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What is cloaking in SEO? Why It is risky?

Cloaking is an  SEO technique  that in its day became very popular among webmasters, as it offered very good results. But nowadays it is not only less and less effective, but it is severely penalized by Google. We tell you what cloaking consists of and why it is not advisable to use it on your websites.

What is cloaking?

The  cloaking  is a technique that relies on SEO  display different content to users of a web and tracking robots  like GoogleBot. In this way, the content shown to bots can be optimized for ranking (for example, repeat keywords over and over again) without worrying about providing a good user experience.

To achieve this result, different cloaking techniques are used, such  as:

  • Configure the server  to display different content depending on the browser  that made the request for the page. If the request came from the Googlebot, the highly optimized content was shown to it.
  • Use redirects with JavaScript. Until recently, search engines could not execute this code, so it could be used to display different content to people and robots.
  • Show different content depending on the IP address  or the browser the visitor comes from.

Why you should NOT use cloaking on your website

The  cloaking  is considered a technique of ” black hat SEO “, that is, that  violates the Google Webmaster Guidelines . The guidelines of this search engine strongly emphasize that SEO should be done naturally, ethically and with the aim of improving the user experience. Therefore, displaying content other than robots is considered a deceptive tactic.

The consequence of this is that if Google detects that you are cloaking your website, it will  penalize it  with a decrease in positioning or it could even eliminate it completely. It is a risk that is never worth it.

In addition, as the algorithms of Google and other search engines have evolved, cloaking is less and  less effective . This is for several reasons:

  • Search engine bots are already capable of executing JavaScript code, so they can compare how the page is displayed to humans and crawlers.
  • Bots have been perfected to detect the different cloaking techniques that we explained in the previous section, so it is very easy to get caught.
  • The effectiveness of cloaking is based on over-optimized content, for example, with a large number of keywords. But  lately Google is going in the direction of rewarding natural content  and that offers a good user experience, so the excess of keywords can be easily detected and also penalized.

Despite all these drawbacks, there are still SEO professionals who use  cloaking. If you want to make sure that your website doesn’t use this technique, you can do it with the “Track as Google” function of Search Console.

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