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Many of us in the SEO industry take a primitive look at cloaking adopting the view that page templates/design and user experience should be consistant for bots and people. However what if we where to vary that user experience based on referring URL. For example show less ads to social media visitors from Digg and Reddit, and try engaging them with more content. Take direct visitors and give them a user experience completely different than those of search engines. If you think it's "bad" ask yourself the question is what you see on Amazon the same as the person next to you ... or does it change based on who you are ...
Comments10 Comments  


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from Jill 2770 Days ago #
Votes: 2

While the post itself is a bit too wordy for my tastes, the sentiment is something everyone needs to understand. Especially those who are scared to death of Google for no real reason.

Promoted to home page.

from Nunney 2770 Days ago #
Votes: 0

Great post. Does this count as cloaking? Use a different name and it's easier to treat it like it is - a conversion tactic. Love the in-laws metaphor

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from Michelle 2769 Days ago #
Votes: 4

Agree with Jill - post could be less....well, less. But mostly, I'm surprised because my assumption is that people are already doing this.  Especially people concerned more with conversions that with just traffic.

On another note, I'd love to see people drop the inflammatory and unnecessary qualifications of "white hat" and "black hat" when discussing tactics. You'd be hard pressed to find these kinds of terms used or taken seriously in a traditional marketing setting. If SEO is going to grow up as an industry and be given the respect and credibility it deserves amongst its peers, losing the 'anarchy in the seo' lingo is necessary.

from Brent-D-Payne 2769 Days ago #
Votes: 0

Who said it needs to grow up. I like it being the anti-corporate side of marketing. Most people I talk to prefer to think of it that way too. Much more fun. Much more 2010 and a lot less 1960s. :)

As for the post . . . yep. It was long. I could've said it in a few paragraphs but . . . I was feeling wordy. LOL

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from Michelle 2769 Days ago #
Votes: 3

Well you can't have it both ways - if you want the serious corporate budgets, want it to be taken seriously as a profession and regarded with respect - it needs to grow up. Or you can just be punk rock, have some fun, keep the 'white hat/black hat/rock star' titles ... and watch as Madison  avenue drinks your milkshake, er acquires all the large brands' online marketing budgets. They're catching up, they have the means to acquire the bodies and the knowledge, and they are.

Note: when I say "you" I don't literally mean you specifically, Brent :)  I mean the general 'you' as in SEO overall.

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from Sebastian 2769 Days ago #
Votes: 1

As long as you've got SEO's out there qualifying their services with "ethical" and "white hat", SEO as an industry has a reputation problem.

How many doctors advertise "ethical opthamologist"? Ever heard of an "ethical bookkeeping service", "ethical media buyers" ... or even "ethical" lawyers WRT to counting billable hours?

I've got a problem with mixing up terms like 'black hat', 'cloaking' and plain good old traffic management. Of course I did it myself to some extend, but this post made me think.

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from dannysullivan 2769 Days ago #
Votes: 5

This is what Perfect Market does, by the way, part owned by Brent's employer, the Tribune Company:

I know what Greg answered on that panel; I also know that Matt Cutts is still looking at the situation, in particular with the use of link redirection in the Perfect Market case. It's still on my list to try and and get a clear ruling on this. What Brent describes isn't getting into the link redirection aspect, and that may still indeed be cloaking.

If you're not talking about link redirection, agreed, no issue. Plus, I thought plenty of people were doing this already. There are so many WordPress plug-ins, for example, that do that "Hey I see you came from Google," thing. But yep, it makes sense to remind people that you can indeed do things for visitors from Google, as long as you ensure that Googlebot itself records the same thing.

My worry is that people will forget the latter -- that Googlebot must see the same thing.

from Brent-D-Payne 2768 Days ago #
Votes: 0

For the record, what I discussed is NOT what PerfectMarket does. I am kept at arm's length of PerfectMarket within the Tribune organization. Their technology is something I am NOT keenly aware of...but have a general understanding of due to my role in the company.

I am NOT suggesting a redirection to another page, subdomain, etc. I am suggesting serving different content on THE SAME URL based on referrer or bot.

Furthermore, I am stating that you MUST keep the experience for the user from the bot's search engine and the bot the SAME.

I feel there are significant opportunities here for SEOs, UX, conversion, ad serving, affiliate marketing, etc.

As for the hats...whatever. I am not a white shirt and tie guy. If Madison Avenue wants to gobble us up, I'll happily go work for one of them for the right income. :)

Note: Yes, Tribune (my full time employer) is an investor in PerfectMarket. This post is NOT what they are doing.

from whirledview 2768 Days ago #
Votes: 0

I remember reading about this a while back.  Always thought it was a very innovative way to do syndication while avoiding duplicate content issues, but yeah, nothing to do with redirects. This article explains it well.

"For example, when The Los Angeles Times  writes a story, it exists, of course, at But when The Chicago Tribune  picks up the piece, the current system creates a duplicate  of the article with a URL.Under Payne’s plan, Tribune readers would instead visit the Times domain. Meanwhile, a cookie or URL parameter would make the page look like the Tribune’s site and serve the Tribune’s ads."

from onreact 2767 Days ago #
Votes: 0

This is not cloaking it's user segmentation. Anybody can do it with a WP plugin called Who Sees Ads for instance.

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