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Cloaking is when the content that visitors see does not match the content that search engines see. A so-called black hat SEO technique.
What does cloaking mean?
Cloaking is a technique whereby the visitors of the page see different content than what the bots of the search engines see. One way this is done is by providing a page with content that is written in such a way that it contains important keywords while making this content difficult for visitors to read. In this way, the search engine still sees these keywords, but content is placed for the visitor that is easier to read.
How does cloaking work?
With cloaking, the website’s server receives a signal about the type of visitor viewing the page. The moment this visitor is identified as a bot, the server ensures that this bot sees different content than when the visitor is identified as a human.
An example is that the search engines see an HTML page, while the visitors to your page see images.
Basically, cloaking ensures that you rank higher in the search engines through important keywords. However, this technique only works in the short term. Cloaking has been banned since 2004 because it doesn’t help your visitors. This is why it falls under black-hat SEO. The bots of search engines are getting smarter and therefore also see better when you show other content to your visitors. If Google notices that you are using this technique, it could result in a penalty. So make sure you show both bots and visitors the same content.
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