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What is cloaking?

You can by definition Cloaking as an HTML technology from the field of search engine optimization. When optimizing using cloaking, the Improving the ranking of a website within the results list of search engines like Google in focus. For this purpose, the web crawlers of the search engine are presented with different content than the normal page visitor under the same URL. The goal is to present the website visitor with content that is attractively designed and does not focus on SEO criteria such as keywords. In contrast to this, the crawler is usually presented with text-based page content, which implements SEO methods in the best possible way, but loses design attributes.

How does cloaking work?

When a user searches for a website using a search engine, it is displayed in the search engine suggestions from the relevant index. The basic goal of cloaking, however, is one Optimizing the page differently for the visitor and the search engines. The page can contain multimedia content for normal visitors, while it is made available to the search engines as a structurally modified, text-based version. Search engines can process and index text content much better, multimedia content such as videos are more difficult for them to read. With the help of cloaking, a page can be made particularly appealing for the user without the domain owner having to worry about falling behind in the ranking because the crawlers cannot read the media components and thus cannot index them.

It should be noted that Google & Co. have meanwhile developed some tools and options to better process and index multimedia content, thus reducing the options for cloaking.

Disguising as a Black Hat SEO method

Cloaking is one of the Black Hat SEO methods and was probably named after the villains who, in old films, wear a black hat pulled wide over their faces in order to remain undetected. Cloaking can be translated as camouflage or cover, as this technology conceals the actual website presence in order to make it invisible to search engine crawlers such as Googlebots. In extreme cases, the content that is presented to the search engines has nothing to do with the content that the normal user finds.

Cloaking is a process that is contrary to the guidelines of most search engines and in some cases can even be assessed as a trademark or competition infringement. The procedure is therefore punished accordingly: If web crawlers reveal the cloaking of a page, this almost always leads to permanent exclusion from the indexes of search engine operators. For example, anyone who violates Google's webmaster guidelines, the Google Webmaster Guidelines, will be punished with a Google penalty. The only option for re-indexing is then to purchase a new domain.

Technical variants of cloaking

Since cloaking is based on server systematics, the server can use the IP or the identifier to identify whether a user, browser or robot wants to access the data, and thus display the respective optimized or reduced website.

There are two different types of cloaking:

  • At the IP cloaking Different versions of the website are presented to the visitor, depending on their IP address. Search engine crawlers can also be redirected to the specific version of the page based on your IP address.
  • At the User agent cloaking, the website visitor is presented with different versions of the page, depending on his user agent (mostly internet browser). Due to the fact that search engine crawlers such as Google usually identify themselves, they can be redirected to another page with an appropriate program code.

How can the masquerade be exposed?

There are also ways to expose cloaking. For this purpose, search engine crawlers use the usual browser IDs so that they are identified as normal users and that the optimized page is displayed to them. In addition, search engine operators try to keep some of their crawlers secret so that they can search for “cloaked” pages without hindrance. At least user agent cloaking can thus be easily identified.

To date, IP cloaking has been particularly difficult to uncover, but the tools of the search engines, as already mentioned above, are constantly developing, use neutral IPs and can thus increasingly prevent IP cloaking.