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Is Cloaking "Illegal"

akowally
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Joined: 31 May 12
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Is Cloaking "Illegal"

I have been doing my research on the Penguin and other updates. Affilorama is currently the best place to get advice on getting Penguin-proof sites. I have seen a couple of mentions of cloaking while Wikipedia lists cloaking as one of the unorthodox SEO practices. What kind of cloaking is "illegal?"
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aratesic
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Affiliate link cloaking is about creating redirects instead of cloaking your site to fool the search engines. I don't even know why people call it cloaking. Actual cloaking is a different practice than creating redirects.

You just create a link that redirects users to the affiliate link you use to promote a product. Affiliate marketers do it because it is:

- prettier than standard, encrypted affiliate links
- supposedly safer (difficult to hijack links)
- easier to track clicks
- and perhaps other reasons I am unaware of

There is no point in fooling the search engines with that technique because they ultimately know where the link is pointing to. You also don't fool the users because it points to the product you are reviewing.

If you point a redirect to a completely unrelated page/product, then it becomes a problem.

Redirects also become a problem when you redirect people without their permission to other sites.
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akowally
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Thanks aratesic for making it clear. I really appreciate that.
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adbox
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It's not illegal at all. Google has said they do not like it and if it detects it they may deindex the site.

The way I always explain it is there is link masking, which as aratesic explained, helps with aesthetics, tracking and more.

And then there is cloaking which uses techniques to sniff if the visitor is a spider or a human and redirects the spider to one place while redirecting the human to another. This is used sometimes to prevent google from knowing that a website is affiliate micro-site, which google may not index if it detects that a high amount of out bound links go to amazon or something like it.

I've seen it used to fool paid advertising managers into allowing a campaign on a landing page/product they normally would not accept, but I forget how that practice goes.

When cloaking people can use useragent detection to try and determine spiders, which is coined 'poor man's cloaking' and then there are services that provide spider IP lists that they mine daily through certain ways, and then there is browser feature detections too.
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This topic was started on Sep 13, 2012 and has been closed due to inactivity. If you want to discuss this topic further, please create a new forum topic.