There are a range of cloaking practices used to try and fool the bots. Some of them can be accidental though, so watch out.
Hidden text can be achieved in a few different ways. Matching foreground colour and background colour is a method used to hide text within a web page and is considered keyword stuffing.
Although this sometimes happens by accident, Google punishes it in the same way.
This tactic is usually used when a web page is thin on content.
Web pages should have a high text to HTML ratio; however, some web pages increase the HTML ratio instead of developing and expanding upon their content.
This is a form of ‘Agent Name Delivery’ and involves writing a website in HTML. These pages appear content-rich to crawlers but present as Flash to users.
Cloaking is a direct violation of Webmaster Guidelines and leads to penalisation in the form of a Google Penalty. A Google Penalty will result in a significant drop in rankings, which leads to less exposure, less engagement, and fewer conversions. Avoid.
Considering cloaking has such a negative impact on a website’s performance and authority, its best to keep an eye on it, and ensure you’re not breaking any rules.
While there has been some confusion over their status in the past, the following content delivery methods are permitted, and will not lead to a Google penalty.
Geo-location is the method by which Google presents different web pages to users based on their location. For example, Google will appear differently to a user in the US, than to someone in the UK.
This is where users clicking from Google to a listed page, are able to view the first page of content without subscribing to the host site. After the first page there is barrier implemented.
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