Cloaking is a deceptive practice of presenting different content or URLs to search engine crawlers (spiders) than what is shown to users. It involves manipulating the search engine to deliver pages that differ from what a user expects to see, aiming to improve rankings or deceive users.
Cloaking is against Google's guidelines for several reasons:
- It violates the principle of providing users with relevant and accurate search results. Cloaking leads to a poor user experience as users are presented with different content than expected, undermining trust in the search engine.
- It hampers Google's ability to accurately index and rank web pages, as the search engine is unable to assess the true content and relevance of cloaked pages. This compromises the effectiveness and reliability of search results.
- It can be used to engage in spammy or malicious practices such as serving hidden malware, participating in link schemes, or promoting deceptive content. These practices harm users and the overall integrity of the web.
Due to these reasons, Google penalizes websites that engage in cloaking by reducing their visibility in search results or completely removing them from the index. Adhering to Google's guidelines ensures a fair and trustworthy search ecosystem for both users and website owners.