Google Answers: Is this Cloaking?

Google Answers: Is this Cloaking?

Google’s John Mueller was asked if Google would be able to view the page as cloaking because of its blocking with the anti-ad block detection function. Muller explains what cloaking is and why it is not cloaking to block Google from an ad blocker detection script.

Cloaking violates Google’s guidelines

Cloaking is an old trick where a web page displays different content than if the site visitor is a search engine bot or a regular human user.

Adding keywords to a page multiple times in the olden days can improve that page rank. it was called “Keyword spamming

However the page actually looked very bad and untrue and visitors were apt to return from that page to click on the affiliate link and the site owner could receive a referral fee.

So what the spammer did was to show a page full of keywords in search engines to help him rank.


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But for human users the web page will show a nice and normal page which will convert to better because it did not appear to be spam.

Google Search Central Guidelines provides an example to understand what cloaking is:

“Serving a page of HTML text to search engines, showing users a page of images

To insert text or keywords into a page only when the user agent requesting the page is a search engine, not a human visitor “

Could the ad blocker cause be obvious?

The person asking the question said that they were thinking of adding an anti-ad blocker to their site. An anti-ad blocker blocks the blocker from viewing the content.

The goal is to train visitors to whitelist the website so that they can view the content and advertisements.

Here are the questions:

“We have a site that is considering ad blocker detection to prevent users from accessing the site.

The question here is that if we decide to stop Googlebot from detecting ad blocks, will we be flagged for Chloe in that case? “


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The situation described is not really about showing different content to users and Google.

It is really about creating two sets of user / site visitor states (other than the admin status of the web page runner).

Visitors without an ad blocker have high privileges that entitle them to read the content.

Visitors whose ad blockers are enabled have fewer privileges that deprive them of the opportunity to read the content.

John Muller responded that if the situation was catastrophic:

“Probably not. I think in general it would be fine.

I would like to see that as a way of identifying that Googlebot does not actually install an ad blocker.

So this is a unique setup that Googlebot has regarding rendering pages and I think that would be fine. “

Muller did not see this as showing various content to humans and Googlebot. He noticed that Google does not have an ad blocker, which makes it entitled to view the content.

John explained more about cloaking:

“Regarding cloaking, the cloaking team mostly tries to watch out for situations where you’re actually showing something different to users as Googlebot.

And in relation to .. blocking ads or … other types of things where it’s like you have to be logged in to actually see the content and that’s different. “

Müller noted that he is not a fan of the “anti-ad blocking setup”, but acknowledged that if a site needed to do so, it was a “have”Appropriate approach

The person asking the next question asked if Google served ad-blocking overlays on top of the content, causing indexing problems.


“If it’s an HTML overlay at the top of an existing page, I don’t see it as being problematic because we’ll still see the actual content in HTML, behind that.

If you have a cookie banner or a cookie interstitial that is essentially showing you only the HTML div at the top of the page, then so be it.

From our point of view if we can still index the actual content from the page then that is fine. “


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Cloaking and Google

Cloaking is a very specific thing with a definite intention to deceive Google and site visitors with the aim of achieving better search engine rankings.

Showing different content for a site visitor to see based on their status or user privilege is something else entirely.

News organizations regularly differentiate between a paid visitor and a non-subscribed visitor, creating two classes of site visitors.

Forum software does something similar that does not allow search engines (and unregistered site visitors) to view user profiles.

In both of those cases it is about creating different site visitor classes and showing different things based on how they are classified.

Cloaking is showing content unique to search engines for ranking purposes, something completely different.


19:46 minute Google SEO office-hour hangout on the spot, watch the segment.


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