Cloaking is a black hat SEO technique that some SEO professionals live and die by when they optimize their websites or their client’s website. Cloaking, unlike many other SEO techniques, is not something which is very evident to the users – and that is by design. You must make sure that when you hire a SEO company they are not engaging in any form of black hattery like cloaking when they optimize your website. It’s not only a bad practice, it can actually get your website banned.
In white hat optimization, content which is presented to the visitor is going to be the same content that is presented when the search engine spider visits your site. The content is delivered based on the User-Agent HTTP header that will detail the nature of the user who is requesting your page. The IP address is also used to deliver visitor based content. Different content is delivered to the search engines using server side scripting which is not visible to the visitors or on the regular pages of the website.
If cloaking is needed to get targeted content to searchers, that is a problem. It is often used to trick visitors by attracting them to a particular site; then re-directing them to an entirely different site that the user would otherwise never bother visiting. Pornographic sites are notorious for this method. All major search engines consider cloaking to be a black hat SEO trick. Any site found cloaking, or reported of cloaking, will be removed from their listing.
There are a number of sites online that use cloaking to get their sites listed in DMOZ or Open Directory Project Web Directory. In DMOZ, human editors will be reviewing the website before the inclusion. Whenever a visitor comes via any web directory, different content will be served because the human editors who like to review a website will find the link from the submission made through that directory. Some webmasters try to keep the content different when the visitors are not from any major search engines.
This tactic makes the website lose a percentage of visitors. However, upon considering the benefit that they will receive by being listed in DMOZ, webmasters don’t mind losing some visitors in the short term. Though it can be very tempting to use cloaking to get better ranking and some quick visitors, you can ruin your website’s reputation for life by engaging in such practices. Once your website gets bad reputation among the search engines, it gets rather difficult to run away from the effects. In some cases, repair even becomes practically impossible.