What Is Cloaking and How Does It Affect SEO?

By | August 27, 2019


Hi, I’m Bruce Clay, and this is the Ask Us
Anything series. After running my website through your single page analyzer, I
received a warning message saying that my website failed the cloaking test. What
is cloaking and how does it affect my SEO? Cloaking has been around for a very,
very long time. It is software that typically runs on a server, determines
who is asking for the page: Is that a search engine, is it a browser? If it is a
browser, which browser? Is it a spider and if it’s a spider, which spider and you
can make a determination on the server as to what you want to respond, how you
want to respond, and what you want to respond to that particular request with.
In general, cloaking allows the server to determine what the format of the result
will look like. Now, in the past, cloaking has been considered somewhat evil. This
was where somebody would get visited by Google and they would give them a page
perhaps about baby blankets, but when somebody clicked on that result, that
server determined it wasn’t a search engine and gave an adult site. That
bait-and-switch is what gave cloaking a very very bad name. In our tools, we do
what many tools do: We look at the user agent, HTTP, referring agent to determine
if it is Google or not Google or Chrome or IE or Firefox or what-have-you, and
then we sort our queries. We do approximately seven queries as a
different kind of an agent and if they’re all the same then we assume your
site is doing fine and if they are different, there is something happening
on your server to give a different result based upon a different user agent,
spider, or browser and those are the things that we report. Most of the
cloaking checking tools out on the market will do it the same way. Cloaking is typically software that determines who is asking for the pages (Is it a browser, spider, search engine, etc.?) In general, cloaking allows the server to determine what the format of the result will be. Running a cloaking test shows you if all searches show the same results for your website.

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