What is cloaking in SEO? And Permitted Cloaking Practices

It is the goal of every company for their website or webpage to appear at the top of the Search Engine Results Page (SERP). The website must be optimized in order to achieve a high ranking in search engines. The process of search engine optimization is gradual. It does not produce immediate results. A great search engine optimization (SEO) strategy lies at the heart of every website that enjoys huge popularity. However, it is essential to comprehend that not all SEO strategies are created equal. Cloaking and other unethical black hat SEO techniques may initially advance a website, but they also violate search engine guidelines. Google severely penalizes a website that is caught, if not completely bans it. To stay safe and compliant online, here’s a closer look at what you need to know about cloaking in SEO.

What is Cloaking in SEO?

In SEO, cloaking refers to the practice of displaying users with content or information that differs from what is presented to search engine crawlers, such as spiders or bots. The purpose of this method is to enhance a website’s search engine rankings for specific keywords. 

SEO Cloaking is a serious infraction of Google’s webmaster guidelines when carried out with intent. A Google Penalty is issued for cloaking, which is a clear violation of the Webmaster Guidelines. A Google Penalty will have a significant impact on rankings, decreasing exposure, engagement, and conversion rates. Because cloaking can also happen by accident, it’s important to know what it is, why you should avoid it, and what to do if you find it. Leading SEO services companies mostly advise against any type of cloaking.

Here’s how Google’s Matt Cutts defines cloaking and why it is a high risk behavior. 

Also, Read: Google Penalty Check and How to Fix if Your Website is Penalized by Google

Types of SEO Cloaking

  • IP Cloaking

In SEO, this may be the most prevalent method of cloaking. It occurs when a user is redirected to the desired website via a secondary website with a high Google ranking. In order to smoothly redirect a variety of web users, this is accomplished by setting up.htaccess through reverse DNS records.

  • User Agent Cloaking

In user agent cloaking, a specific program known as a user agent is used in place of a traditional user to evaluate website visitors and select the version of a cloaked website that should be displayed to them. A piece of code is sent directly to the server to accomplish this. When a visitor is determined to be a crawl bot, it is shown content that has been specially prepared and cloaked.

  • HTTP Accept-Language Cloaking

In this method of cloaking, the HTTP Accept-Language header of a user is checked to see if it is a regular visitor or a web crawler. If it is a crawler, the actual content of the website will be served ahead of the cloaked version.

  • Javascript Cloaking

Javascript cloaking makes use of the way Javascript is processed by Googlebot and other browsers to hide or change certain content on a page.

  • HTTP REFERER Cloaking

Based on the HTTP referer sent by the web browser, HTTP Referer Cloaking displays a different page or content.

Methods to Implement Cloaking in SEO

Based on the meta tags, page titles, and other SEO strategies, we are aware that a web page is indexed by a search engine. There are various ways of implementing cloaking in SEO, and all of them are deemed to be in violation of webmaster guidelines.Here are some of the most frequently used cloaking methods to boost organic rankings:

  • Hidden Text

This cloaking SEO strategy involves overwriting already existing content with additional keywords to hide them from actual users. Keyword stuffing is a technique used to boost a website’s search engine ranking. These additional words or pieces of content are added to the page in the same color as the background, which is invisible to humans but can be seen by search engine bots. JavaScript or CSS have also been used by some to conceal text.

  • Flash Websites

This is a form of “Agent Name Delivery“. Crawlers perceive these pages as having a lot of content, but users see them as Flash pages. They make web pages with a lot of content that only search engine crawlers can see, not the online visitors.

Also, Read: How to Get FLASH Indexed in the Search Engines

  • Text to HTML Ratio

To optimize a website, search engines advise having a high “TEXT to HTML ratio.” Simply put, the page’s written content should be greater than the number of HTML tags on the website. The text-to-HTML ratio is low on websites that post short articles or have less content on their pages. Webmasters do not redesign the website in such cases to improve SEO. To comply with SEO guidelines, they simply use cloaking techniques to cover up the content.

  • Javascript Replacement

JavaScript can be used to display content that matches the text in a Flash or other multimedia element to a user who does not have JavaScript enabled.

  • Gallery Websites

Websites known as image galleries feature a greater number of images than actual content on their pages. Search engine crawlers and bots do not examine these images, even if they are pertinent. As a result, webmasters stuff their websites with content and keywords to boost rankings.

Is There a Thing Called “White Hat Cloaking”?

Here is what Matt Cutts from Google has said about White Hat cloaking.

“White hat cloaking is a contradiction in terms of Google. We’ve never had to make an exception for “white hat” cloaking. If someone tells you that, that’s dangerous.”

That should answer the question that there is no legal thing in cloaking, be it black hat or white hat.

Google Penalty for Cloaking

Google uses a variety of methods to detect cloaking, and if they find that your website employs this strategy, they will penalize your site by lowering its rank in search results. Google may also decide to completely remove your website from the search results. Therefore, you should definitely steer clear of trying it.

Can Cloaking be done in SEO?

Cloaking is regarded as a black hat strategy in the field of Search Engine Optimization, in violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. We won’t advise you to use cloaking to trick crawlers and get a high ranking because search engines don’t like being tricked. Additionally, using their complex and stringent algorithm, cloaking on your website will be detected when your website is crawled multiple times using various IP addresses.

Permitted SEO Cloaking Practices

The following methods of delivering content are permitted and will not result in a penalty from Google, despite the fact that their status has been subject to some confusion in the past.

Geolocation: The method by which Google presents various web pages to users based on their location is known as geo-location. For instance, Google will appear differently to US users than to UK users.

URL rewriting: It is the process of changing a URL’s appearance to include keywords and make it easier to read for SEO purposes without changing the page’s structure.

Flexible sampling: It lets users view the first page of content without having to sign up for the host site when they click from Google to a listed page. A barrier is put in place after the first page.

Final Thoughts

In the end, shady optimization methods like SEO cloaking aren’t worth the trouble they can cause a website. No amount of quick gains in the SERPs or simple fixes is worth having to fight your way back from a penalty or ban imposed by Google, especially when there are many other options that can earn you real success and help you grow.

You’ll be better able to identify various black hat SEO techniques the more you learn about digital marketing and search engine optimization. 

Utilizing an online cloak checker would be the most convenient method for cloaking. The best part is that these free tools will test the page for URLs with hidden scripts and detect search engine cloaking. Web administrators are able to spot attempts to cloak their website and prevent further harm by regularly monitoring it. As a result, testing the URLs and monitoring the page’s performance at all times are essential. SEO is a never-ending battle, so staying alert and acting accordingly is essential.


Is cloaking an illegal act?

Creating cloaked content with the intention of getting higher search engine rankings is illegal and regarded as a Black Hat SEO method. So it should not be a part of your SEO strategy.

How does Google penalize cloaking websites?

Google may reduce your ranking on search results pages or some websites that use cloaking have been permanently blocked from indexing on their sites.

How to check if a website is cloaking?

There are many online tools available to check a website for cloaking such as SiteChecker and DupliChecker.

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