Cloaking? What's that?The cloaking is a technique which ables to present a specific version of a Web page to some visitors. Thus, at the same address, two Net surfers may see two versions of the same site.
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The "honest" reasons to use cloaking can be:
To present to the visitors a Web page written in their native language,
To adapt the page layout to the browser which makes the request,
To show targeted advertisments,
To protect the content/keywords of a page againts your competitors,
To prohibit the access to emails to mail-collector bots,
The most frequent "dishonest" reason is to present an "optimized" version of the site to the search engines robots in order to gain "relevance" points.
Although this technique allowed to get a better ranking in main occasions, we disadvise you definitly to use it. Search engines are less and less "stupids" and are engaged into a savage war against any type of spamming. "Dishonest" cloaking is clearly a type of spamming. It is today one of the "best" way to "discover" the Google sandbox.
How does it work?
When you visit a Web page, your browser (Internet Explorer, Mozilla, Netscape...) starts by sending an HTTP request to the host site:
USER_AGENT=Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows XP; FREE)
REFERRER=http://www.google.com/search?hl=fr&q=web traffic analysis&lr=
GET indicates the name of the page that you want to visit (index.php in our example)
HOST indicates the name of the domain hosting the page
USER_AGENT is the "signature" of your browser (Explorer 6/Windows XP in our example)
REFERRER is the adress of the preceeding page (in our example, you made a Google search to find the index.php page)
REMOTE_ADDR is your IP adress
When it receives this HTTP request, the host of the site loads (for HTML sites) or generates (for many other languages) the page that you ask, and send it to your browser: you can then read it.
A Web site using a language as PHP, ASP, cgi, SSI... can easily adapt (cloak) the page that it sends to you, regarding the informations transmitted by your request. The USER_AGENT (browser) and REMOTE_ADDR (IP address) are generally used to cloak the search engines bots. Some sites update frequently the IP list of the main indexing robots to facilitate their detection by cloakers. The last thing to do is to generate some pages filled with a lot of strategic keywords to be read by the bots. They will so believe that the visited site is full of an extraordinary content.
This technique is indeed extremely unpleasant for the netsurfers: you seek "cars" and you fall on a pornographic site with not any relationship with the car. It is thus logical that the search engines fight more and more against this type of spamming.
Web Site Cloaking and Search Engines[Lee Underwood]
To Cloak or Not to Cloak [Detlev Johnson and Shari Thurow]
To Cloak or Not to Cloak [Sumantra Roy]
Why Cloaking Is Always A Bad Idea [ Alan Perkins]
Basic Cloaking [Stuart K. Jackson]
Can You Ethically Cloak Your Web Content? [Bernie Goldbach]
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