Cloaking in Web Hosting Web Sites Pages

Cloaking in Web Hosting Web Sites Pages

While browsing for web hosting news on Google today, I came across the ‘Web Host Industry Review’ report Accused of Cloaking Links.

Basically, it focused on claims made by contributors to the WebHosting Talk ( forum, that the San Diego-based web hosting provider may have been ‘cloaking’ customer sites, without their knowledge, to improve its search engine rankings.

It further offered an explanation of how this could have been done and how the company’s Google rankings seem to support the claims.

Which made me (and maybe novice webmasters, as well) wonder. what exactly is meant by the term ‘cloaking’ as applied to web sites.

Webopedia defines it as a technique, usually by scripting meta tags, ‘used by some Web sites to deliver one page to a search engine for indexing while serving an entirely different page to everyone else.’

How does it work?

I found a good explanation from the Webmaster World forum thread Newbie Cloaking Primer.

The industry does seem to be split as to whether the practice is deemed ‘ethical’ or not.

An alternative definition taken from the ‘E Brand Management White Paper’ The Classification of Search Engine Spam, categorizes IP Cloaking as spam (as does Google), since the unique content is designed only for search engine robots and not for human viewing. So then, should cloaking, like spamming, be considered bad practice?

Well, not inherently, according Robin Nobles in his ‘Bytesworth’ article Guidelines for Responsible Cloaking. After all, if it’s bad, how come it’s taught in many search engine optimization seminars?

He further states that cloaking, when used responsibly, can be a highly effective strategy in competing for rankings, and even expounds on its use when working with theme engines in his ‘Search Engine Workshops’ article The Future of Search Engine Optimizing: Theme Engines.

He does say, however, that it can be abused, hence his effort to create a ‘list of responsible cloaking guidelines’ to help people stay on the legitimate side of that ‘gray’ line.

This divide is further underscored by the following Webmaster World ( forum threads, that dealt with both its dangers and returns.

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