Cloaking is an SEO technique where the content or information presented to users is different from that presented to search engine crawlers.
This can be done for two reasons: for better indexing and to lead users to pages that they were not looking for. Cloaking is also implemented to mislead search engines into giving a site a higher ranking and promoting spam.
The use of cloaking in the SEO community
This method is very debatable. Knowing what cloaking is, this strategy could be considered illegitimate, depending on your intentions.
Black hat cloaking, on the one hand, is used as a ruse to trick search engines into ranking sites for search queries that have nothing to do with what will be shown to users. These usually drive traffic to deceitful or spammy websites. If you are caught, Google can remove your site from its index.
White hat cloaking, on the other hand, is when people use the technique because it is the right thing to do, or so they think. The term applies to websites that don’t have the intention of misleading bots or users. These sites use cloaking to provide a better user experience or to help search engines index a page more accurately.
When is cloaking OK?
When necessary, certain types of content can be cloaked. Some of them are:
– Invisible or hidden text. Sometimes, people can add additional text or keywords in order to stand out. By cloaking this, the information becomes invisible to the user but remains useful for crawlers.
– E-mail cloaking. When you don’t want your personal information appearing on emails, cloaking is a way to do it.
– HTML rich websites. This can be used mostly in small blogs, where the text to HTML source code ratio is low. People choose to use the cloaking method in order to meet the SEO guidelines.
– Image Gallery Websites. Since bots are unable to crawl and index images, people often cloak them to increase their ranking.