Cloaking & Google Zeitgeist

A week or two back an example of cloaking came to my attention. I'll share it to give a real-world illustration of the tactic while I had a chance, and should revisit it as things just got a little more interesting here.

A non-technical definition of cloaking would be "showing your human visitors anything different than what you show the search engines." Traditionally the engines vehemently forbid cloaking, and are known for never being hip to discussing its sensitivities or details even hypothetically (to the frustration of White Hats). They're also reputed for banning ("de-listing") sites from their indexes upon catching such violations of their policies. There are several tactics in SEO considered verbotten, and cloaking's always been one of the most notable.

This recent discovery was per, one of the companies out to cash cache in on the rise of online video. As one can see from the caches of them in Google, Yahoo and MSN what they're doing is turning off their "Family Filter," which normally defaults to On, whenever SE spiders crawl them. This is to get as much of their content indexed as possible, and it's working: One could also note some of what they're getting into their Supplemental Results on Google for example.

I'm sure MetaCafe's stance is something a-la

A robot by its nature can fall neither below nor above age 18 so can be let at the lot of it.

I've been lightly tempted with taking a similar stance on certain White Hat AV(age verification)-sensitive projects before, but haven't bothered giving it much consideration yet for lack of machine-readable content on them.

Companies who were temporarily banned from Google in the past year included BMW. However another well-known brand, The New York Times, made news in 2006 for "acceptable cloaking." To my knowledge this was the first time such an allowance happened and got decently publicized, from a Search Marketer's perspective at least.

What's interesting added irony here with MetaCafe is that they also just made Google's Year-End Zeitgeist list, which in itself probably deserves a post (being a classic example of just how constantly people search on domains that they, uh... may already know how to get to directly, actually 🙄 . Watch for a potential opinion poll on how much of this is misguided laziness incurring extra clickage vs. something else).

This is some of the "gray" area that doesn't get put into official documentation by the engines (yet?) that exists all the same.

For cloaking, the plot thickens.

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