engine cloaking and stealth technology
Search engine cloaking and stealth technology
Tired of the search engine optimization game? Lots of webmasters
are, today the Internet is more a big shop than the information
library it became so popular for. This of course means that there
are hundreds if not thousands of sites competing for the same customers.
Search engines play a very big part in whether company A or company
B gets a visitor and potential customer. Webmasters and Internet
marketers know this and hence competition for search engine traffic
is fierce. These days it's almost impossible to keep up with the
search engines, one day your site could be near the top the next
day your competition could be there and you could be gone from the
One particular method however is being used by webmasters to enable
their sites to rank high and stay high. The method is highly controversial
and risky. It's called search engine cloaking.
What is search engine cloaking?
Search engine cloaking is a technique used by webmasters to enable
them to get an advantage over other websites. It works on the idea
that a 'fake' page is delivered to the various search engine spiders
and robots while the real page is delivered to real human visitors.
In other words browsers such as Internet Explorer, Netscape and
Opera are served one page and spiders visiting the same address
are served a different page.
The page the spider will see is a bare bones HTML page optimized
for the search engines. It won't look pretty but will be configured
exactly the way the search engines want it to be for it to be ranked
high. These 'ghost pages' are never actually seen by any real person
except for the webmasters that created them of course.
When real people visit a site using cloaking the cloaking technology
which is usually based on Perl/CGI will send them to the real page
that look's good and is just a regular webpage.
The search engine cloaking technology is able to tell the difference
between a human and spider because it knows the spiders IP address.
No IP address is the same so when an IP address visits a site which
is using cloaking the script will compare the IP address with the
IP addresses in its list of search engine IP's. If there's a match
the script knows that it's a search engine visiting and sends out
the bare bones HTML page setup for nothing but high rankings.
Once a list of all the search engines spiders IP addresses have
been stored, it's simply a case of writing a script that says something
If IP request = google(Spider IP) then show googlepage.html
If IP request = unknown (other user) then show index.html
This means that when the Google spider comes to visit a site, it'll
be shown a page that is optimized with keywords, heading tags and
optimized content. Since the optimized page is never seen by a casual
user design is not an important issue. When a user comes to the
site the server performs the same check and finding that the IP
address does not match any in its list shows the standard page.
Search engine cloaking is also a great way of protecting the source
code that's enabling you to rank high on the search engines. Ever
read a search engine ranking tutorial that recommends you to model
your keyword density, layout, etc on pages that are already high
Well technically that's stealing and your competition might want
to do it to you some day. With search engine cloaking however you
can protect your code because when your competition visits they'll
be sent to the regular page and not the page that's giving you those
precious good rankings.
Different types of search engine cloaking
There are two types of cloaking, the first is called User Agent
Cloaking and the second is called IP Based Cloaking which we've
already discussed above. IP based cloaking is the best method as
IP addresses are very hard to fake, meaning your competition won't
be able to pretend to be any of the search engines in order to steal
User Agent Cloaking is similar to IP cloaking in the sense that
the cloaking script compares the User Agent text string which is
sent when a page is requested with its list of search engine User
Agent names and then serves the appropriate page.
The problem with User Agent cloaking is that Agent names can be
easily faked. Imagine Google introducing a new anti-spam method
to beat cloakers, all they need to do is fake their name and pretend
they're a normal person using Internet explorer or Netscape, the
cloaking software will take Googles bot to the non optimized page
and hence your search engine rankings will suffer. User Agent cloaking
is much more riskier than IP based cloaking and it's not recommended.
Search engine cloaking isn't as effective as it used to be. This
is because the search engines are becoming increasingly aware of
the different cloaking techniques being used by webmasters and hence
they're gradually introducing more sophisticated technology to combat
them. In saying that though cloaking can still benefit your search
engine rankings, it's just a matter of being very careful.
I would recommend you read my SEO tutorial entitled Search engine
optimization guide and try regular search engine optimization first,
if after a few months you're still not seeing good results then
you should at least consider using cloaking technology to improve
About the Author
David Callan. David
is an Internet marketing professional and webmaster of AKA Marketing.com
webmaster forums. Visit his webmaster forums for the latest discussions
on search engines, website authoring and Internet marketing related
issues and topics.