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Old 08-13-2004   #1
HitsChatter
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Black Hat or Not? Linking technique using PHP

I had an idea that I wanted to see what people think of it. I'm optimizing a site that is already built w/ very generic file naming and directory structure. In other words, I don't have directories or file names that intentionally have keywords in them. For the most part, its just a lot of index.php and one-word names.

So now I'm trying to figure out a way to get some keyword URL's in there w/o trashing my directory structure.

Here's what I'm thinking:

Let's say I have a link already in the page that goes to index.php. What if I changed the link to keyword_term.php, then I put the following code in keyword_term.php:

<?php
$no_spider = "TRUE";
include "index.php";
?>

index.php would then have this in the header:

<?php
if ($no_spider = "TRUE") {
echo "<META NAME="ROBOTS" CONTENT="NOINDEX, NOFOLLOW">";
}
?>

I know it seems like more work than its worth, but the idea is that in the long run, I can optimize multiple pages for different keywords, while requiring little maintanence if I decide to edit the original index.php. I'm also using the $no_spider variable to aviod being penalized for duplicate content. My intention is not to get index.php indexed multiple times, just to allow other pages to link to it using different file names.
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Old 08-13-2004   #2
Nick W
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Assuming I do understand you correctly. That's cloaking.

Cloaking is a so called "black hat" tactic.

My advice would be to drop the idea entirely, file names are a very small part of it, just concentrate on the anchor text ;-)

Alternatively, you could do exactly what you're doing, and call it IP Delivery hehe

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Old 08-13-2004   #3
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Personally, I prefer "IP Delivery"

But I'm not sure its either of those. On the browser side, what it looks like is two identical files. The only two differences are that they have different file names, and one has "noindex,nofollow" while the other has "index,follow"

If you want to see what I mean, you can go to my site and look at the main page. Then click on "home" in the top right hand corner. Its a copy, but with "noindex,nofollow"

Last edited by HitsChatter : 08-13-2004 at 01:21 PM.
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Old 08-13-2004   #4
Nick W
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Well, no matter how you justify it, it's still cloaking.

Personally I have no problem with it, though I doubt highly if it'll have any reasonable effect.

The SE's tend to see cloaking a different way though. The choice is yours ;-)

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Old 08-13-2004   #5
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Seems similar to using mod rewrite for URLs. Not sure what the spiders would do with that. Only thing you can do is test it.
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Old 08-13-2004   #6
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Is cloaking really "black hat" to the search engines?

I know very little about cloaking, but I wonder with this example . . .

When I'm in Mexico (and it applies to other countries too) and I type in:

www.google.com --------> and it serves me www.google.com.mx

or

www.yahoo.com ---------> and it serves me www.yahoo.com.mx

Isn't that cloaking??? If it is, then is it "black hat" or are the search engines doing this for a good purpose? If it is a good purpose, then why do they call this "black hat"?

I had a very good conversation about this with one of the mayor search engines and he said, "when we see cloaking it automatically triggers the site for review before it gets into our index, if we see that it is used ethically for a good purpose because of the site's code not helping the cause (ie. flash content) then we will allow it. However we recommend webmasters to use alternative or normal methods (ie. HTML) so that their site can be added with no further delays." After hearing this, my recommendation of course is avoid it unless you have a very good reason to do it.

If you want fresh keyword related content on each page for your typical on page factors (title, meta tags, <h1>, etc.), you should build a MySQL database with what you want and the call for it on the PHP code. You will get the same results and avoid a cloaking technique.
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Old 08-13-2004   #7
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Hi Nacho, If you talk to a Google engineer, they would tell you that is not cloaking, but it's a form of content delivery. All Google is doing is detecting 'your' user agent and displaying that region/country page that pertains.

Cloaking is always spam. It's the detection of a spider/robot for the purpose of showing that robot a different page than any other user agent might see. IE: a browser. It's purpose is to achieve a better rank than the page might normally get if the robot and the browser see the very same page. Cloaking is spam. Content delivery has many different forms. Of course, the different forms of content delivery could be spam or might not be spam. But actual cloaking is always spam.

If you have a website in flash, you can detect the user agent of whatever is requesting a page of your server, and if that "agent" does not have flash installed, you can serve up a page of straight html with 'no' flash. That's just plain old content delivery as well. It's not cloaking.

You can verify the above by asking an actual Google engineer about this post if you wish. The major search engines do "not" cloak. They only practice content delivery for obvious reasons.

Last edited by ihelpyou : 08-13-2004 at 10:58 PM.
 
Old 08-13-2004   #8
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Thumbs up

Thank you for helping me IHelpYou! Your explanation is very appreciated. Now I understand better the difference between cloaking and content delivery.

Saludos!
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Old 08-14-2004   #9
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It could be expressed in even broader terms: It's the purpose that makes the difference.

Cloaking is done to deliver content to the search engines only to rank well. When the same technology is used for other resons - for example GEO-targeting of content, profiling, personalization etc. it is not cloaking - the purpose is to give users a better experience. It's the purpose that makes the difference.

Anyone working with cloaking knows it's a risky business. For many it is not worth that risk or the efforts it takes to limit potential damage. However, just as I do not recomomend that you do engage in cloaking (especially if you are not 110% aware of what you jump into) I think it's fair to say that none of the major search engines have cloaking detection systems in place that really works. It dosen't take a great deal of research to find tons of cloaking material in all major engines but in most case it just dosn't mess up search results bad enough to bother the engines.

I know the search engine engineers like to brag about their automatic cloaking detection systems - and please let them, but as far as I can see they do not work too well right now ... but who knows, they may one day ...
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Old 08-14-2004   #10
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littleman once said that if you can't write a cloaking script then cloaking ain't for you, I think that is good advice.

With the advent of "trusted" feeds to an extent the need for traditional cloaking has become less.

It may just be me but I find it instructive to note that some search engines accept that delivering bespoke content to different users may in fact be a good thing. Some want you to pay for it, with others its a question of who you know.

To answer the original question, I agree with the original poster "I know it seems like more work than its worth" is the correct answer.
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Old 08-14-2004   #11
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Don't ask a 'whitehat' what cloaking is.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ihelpyou
Cloaking is always spam. ..... you can detect the user agent ... That's just plain old content delivery
You truly have no idea what you are talking about when it comes to this subject. Delivering content according to any HEADER information (UA, IP, Referer, other more obscure header info which most logs do not record) is by definition cloaking.

Here is a short list of many sites that use this technique:
CNN
Webmasterworld
The New York Times
Google
Yahoo
Ebay
...and many, many others.

Are those "evil blackhat' websites?


Nacho
Do you consider yourself a professional optimizer? You better get an understanding of what this stuff means.

I still say what NFFC said above, you better know what you are doing before employing cloaking. Fact is, it is not a level playing field and if a mom and pop did what these big sites get away with they would likely get slapped.


Don't ask a 'whitehat' what cloaking is.

Last edited by littleman : 08-14-2004 at 07:35 PM. Reason: spellcheck
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Old 08-14-2004   #12
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No. You have no idea what you are talking about.

Cloaking is "one" form of "content delivery". There are many forms of content delivery that are not spam, but could be spam. Cloaking itself is always spam.

Those sites are "not" cloaking that you point out. They are simply using a form of content delivery.

Cloaking is "ONE" form of content delivery and that form is always spam.

Definition of cloaking:

To deceive. Cloaking is deceiving the search engine spiders by showing a spider one thing and a browser another thing. Cloaking is always spam.

Why don't we refer to what the definition of cloaking means? What's so hard about that?
 
Old 08-14-2004   #13
ihelpyou
 
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You say "Google cloaks".

I say Google performs a detection of the region/country of the browser, and sends that browser to the correct page accordingly. Simple form of content delivery. Not spam and certainly:

NOT cloaking.

Is Google deceiving anything or anyone by doing that? Certainly not.

Cloaking is "always" spam. Cloaking is the deceiving of a search engine spider.

Let's talk about cloaking by using the word's 'rightful' definition, and quit trying to obscure and blur the lines by saying ALL forms of content delivery are cloaking.

That's plain silly.

Last edited by ihelpyou : 08-14-2004 at 08:51 PM.
 
Old 08-14-2004   #14
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Where did that definition come from?

All forms of content delivery which varies depending on header information is cloaking, that is what cloaking is. I think we are on different planets.
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Old 08-14-2004   #15
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Why is cloaking called "cloaking"? The word refers to the verb "to cloak" which is defined as "To cover or conceal with or as if with a cloak." To conceal. Hide.

What is Google hiding when it serves up a country-specific version of itself to a user at an IP address that indicates that they're in that country?

For the sake of clarity, why not just use the general term "content delivery" to describe any changes from the norm in the server's response to header information, and "cloaking" to describe the subset of such changes which involve hiding something from some particular user agent?
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Old 08-14-2004   #16
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Hi Littleman, Your definition is comes straight from here:

http://www.webmasterworld.com/glossary/cloaking.htm

That is most confusing and why this stuff that is said like:

Google Cloaks!
Yahoo Cloaks!

and on and on and on, is just plain wrong.

Let's use the "real" definition of cloaking as it's very easy and very cut and dry.

Let's see. At the top you have:

Content Delivery

Now you have subsets of content delivery or "forms" of content delivery:

1. Detecting a user agent and sending a browser to a page based on what type of user agent you are detecting. It could be a search engine spider. It could be an agent with some kind of "disability" as in an agent that does not have "flash" installed. So you send that agent to a page of html instead of flash.

A reason that this form of content delivery could be spam, BUT might not be spam, is because you could be detecting a user agent, and sending that request to a page that is spam and not depicting what the reality is of the page a browser would see.

2. IP Delivery - You are detecting the IP of the agent requesting a page and sending that agent to a page based on region, country, or many other things.

One reason this form of content delivery might be spam is if you are "strictly" detecting the IP of Google or some other search engine, and sending that agent to a page only used to "rank" higher than the page a browser would see.

So, IP delivery "could" be spam, and it might not be spam.

3. Cloaking - Detecting a search engine spider's IP and sending that spider to a page for ranking purposes. This page is different from what a browser or any other type of agent will see. This is pure spam all the time. Not just some of the time.

I hope this is clear. I know others could make it clearer.
 
Old 08-14-2004   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by littleman
Do you consider yourself a professional optimizer? You better get an understanding of what this stuff means.
Do I need to be an expert at this "stuff" to be a professional optimizer? Why should I? I know enough about it to know it's too risky for my clients to be exposed and loose my long term relationship. I have not needed to take that route to this date, and when I do, I'll make my decision then. One option could be turning down the client.

Quick analogy: If a commercial airlines pilot does not know how to fly a stealth fighter jet, is he not considered a professional pilot?

SEO is more about hard work and dedication, than rocket science.

Thank you for helping me learn more about this risky stuff.
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Old 08-14-2004   #18
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Quote:
I had a very good conversation about this with one of the mayor search engines and he said, "when we see cloaking it automatically triggers the site for review before it gets into our index, if we see that it is used ethically for a good purpose because of the site's code not helping the cause (ie. flash content) then we will allow it. However we recommend webmasters to use alternative or normal methods (ie. HTML) so that their site can be added with no further delays."
The s/e person did not call "cloaking' for flash sites content delivery, he called it cloaking.

"Content delivery" is a coined phrase. Are there any references to documents or resources where search engines have called anything content delivery rather than cloaking? I've always seen them use the word cloaking when referring to delivering different results based on IP or user agent.

Delivering other content for flash sites could have been referred by the party as content delivery, but it was not. The word cloaking was used because cloaking is what it is - delivering a different page based on a given criteria.

Whatever the origin of the coined phrase "content delivery" (wonder what the source is?), much as some try, it has not reached any acceptance level outside of a certain circle, and there's been no evidence yet of search engines adopting the phrase. If they have, I'd like to see some documentation that they call cloaking anything other than cloaking.
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Old 08-14-2004   #19
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Yes, the word is used in a general sense because it's simply another way to confuse and obscure the SEM industry and anyone else.

The posts above by qwerty and myself spell things out plainly and simply.

If we go with the "correct" definition of the word "cloaking", all would be much simpler in the industry.

I know it's in the best interest of people who practice:

IP cloaking - detecting the IP of a search engine spider

so as to be able to then say:

Google cloaks!
Yahoo Cloaks!

I propose to make it MUCH easier:

Cloaking is "always" spam. Period.

I don't know who you talked to Marcia, but I've talked also and they agreed with my definition of cloaking. Much easier to understand.

Cloaking is "always" spam.
 
Old 08-14-2004   #20
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I think that what's important here is that ours is a pretty young industry, and its terminology is being created by our debates. In my view, the word "cloaking" has a negative connotation. It involves hiding and deception, so I don't see any logic in using it to describe a practice that isn't about hiding or deception, but is about such things as personalization.

If we choose to use a word with a bad connotation to describe a wide range of practices, only some of which fit that connotation, it's analagous to a proponent of euthanasia referring to it as a form of murder.... "good murder."

Why would we want to do that? So we'd have our own little argot and we could laugh at the people who misunderstood our terminology?
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