Last Updated on September 9, 2020
Stealth Wrapped URLs
I often tell my clients that SEO is a matter of opinion. Deciding what kind of optimization techniques — like cloaking — you want to use on your website is a business decision. In this post I’ll explain what cloaking is and its ramifications.Ready to Talk?
Cloaking is an SEO tactic that’s a little like “bait and switch.” Google wants you to present content or a URL “seen” by their site crawlers that matches what a human searcher would see.
There are technical tricks to present information differently. Here’s an example of cloaking. You create a webpage consisting of HTML text to search engines. The bots crawl the page, finds keywords so it can “learn” what the page is about. It gets served to an unsuspecting searcher. They click on your link and they actually see a page with Flash or a bunch of images.
Matt Cutts, head of Google’s Webspam, posted this ~9 minute video back in 2011 to explain cloaking in more detail.
Risks & Implications
Cloaking (and it’s cousin, sneaky redirects) are a direct violation of Google’s quality guidelines. I wish I could say “use the technique and immediately go to Google jail.” In reality, it may take some time for Google to figure out you’re trying to cheat the system.
Each month Google spanks approximately 400,000 websites via a manual penalty. A site-wide penalty can catapult your organic visibility from top of page 1 on a SERP to page 50+. Or worse, they can ban you from the index if your website is particularly spammy.
Here’s my advice for business owners and marketing managers:
- Read and understand Google’s guidelines (at least at a high level)
- When outsourcing your website maintenance and/or SEO, vet your vendors
- Monitor the health of your website using Webmaster Tools (as this is a direct window into what Google sees and thinks about your website)
By the way, Happy Friday the 13th. Are you using your website’s power for good or evil?