What is Cloaking?
Cloaking - the practice of showing different content or URLs to users and search engines. This is done in order to manipulate search engine rankings by deceiving the algorithm into thinking that a website deserves a higher ranking than it actually does.
In simple words, cloaking involves presenting different versions of web pages based on who's viewing them - people or bots. When real users visit your website, they see one version of the page, while search engine bots see another.
This technique is considered as black hat SEO because it violates the guidelines set by search engines like Google.
The Risks of Cloaking
Cloaking has its risks as well. While it can potentially boost your site's traffic and visibility in the short term, you run the risk of getting penalized by Google for using this technique. Search engines consider cloaking as a form of spamming and consider such sites to be low-quality content which could harm user experience. If your website gets detected for cloaking techniques, then you might get banned or receive an abrupt drop in page rank.
Besides risking penalties from search engines, cloaking might also create trust issues with visitors if they find out that you've been serving them different content than what was originally advertised or promised.Therefore It’s not recommended for long-term success without including ethical side factors.
One well-known method used in cloaking involves displaying text only visible to bots but hidden from humans using CSS tricks like 'display:none'. Another common technique includes redirecting human visitors away from pages optimized for specific keywords while still allowing access to their original destination using HTTP redirects (302 redirections).
A less technical type of cloaking would be putting popular but irrelevant keywords on a website to get more visibility in search engines. This is known as "Keyword Stuffing."
Although cloaking can be successful, it's important to remember that short-term success doesn't always translate into long-term success. For sustainable ranking and visibility, following white hat SEO practices is the best course of action.