Is there a whitehat approach for cloaking

Matt Cutts Google CloakingIn his recent Guruspeak, Matt Cutts gives an insight on what Google thinks about cloaking. Needless to say, Cloaking is BAD and Google DISAPPROVES of it. But what’s new here is that Google and Matt think there does NOT exist anything, such as ‘White Hat Cloaking’. He explains the concept of cloaking, and discusses why it isn’t good in terms of SEO and user experience. The nine minute video also explains how and why, is cloaking different from geolocation content. He also addresses the issue of customized pages that are squeezed for mobile audiences.

For the uninitiated, cloaking refers to the practice of cheating Google bots, by showing a different page to the user and a different page to search engine bots. Thus, when a search engine leads you to content that is absolutely different from your search query, it is defined as cloaking. Such pages according to Google are considered ‘deceptive’ and hence ‘removed from the Google index’.

But as with all real world situations, along with the solidly black and the pearly white, there also exists the grey area- or ‘white hat cloaking’. SEO experts quote several instances where they conclude that a little cloaking is necessary and done by some popular websites, including the likes of, and

Craigslist for instance, uses geo-targeting and directs users to region specific pages, but search engine bots are not directed to the same region specific page. What Matt Cutts and Google essentially say is that geo –targeting should be applied to both bots and viewers. When Craigslist does not do this, it comes out as an instance of white-hat cloaking.

But what about geolocation specific content? Through the video, Matt explains that it is perfectly alright to address different client needs. To quote him verbatim, “whenever a request comes in to the web server, you look at the IP address and you say ‘Ah, this is a French IP address. I am going to send them the French language version or send them to the dot-FR version of my domain.’  If someone comes in and their browser language is English or their IP address is something from America or Canada or something like that, then you say, ‘Aha, English is probably the best message.’ Thus, you can allow the web server to determine geographically relevant IP address and serve him a language version that is relevant to him. The same logic applies for web pages that are squeezed to mobile devices. If your web server determines that the user is accessing the site through an iPhone or an Android, it is perfectly alright to serve a squeezed version of the page, as it would fit better to his small screen. But the mobile version of Google should also get the same treatment.

What can be derived at the end of the video is that your intent is what matters. Although you may not serve a different content to Googlebot, you can tweak the manner in which content is delivered. 

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About Manickarasi Mathavan

Manickarasi Mathavan I’ve always aimed to seal my articles with a KISS- Keeping it Simple, yet Sagacious! My articles make a conscious effort to cut through the technical jargons and elucidate in a manner that is understood by .... more info