Cloaking is a technique used by website owners to present different versions of their website to search engines and human visitors. The practice of cloaking is considered to be a black hat SEO tactic, meaning that it is against search engine guidelines and can result in penalties or even a complete ban from search engines. In this article, we will define the term cloaking and provide some background information on its use, the different types of cloaking, and the risks associated with it.
In simple terms, cloaking is a technique used to show different content to search engine spiders than what is shown to regular users. This is achieved by detecting the user agent (the software that sends the HTTP request) of the person visiting the website and serving them a version of the website based on their user agent. This allows website owners to show content to search engines that is optimized for high rankings without having to compromise on the user experience.
The use of cloaking dates back to the early days of search engines when website owners would manipulate search engine results by showing different content to the search engine than to the human user. In those days, search engines were not as sophisticated as they are today, and it was relatively easy to game the system.
IP-based cloaking involves showing different content based on the IP address of the user. This is used to show different content to users from different countries or regions. For example, a website may show different prices for products based on the user’s location.
User-agent cloaking, as mentioned earlier, involves showing different content based on the user agent of the person visiting the website. This is used to show search engines optimized content for higher rankings while showing human visitors a version of the website that is optimized for user experience.
Referrer cloaking involves showing different content based on the website the user came from. This is often used to show different content to users who are coming from search engines and those who are coming from social media platforms.
The use of cloaking is considered to be a black hat SEO tactic, and website owners who use it risk penalties from search engines. Google, for example, explicitly prohibits the use of cloaking in its webmaster guidelines, and any website found to be using this technique risks being penalized or even banned from the search engine.
The reason why search engines frown upon the use of cloaking is that it undermines the integrity of search engine results. Search engines aim to provide users with the most relevant and useful search results based on their queries, and cloaking can manipulate these results and show users content that is not relevant or useful.
Cloaking is a technique used by website owners to show different content to search engines than what is shown to human visitors. While it can be used to optimize a website for higher rankings, the use of cloaking is considered to be a black hat SEO tactic and can result in penalties from search engines. As search engines become more sophisticated and better at detecting cloaking, website owners are better off focusing on creating high-quality content that is useful and relevant to their audience.
Cloaking is when you obscure your affiliate link with a redirect. This hides the real destination to the user. People often use cloaking to make their links shorter and look nicer, but link cloaking is not necessary for affiliates or affiliate marketing. Amazon does not allow link cloaking.
Miles Anthony Smith
Miles is a loving father of 3 adults, devoted husband of 24+ years, chief affiliate marketer at AmaLinks Pro®, author, entrepreneur, SEO consultant, keynote speaker, investor, & owner of businesses that generate affiliate + ad income (Loop King Laces, Why Stuff Sucks, & Kompelling Kars). He’s spent the past 3 decades growing revenues for other’s businesses as well as his own. Miles has an MBA from Oklahoma State and has been featured in Entrepreneur, the Brookings Institution, Wikipedia, GoDaddy, Search Engine Watch, Advertising Week, & Neil Patel.