What is Cloaking in SEO: A Simple Guide for Beginners

Almost all website owners want their site to rank well in search results for relevant keywords. 

Few practice white hat SEO tactics that obey search engine guidelines, while others look for shady practices like cloaking in SEO.

Cloaking can hurt your search rankings, as it shows different content to Google and your website users. If you’re looking for long-term traffic from search engines, avoid such black hat SEO techniques.

In this post, you’ll discover what exactly cloaking is, different types of it and its drawbacks. So, let’s jump into the details.

Cloaking: What Is It? Types of Cloaking & Drawbacks

cloaking in seo

What is cloaking in SEO?

Cloaking in SEO is a black hat SEO technique that shows different versions of your website’s information to search engines and users.

It is a shady SEO tactic that tricks search engines by showing them one version of a page and visitors another.

Simply put, visitors see A and search engines see B: that’s cloaking.

What are Different Types of Website Cloaking?

SEO cloaking can be implemented in different forms, here are some common types.

Hidden text cloaking: The most common form of Google cloaking is using hidden text, which search engines can read but your visitors cannot read or see. It is often used to stuff keyword phrases to manipulate search rankings for those phrases. 

Some ways it is used are using white text on a white background, covering text with an image, using really small fonts (such as pixel zero), etc. Google’s advice is to avoid hidden text and links.

IP-based cloaking: This type of cloaking delivers different content to website visitors based on their IP address. 

For example, a visitor from Australia might see a different version of a website than someone from India.

User-agent cloaking: This type of cloaking uses the information the browser or device sends (known as the “user agent”) to deliver different content to visitors based on their browser or device. 

For example, if a visitor uses a smartphone to browse your site, they might see a different version of your website than someone using a laptop or desktop.

Referrer-based cloaking: This type of black hat cloaking technique treats visitors differently based on the website they came from. 

For example, if a visitor comes from YouTube, they might see totally different content than someone who came from Google. 

JavaScript cloaking: This is another popular form of cloaking that tricks search engines by showing them a keyword-filled version of the website while real people with JavaScript enabled see the regular, user-friendly version.

Why Should You Avoid Cloaking in SEO? 

So, why cloaking is terrible for your website’s SEO? Here are some of the primary reasons to avoid it in 2024;

  • It can penalise your website and hurt your search rankings. Search engines like Google are REALLY smarter and they often roll out algorithms to detect and punish websites that implement deceptive SEO practices like cloaking.
  • Your site pretty much gets deindexed from Google. No matter how many pages you have, you’ll not get any visitors from search engines when you practice such shady practices.
  • With cloaking, you’ll hurt your brand’s online reputation, ultimately resulting in poor conversion rates and sales.
  • It deceives users by showing them content different from what search engines see. Your ultimate goal is to provide a better experience to users, NOT deceive them.

Whether you’re doing it intentionally or not, it can hurt your rankings and brand recognition.

So what can you do instead to boost your search rankings? You can choose the white hat SEO path where;

  • You focus on creating high-quality and HELPFUL content that’s relevant to your target audience.
  • You create or attract backlinks from reputed or relevant websites in your industry.
  • You can optimize your content by targeting LSI keywords that are semantically related to your primary keyword.
  • You can improve your website loading times to provide a faster website experience to your users.
  • Make sure to do proper internal linking while publishing new posts. That way, you’ll pass link juice to other relevant posts and also help search engine bots crawl your posts better.

FAQs on SEO Cloaking

Here are some commonly asked questions on cloaking.

Why is cloaking done?

The primary reason for cloaking is to improve a website’s search engine visibility by violating Google’s guidelines. 

How do you know if a website is cloaking?

There are many free tools available to check if a website is using such tactics, including;
– Cloaking Checker from Small SEO Tools
– Link Cloaking checker from Duplichecker
– Cloaking Checker from WebConfs

What are the different types of SEO cloaking?

Some common examples of cloaking include;
– Using hidden text or links
– IP-based Cloaking
– Flash-based websites

Does Google penalize a website that practices cloaking?

Yes. All search engines, including Google, penalize a website and prevent their web pages from search indexing if they detect such practices.

What does black hat mean in SEO?

Black hat SEO refers to ANY search engine optimization practice that violates search engine guidelines to improve their search rankings.

Recommended Reading:

Final thoughts

If you really want to achieve first-page rankings in Google, focus on providing TRUE value to users. Use ethical SEO practices such as creating informative content, building relevant links, etc., for long-term success.

Black hat SEO tactics like cloaking can penalise your website in search results. Stay away from such things if you’re serious about website rankings.

What are your thoughts on website cloaking? Did you find this guide helpful? Let us know your views in the comments.

About Author
Anil Agarwal is the Founder of Bloggerspassion. He is a full-time blogger and SEO expert who has been helping people build profitable blogs for over a decade Now. He has been featured in Over 100 Publications including Forbes, The HuffPost, HubSpot, Shopify, Semrush, Kinsta, Bluehost, Hostinger and G2.com etc. Know more about Anil Agarwal from here.

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