Cloaking is a technique where you provide specific text/information to Google that is not in your website.
The visitor will not see that text/information. But Google will!
Cloaking, used by “professionals and SEO-ers”
This technique (false trick) was used by many SEO practitioners and web agencies in the 2000s+ to make a website rank higher in Google search results.
Obviously, this technique worked for a short period of time and then had mostly negative effects on your website’s results and reliability in Google.
Google soon realized the trick and changed the algorithm and did double checks to see through the trick.
So how was cloaking used by “professionals and SEO-ers”?
Example: You have a web agency. Your website states that you create websites for 1500 to 2500 euros each. The page title is: professional websites from 1500 euro.
With cloaking you give Google false information.
The page title is then called, for example: The best and cheapest websites in the Netherlands!
And the description becomes, for example: Fast and cheap a good website? Professional and fast.
How does Google detect cloaking?
Google has several ways to detect tricks.
Periodically, special programs are run by Google to check website for hidden texts, cloaking, keyword spamming and the other 50+ tricks used by many.
When these tricks found in your website.
If the trick is discovered by Google the value of the domain, used to be called “Pagerank” will drop causing you to rank less high in Google’s search engine. From a 2nd, 3rd or 5th position on the first page of Google, you can just drop 10 positions, which means you will be in the 12th, 13th or 15th position. That’s the 2nd page that quite few people click on. You can lose so many website visitors because they simply don’t see you listed when they search for you or your services.
A lowering of the search position is the most favorable situation, if cloaking or other tricks are found to be used to deceive or rob visitors the website runs the risk of:
Being completely banned from search results
How cloaking is now used by hackers
Cloaking is the ideal way for hackers to get their own website in Google, on the back of your website!
Often cloaking is applied in 2 steps:
A redirect is made from your page to the hacker’s website, often to expensive (and sometimes illegal) products that the hacker – aka criminal – sells through a webshop.
The information for Google is modified, see example below:
Someone searches Google for v i a g r a, for example, or other e r o t i c products.
The searcher on Google sees a page appear with a great offer, but on your domain name.
When that person clicks on the search result, they are redirected to the hacker/criminal’s webshop. So there is another piece of malware involved besides cloaking, but if the hacker can cloak your website, he has usually also put a redirect through the Htacces, the database, or a link in your website.
But… if visitors are sent via your website to an unsavory website, then you will quickly notice!
No you don’t see that quickly, the hackers use different techniques to show you your own website and redirect other visitors.
a. One piece of code makes the redirection to the unsavory website not work when you are logged in.
b. Through a cookie or browser session, the redirection is only used 1 time.
In short, you see it 1 time and then never again. Usually you then think that you yourself clicked wrong the first time or that the problem is already solved.
But every new visitor does get redirected!
The rerouting trick is also not easily reported to you by your website visitors because they are reluctant to tell you that through your website they suddenly landed on an e r o t i c website….
Cloaking is a serious problem that is becoming increasingly common.
It damages your website’s reputation, but worst of all, you don’t realize it quickly.
Fortunately, there is 1 scanner that pays close attention to cloaking!
That is the scanner on this website: www.isithacked.com
Use the isithacked.com website if your revenue is decreasing, if your visitors report strange behavior on your website or if you notice that your website’s search results in Google show very different information.
PS: Chances are that Google is also going to warn you. But then you’re actually already too late….
How can you prevent cloaking?
You can prevent cloaking by not hiring cheap SEO-ers who make big promises for little money.
You can prevent cloaking by hackers by securing your website properly, or even better: have your WordPress website properly secured.
Good security is a profession, and intercepting cloaking and other tricks of hackers is even more so!