Legitimate SEO Cloaking Technique with Google’s Help


Warning: if you’re going to implement the technique described below, it’s at your own risk!

You can use Google’s own tool, Google Website Optimizer, to implement a nice gray-hat SEO cloaking (not cloaking per se, as described by search engines, but with the same results). And the interesting part is that at the same time you get to test your site to conversion optimization :)

So what does SEO cloaking mean? Simply put, you display different content to search engine bots and to humans, with the purpose of manipulating your search engine rankings. Most of the cloaking scripts are identifying the IP of the user agent (humans or search engine bots) and based on a predefined list of IPs of search engine bots will  guess if the visitor is a search engine or a human. Other scripts use “traps” to identify robots. Based on who’s visiting your site, you can setup your web server to  serve the tricky content to the search engine and nice looking content to the human.

What does Google Website Optimizer do? While the technicalities are not exactly the same as with cloaking, the results are the same: it displays two (or more) versions of a page to some visitors/bots, and other content to another visitors/bots. For a simple A/B test 50% of your visitors will see the page A and the other 50% will be automatically redirected to page B (test page). The result of GWSO is almost similar to cloaking: a redirect; while Google will keep the original page in their index and therefore will rank it high, your visitors will see a test page (not necessarily indexed or ranked in search engines, but aiming for a  higher conversion rate). Make sure search engine will not index the test page.

Lets’ look at the following scenario:

You rank well with a page, but it’s  is not converting that great. You design another page and run a test to see if it could perform better. Let’s say it does convert 50% better than the original. However, when you replace the old page with the new one, your rankings could drop and you don’t have enough visitors anymore. Well, that’s kind of a paradox, isn’t it?

So, how could you balance high rankings and testing? How do you rank high at the same time with having a high converting page? Well, you can use Google’s own tool for this trick (at your own risk, don’t blame me for getting banned).

First, you will run a test and identify a better converting page. Next, run a follow up test and split the traffic 95% to the converting page and 5% to the page that is ranking high. Let the test run for a while (until it concludes, and a “little more”)

This way your high ranking page will show up in SERPs and your converting page will persuade people to act. That’s it. As simple as that!

Honestly, if you continuously test and search for a better converting page at the same time with keeping the old one alive, I don’t see why Google will ban your website. After all that’s the purpose of website testing: continuously testing! However, keep in mind to stop the test and rerun/run another one once you’ve identified a.

Disclaimer: please read Google’s policy on testing and cloaking!
Pitstop Media offers ROI based internet marketing services such as landing page testing services and conversion rate optimization services. Our A/B and multivariate tests have helped companies increase conversion rates by as much as 75%. Let us increase your conversion rates, too!

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Traian is Director of Search Marketing at Pitstop Media Inc. He has more than 11 years experience in helping small and medium businesses generate and convert organic traffic from search engines. Connect with Traian on Google+. He is also the author of the Ecommerce SEO book.


2 Responses to “Legitimate SEO Cloaking Technique with Google’s Help”

  1. Goalranks said:

    Apr 18, 10 at 7:04 pm

    wow, seo is quite uselful for website. Thanks for the post,I’ll look forward for your next post.

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  2. Randy Palmer said:

    Aug 10, 10 at 8:27 pm

    With stuff like this, I would be careful. I have done a lot of optimization to my site, and would like to stay on the “white” side of SEO for my site.

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