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What's the consensus? Is there such a thing as "good" and "bad" cloaking?

Brian Mingus [PersonRank 10]

Tuesday, May 1, 2007
12 years ago2,401 views

What was the end result of the WebmasterWorld cloaking debacle? I am still under the impression that Google is 100% OK with sites that have a pay wall which is shown to users but not to Google.

My evidence for this is the Google Indexer. Do a search for this phrase – it's the way Google gets into the deep web for Google Scholar (and web search). These pages aren't cached by Google, but snippets relevant to your queries are shown. When you click the link you hit a pay wall.

Google can easily rationalize this. They are pointing you to information that is relevant, just not free. They are under no obligation to only show you free information. Likewise, webmasters are under no obligation to make their content free to everyone. You reserve the right to make some people pay for your content, and make it free for others (e.g., search engines).

Now, in my understanding, this is "good" cloaking, and "bad" cloaking is when you show information that has been optimized for search engines to Google and the real content to users. Simply not having a pay wall is not optimization – Google *wants* to index all the high quality data it can get its hands on.

Andrew [PersonRank 0]

12 years ago #

What about video transcripts? Say you have a page of content that is different that the content of the accompanying video, but you don't have a good place to put the transcript of the video on the page. Would a div styled to display:none and a toggle link "Show Video Transcript" be considered cloaking? Technically the content is on the page, but just not in a textual way.

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

12 years ago #

> What was the end result of the WebmasterWorld cloaking
> debacle? I am still under the impression that Google is 100%
> OK with sites that have a pay wall which is shown to users
> but not to Google.

This was the last post on this issue for now:
blogoscoped.com/archive/2007-0 ...

JohnMu [PersonRank 10]

12 years ago #

> Google *wants* to index all the high quality data it can get its hands on.
Yes and no – Google wants to provide access to all the high quality data it can give it's users.

If content is not accessable to the average user of a search engine, then it does not belong in a public index. That includes things like subscriptions or even having to sign up for free to see it.

What good is a search engine if the links it provides "do not work"? You and I might have email addresses, but a large part of the world doesn't. If they had to sign up for free, just with an email address to access content, it might as well cost a million dollars to access. It won't be within reach of those users. They can use Google without the email address, if they can't access the page with that Google links, then Google will have returned bad results (similar to how we react when a page is no longer online but still in the index without a cached version).

Adding money into the equation only makes it 10x more complicated. Joseph in Hinterguggiswil has never had a credit card (doesn't need one) and certainly doesn't have a PayPal account – how is he supposed to gain access to subscription content? Again, it might as well cost a million dollars, it's just plain out of his reach. What good is a search result that leads to a dead end?

Compared to even the most primitive signup-system (free access in exchange for an email address), made-for-Adsense sites are almost heaven-sent. At least the links on that page (ads) go to pages that exist and you can more or less count on getting something that matches the ad description.

If I prefer MFA sites to subscription cloaking, then I suppose that says a lot about how I feel Google should react to subscription cloaking :-).

This thread is locked as it's old... but you can create a new thread in the forum. 

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