

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Infidigit June 29, 2020 - 2:20 pm

Thank you, Soumya. Read our latest posts for more updates.

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T.I.F. June 29, 2020 - 9:30 pm

do you recommend a clocking service to use it for the CPA offers.
I joined many networks as maxbounty, mostCPA and selected some offers, but some traffic sources hate the affiliate URL,
so do you know a well source online for doing clocking as a pro ?

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Infidigit July 8, 2020 - 6:53 am

No. I would not recommend a cloaking service for CPA offers. Because cloaking is a technique which is done to show different results to search engine bots & users to improve rankings for certain keywords. Cloaking is one of the Black Hat SEO technique. Was this helpful, do let us know in the below comments section.

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Omaha Media Group August 14, 2020 - 11:29 am

All the things about the cloaking. This article mentions and acts as such a moving trigger. It is an article worth applauding for based on its content. I am sure many people will come to read this in the future.

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Infidigit August 17, 2020 - 8:36 am

Thanks. Do subscribe us for more latest updates.

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Denver seo experts August 21, 2020 - 8:09 am

This article gives detail about the cloaking. This article gives suggestions on limitations and delimitation of such selection. I enjoyed reading while going through this article and this is the best link for gaining all the information about it.

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Infidigit August 26, 2020 - 5:44 am

Thank you. Do subscribe us for more latest updates.

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Austin seo experts August 21, 2020 - 9:53 am

I am so happy when I found your blog and I absolutely love your article upon cloaking. I liked it and it is wonderful to know about so many things that are useful for all of us! Thanks a lot for this amazing blog, please keep updated us with such information!!

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Infidigit August 26, 2020 - 5:42 am

Thanks. Read our latest posts for more updates.

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Mineral Water Dealers in Chennai September 9, 2020 - 12:42 pm

I Have read your blog post. i have gathered a lot of information about SEO. Thank you for sharing your blog post.

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CCTV Dealers in Chennai September 9, 2020 - 12:58 pm

I read your blog, but you need to update the content regularly then only i can get your awesome information.

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Robin Ooi September 15, 2020 - 3:00 pm

How about cloaking to avoid government block of a website domain, is that a good idea?

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Infidigit September 16, 2020 - 5:47 am

Cloaking is not a good idea. It an illegal practice to spoof search engines & it is also considered as a black hat SEO practice. The search engines may permanently ban sites who get engaged in cloaking. Was this helpful? Do let us know your feedback in the comments section below.

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