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Forcing Googlebot to Observe the Sabbath

Posted by Melanie Phung on Friday, November 10, 2006 at 1:18 pm

Just when it starts to seem like I haven’t learned anything interesting in a while, I come across a thread called “Cloaking for Religious Reasons.”

Is there ever a good reason to engage in cloaking for the purpose of fooling Google? Even if God insists?

Turns out no — the problem being discussed could better be solved a different way (The problem: having to take down an e-commerce site in observance of Sabbath but needing to avoid search engine spiders replacing the entire site in their indexes/indices with the store’s “we’re currently closed” page. The solution: returning 503 errors).

Now I finally understand why B&H Photo wouldn’t let me place orders on their site at various times in the past. Turns out it wasn’t random… it was Saturday!

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Category: Cloaking,Google,Googlebot

You Can Hide from Googlebot…

Posted by Melanie Phung on Sunday, April 30, 2006 at 12:24 am

… but you can’t hide from Google’s bots. Google has confirmed that it’s using multiple spiders to feed crawl results into Bigdaddy. Specifically mentioned is that the AdSense mediapartners bot (a.k.a. mediabot) is caching pages for the natural search index.

Jenstar points out:

It could definitely be used as a tool to detect when content is being cloaked for either the Google or AdSense bot, particularly since the mediapartners bot has been indexing pages since at least the beginning of February.

Who knows how many other-named spiders Google has doing recon like this. Definitely would make the old IP cloaking black hat trick a little trickier.

More info on the crawl caching proxy on Matt Cutts’s site.

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Category: Cloaking,Googlebot

Black Hat Tricks 101: Cloaking

Posted by Melanie Phung on Friday, December 9, 2005 at 7:20 pm

There are two forum threads, a current one at Crea8aSite and another one at Search Engine Watch started 2 months ago, on the merits of IP cloaking – one of the common techniques in the “black hat” SEO’s arsenal.

IP cloaking is the practice of detecting the IP address of a visitor and presenting different content to different groups. There are legitimate reasons to cloak – a search engine might present more geographically targeted results based on a user’s physical location, for example. Sometimes cloaking is also the only way to show search engines what’s on a page built in Flash (search engines can’t parse Macromedia Flash).

But usually cloaking is used to show heavily manipulated SEO pages to search engines, while users from other IP addresses are shown something entirely different. In this case “optimizing” usually involves keyword stuffing or putting content on a page you wouldn’t want a customer to see. (Or conversely, to hide from a search engine the content people are going to see.)

The discussions going on in Crea8aSite and SEW do a good job of educating on the issue, not just demonizing the tactic. In fact, some posters even go so far as to recommend the services of a particular company.

Something mentioned in the forums that I think is worth highlighting is what is often forgotten in the “white hat” versus “black hat” debate: whichever method you choose, it’s still going to require doing something to get ranked. Cloaking (or any black hat technique) isn’t a magic pill that gets you to the top of the rankings automatically. You still have to actually do some optimization work.

The general consensus among the posters seems to be – if you don’t already know what you’re doing … really know what you’re doing … cloaking is not the way to go. If you absolutely have to do it, hand it off to someone who has a really good reputation doing this sort of thing.

In other words, boys and girls, don’t try this at home.

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Category: Cloaking