Even the most fantastic website in the world with the most amazing content won’t go very far if the people who would adore it can’t even find it in the first place. So every extremely popular website has a great search engine optimisation (SEO) plan behind it. Yet it’s crucial to realise that one SEO strategy isn’t always superior to another. Unfair black hat Cloaking in SEO is one of the tactics that may initially help a site rank higher, but it also violates search engine policies. This blog will guide you to learn about what is cloaking in SEO and its different types.
What is Cloaking in SEO?
Cloaking in SEO is a search engine optimisation strategy where specific content is provided to a search engine bot, crawler, or spider and the target audience. Then, different content creation techniques are used to boost search engine rankings artificially. This method falls primarily under the category of black hat SEO methods. This method’s primary application is to manipulate search engine results to benefit the target website or web page for which the SEO project is being conducted.
It is done by altering the web server’s programming to provide search engines with information that differs from what it offers to users. For obvious reasons, search engines detest this tactic and immediately blacklist websites that use it to achieve the desired rating.
How does cloaking work?
The htaccess file is used by cloaking to accomplish its goal. Mod rewrite is a module found in this package. This module can be used to mask the text of a web page, deceiving search engine crawlers and leading to higher rankings.
The “mod rewrite” module can recognise the difference between a search engine bot’s IP address and a regular visitor’s IP address, displaying the text appropriately. As a result, the website will undoubtedly appear more frequently when someone searches for it online, but the material will differ from what search engines see.
Different Types of Cloaking
Now that you have basic knowledge of cloaking in Search Engine Optimisation. let’s take a route to learn the different types of cloaking in SEO. Such types are,
User Agent Cloaking
A software agent that functions on behalf of a person is known as a user agent cloaking. For instance, a web browser represents the user by retrieving information from websites and showing it on an operating system. The user-agent is identified by a code that the browser transmits to the server when you type a query. Cloaked material is served if the user agent is found to be a crawler.
IP Address Cloaking
Each website visitor has an IP address based on their location and internet provider. In this case, a page with a high traffic volume and solid SERP rating redirects users to the desired page. To do this, you can locate the IP address and configure .htaccess to redirect it using the reverse DNS records accessible in your hosting company’s cPanel. The most used cloaking technique is this one.
HTTP Accept-language Header Cloaking
This method chooses which website version to display based on the user’s HTTP Accept-Language message. When a search engine’s HTTP Accept-Language header is present, a cloaked form of the website is provided.
This is a primary but efficient method to guarantee that the visitors most likely to be interested in your site’s content will see it.
How to Implement Cloaking in SEO?
There are specific methods to implement the cloaking in the websites, and such practices are,
To accomplish this, add text that blends in with the background colour to make it invisible to the human eye.
Flash Based Websites
As per SEO recommendations, Flash is not advised. However, it is unavoidable for some services. Instead of redesigning the complete website in plain HTML, they instead produce content-rich webpages for search engine crawlers and flash pages for users.
HTML Rich Websites
Having a high “TEXT to HTML percentage” is essential for effective SEO strategies. To put it another way, the web website should contain more content than your HTML tags. However, your text-to-HTML ratio will be extremely low if someone writes brief articles or blog entries. People choose to cloak to adhere to SEO guidelines in such cases to prevent redesigning their website.
How to Detect Cloaking in SEO?
Detecting cloaking in SEO can be challenging because it involves comparing the content presented to search engines with the content presented to users. However, here are some steps you can take to detect cloaking in SEO:
Use a user-agent switcher:
A user-agent switcher is a tool that allows you to mimic different user agents, such as web browsers or search engine crawlers. For example, using a user-agent switcher lets you see if the content presented to search engines differs from the content presented to users.
Check the source code:
Use a proxy server:
A proxy server can be used to access the web page from different locations and IP addresses. Accessing the web page from different locations lets you see if the content presented to users differs based on their geographic location.
Use SEO auditing tools:
Many SEO auditing tools are available that can help you detect cloaking. These tools typically analyse the content presented to search engines and compare it to the content presented to users.
How To Avoid Cloaking?
To avoid cloaking in SEO, it’s essential to ensure that the content presented to search engines is the same as the content presented to users. Here are some steps you can take to avoid cloaking in SEO:
Serve the same content to search engines and users: Make sure the web page presents the same content to search engines and users. This means avoiding any techniques that serve search engines with different content, such as IP cloaking or user-agent detection.
Use responsive web design:
Responsive web design ensures the web is optimised for all devices, including mobile devices. This means that the same content is served to all users, regardless of their device. Nowadays, mobile SEO is important for every website.
Use structured data:
Structured data provides search engines additional information about the web page’s content. This can help improve search engine rankings without the need for cloaking.
Using geo-targeting instead of cloaking if you need to present different content to users based on their geographic location. This means presenting a default web page version to all users but allowing users to switch to a localised version if desired.
If you need to present different content to users based on factors such as their language or geographic location, be transparent about it. Provide users with the ability to override the default settings and choose their own language or location.
By following these steps, you can avoid cloaking in SEO and ensure that your web pages are optimised for search engines while providing a positive user experience.
Black Hat adherents and “organic” SEOs represent the two primary schools of thought in SEO. Unfortunately, while some people are not afraid to take any risks, others adhere closely to Google’s rules. Indeed, the various cloaking methods presently available are more dangerous than helpful, despite being alluring. So instead, we recommend using the less harmful but efficient White and Gray Hat techniques.