Cloaking Risk Factors

Myths and rumors abound on the being banned for cloaking issue, and five experts will probably give you six opinions … Well, here is ours: DON’T PANIC and don’t be fooled by the hype!

Can your core web site get banned by the search engines for cloaking? If that was true, then your competitor could build some cloaked domains and point them to your primary web site so that it would be banned! Think of the damage that would be done if that was at all true. Not a very likely scenario, is it?

So can you really have your “cloaked” domains banned for cloaking? Categorically yes – if, for example, your competitors have snitched on you to the search engines, and if the search engines’ staff have manually checked and compared your spider fodder with what you are actually serving your human visitors. In a worst case scenario a human editor may come along to check the matter out.

On the other hand, it is highly unlikely that you will get penalized or banned unless some silly campaign build mistake has taken place. Bad enough as this may be, we would always recur to setting up new Shadow Domains to replace banned domains in this unlikely scenario. No big loss at all! If a cloaking campaign is is implemented professionally and with minimal errors and sound marketing techniques, your chances of being banned are truly minimal.

Note that we do NOT condone cloaking for misleading purposes: it is counter productive and will only serve to make life more difficult for all parties concerned.

Finally, to disperse all doubts in this matter: while cloaking is a highly efficient and effective technique, it will do you little good if you don’t have the content to match. After all, surfers will always be free to vote with their feet (well, mice, really …), and if you are trying to insult their intelligence by subterfuge, don’t pretend to surprise if they resort to returning the favor with a vengeance.

So can cloaking be abused? Sure it can! But so are kitchen knives and painkillers. We for our part have never advocated misleading search engine optimization, if only because it’s dumb marketing: if you find a site offering second hand books in a search engine, what are you going to do if you’re redirected to a porn site instead?

You’re going to get annoyed with the porn site, right – and it’s really as simple as that. Will you buy porn stuff there, even if you were into that sort of thing? Most probably not.

There’s no excuse in the world for misleading surfers like that and it certainly doesn’t seem to pay off either, which is why we’re actually seeing less and less of that sort of thing these days, and we can’t
say we’re too unhappy about it.

But let’s face realities here: while the search engines may take a strong-arm stance against cloaking in public, they don’t really seem to worry too much about it in everyday life, even if they state otherwise.

One of the reasons being that there’s so much legitimate cloaking about, it would simply be impossible to weed it all out. Else, you might well expect the world’s top 1000 web properties to disappear from the search engine indices, and where would that leave them, loss of advertising revenue apart?

It’s quite important to realize this fact before fretting about the possible penalization of cloaking, as so many clueless SEOs are wont to, scaring the horses left, right and center without a single tangible proof of what they’re claiming to know absolutely everything about.

Is it possible to get banned or penalized for cloaking? Yes, it is. But is it likely? Hardly – the search engines are far too busy trying to eke some money out of their services.

In any case, you can neatly avoid penalization by working with what we call “Shadow Domains™ ”, i.e. domains dedicated to giving the search engines appropriate spider fodder while redirecting human visitors at system level, without delay, to the main domain proper.

That way, should you really ever be penalized for cloaking – again, an extremely rare occurrence, all you will normally lose is that particular Shadow Domain. But then, all we do is register a new one for you and start from scratch. Simple as that.

Used responsibly, cloaking will actually give everyone concerned the best of all worlds: search engines will become aware of sites, albeit indirectly, their spiders are unable to crawl properly because of their antediluvian technology.

Webmasters in turn will be happy with their rankings. And most importantly, surfers will gain access to web sites they would, to all probability, otherwise never know about.

We are aware that this may sound a bit optimistic, but let’s for a change face the fact that it’s actually the search engine spiders, not the users, that are dumb – users can always, and actually will, vote with their mice on whether your site’s high ranking was justified and relevant to their search.

By contrast, most if not all search engines seem to be run by people who subscribe to a patriarchal, hierarchic view of human nature, claiming competence on what users are supposed to see and what not.

Search Engine’s are control freaks, and that’s what the whole issue of cloaking actually boils down to: the search engines, parasites that they basically are, living off our content and labor, want to retain control over everything including web design and layout. Little wonder that an ever growing number of webmasters and corporations are beginning to resent just that.