Detecting more “undetectable” webspam

I’ve been following a case in Denmark where a cloaking company has been making a couple interesting claims. First, they claim that if a “brand-name” company cloaks, Google won’t remove the brand-name domain. That’s simply not true; if we believe that a company is abusing Google’s index by cloaking, we certainly do reserve the right to remove that company’s domains from our index. Next, the cloaking company claims that their method of cloaking is undetectable. I’ve written about “undetectable webspam” before. In that case, the “undetectable spam” could be found with a single Google query.

So let’s go back to this Danish company’s assertion that its cloaking is “undetectable.” Here’s an example claim on the English version of their page:

Undetectable cloaking? English claims

The claim is that “search engines cannot find out who is behind cloaking.” The Danish version of this page is slightly different:

Undetectable cloaking? Danish claims

One colleague at Google translated the final sentence from Danish as “However, as you can read below, they don’t stand a chance at figuring out who’s behind the solution, and thus cannot punish anyone for it.”

My colleague Brian White checked this claim out and very quickly found this hilarious page:

Undetectable cloaking? An error page

Here’s another error page:

Undetectable cloaking? Another error page

That’s right, someone hasn’t configured their “undetectable” cloaking script correctly. The errors that the script is spewing out give absolute file paths and much more info. Digging into the details mentioned in the error messages quickly leads you to more domains. So much for that cloaking being undetectable. By the way, this cloaking script has been producing highly noticeable errors like this for almost two months.

So here’s a few takeaways:
- If you’re going to claim that your webspam is “undetectable” then try to avoid spewing error messages that give lots of information about your domains.
- Also, you might want to avoid internal names like “CLOAKING_LINK_BUILDING” or “CLOAKING_RSS_Reader.php”. It tends to be a bit of a giveaway, and you never know when those names will get accidentally exposed.

More generally, if someone is trying to manipulate Google by deceptive cloaking, it means that a webserver is returning different content to Googlebot than to users. That’s a condition that can be checked for by algorithms or manually, and such cloaking is certainly not “undetectable.” For cloaking to be completely “undetectable,” it would have to be like that Steven Wright joke: “Last night somebody broke into my apartment and replaced everything with exact duplicates.” And a cloaking script that gave users and Googlebot exactly duplicate pages would be a bit pointless. :)

170 Responses to Detecting more “undetectable” webspam (Leave a comment)

  1. JLH

    I don’t doubt Google’s ability to detect spam. I do take exception to the claim, “if we believe that a company is abusing Google’s index by cloaking, we certainly do reserve the right to remove that company’s domains from our index”

    Reserving the right does not equal actually doing something, and more importantly is what happens afterwards if indeed a brand name site is removed. The average persons only recourse is to search in vain for a while for a way to contact Google, eventually hopefully they find the webmasters help center, even further along they may verify their domain in a webmaster’s tools account, and eventually they may even discover that they must fill out a reconsideration request after fixing the discretion. While logged into their account they may, but more than likely will not, receive a notice that the site has been removed for X violation. All-in-all a long and difficult process.

    On the other hand,if a “name brand” site does the same thing, they’ll probably get a nice “reach out” email and be back in the index the next day.

    http://googleenterprise.blogspot.com/2007/05/vw-website-updates.html

    Or the BMW thing as well.

    In that respect the Danish spamming company is almost correct, unless the double standard only applied to German car makers, which is a very small subset that very few webmasters belong to. I’ve pointed out lately that the official Googleblog still links to sites which were hit with the October PageRank reduction for selling links, so having two sets of standards for “brand name” or popular sites and the other 99.9% is not a new concept. Breaking the guidelines is bad enough to get your PageRank reduced but not bad enough that Google’s own site will consider it a bad-neighborhood (also in the guidelines) that you shouldn’t link to.

    Of course Google “reserves the right” to do something about the big sites, but the real question, and I think the valid point, is will they? And if so, is it handled the same way the non-name brand sites are? I doubt it.

  2. I come here not to bury Matt Cutts, but to praise him! (Even for the mega-wealthy random internet abuse must pall.)

    More seriously, I think what Matt has pointed out here is a primary problem for people who want to black-hat their way to an advantage – you have to explain the effect of what you do, and often, in a general way, how you do it.

    And since the guys at google aren’t DUMB they’ll read your post, eventually, and start looking around. And catch you, eventually And since they aren’t DUMB they’ll try some variations on the theme and find some other people.

    So, I am sure that there are people out there who have figured out many ways to game google but they keep quiet and fly below the radar.

    Personally, I enjoy these stories, keep ‘em coming

    -OT

  3. JLH, the main point I’d make is that there have been many times when Google has taken strong action on a big site for weeks or months, but other people haven’t noticed.

  4. LOL…

    Is “undetectable” but they announce it in their site..

    Is too bad that they make money out of some ignorant customers…

  5. JLH

    Matt, I’ll have to give you that. I sure don’t know about every site in the world and their situation with Google. I’d imagine several have been penalized and just don’t get the air time that some others do. Obviously, you probably have a lot more information on that subject than I do. Touché.

  6. :D this was excellent. I love it when you expose people like this. Especially when they’re arrogant enough to write about their activities on the net.

  7. I remember one time when i was starting as a blogger, i made a post titled

    “WEBLINK EXCHANGUE” (in spanish)

    It was not a link exchangue per se, but something like that lol…

    And few days later, automatically i lost my PageRank.. i delete the entry and send the program to hell… lol..

    Thats why is funny to say something is undetectable if you announced in the web..

    Google algorithm is not bad..

  8. Don’t you wish they were all so easy?

  9. Sure!

    Thats the bad thing about google, if you get penalized ..they are never going to send you a email with the details…

    Eventhough you know they have all of your details..

    For example : a blogspot site…

  10. What’s the point?

    Black hat spammers that are stupid get caught. I’ll follow that up with white hat SEO’s that are stupid don’t rank.

  11. Rob

    Two points….

    First, I believe that Google’s relationship with major brand-based websites is one of co-dependence…

    If a major brand based site were engaging in cloaking or some other s.e.m[alpractice] and Google ‘reserved the right’ to remove that company’s domains from their index, they’d be shooting themselves in foot. If your average internet ebay junkie can’t find ebay results in Google, he converts to another SE………

    So Google puts their finger in the proverbial cloaking dyke *snicker* by making an example of a mid-level sites that have brand recognition amongst web developers and web marketers. Yet the fact remains that in the bigger picture, the very concept of Google having ultimate control over their index is an illusion. Google has to deliver what the masses want; delivering anything else is just bad business.

    ….In light of this, my response to JLH’s about punishing large branded sites, asking “is it handled the same way the non-name brand sites are?”

    Of course not!

    Anyways, regarding the actual topic of the thread: cloaking. I have to quesiton how effective hand reviews are for cloaking. I have to imagine that you guys are engaging in ‘drag-netting’ based on the footprints of previously detected spam networks, and then hand filtering the sites caught in the net, but even still, the sheer magnitude of the task is overwhelming. I say better

  12. They are correct – alot of cloaking goes undetected. One just has to be EXTREMELY savvy about Web Design, Programming, Databases and SEO.

    We are talking about a very talented, esoteric few who are great at everything and call pull the whole thing together seamlessly!

    Knowing others doing RELEVANT cloaking as an experiment on several test sites and comparing and archivng the before and after results – for better or worse, it does have significant SERPs benefits. That is just reality.

    Hence, the controversial lectures on previous posts about what prompts some good webmasters to just finally lose their tempers and start engaging in black hat techniques, was based on many observations and frustrations that go back years!

    If Google would just meet people half way and open up communication, ironically this would eliminate the need for many to use these techniques.

    At the risk of beating a dead horse, what you are witnessing are symptoms of deep rooted frustrations that need to be addressed from a root cause perspective – not, from a band aid approach! :-(

    .
    BTW:
    Oh, isn’t it simply wonderful having SearchEnginesWeb posting on this blog :-D
    .

    ….It is wonderful, isn’t it?! :-?

    HELLO !! :-|

  13. Paul Laroquod

    ‘First, they claim that if a “brand-name” company cloaks, Google won’t remove the brand-name domain. That’s simply not true; if we believe that a company is abusing Google’s index by cloaking, we certainly do reserve the right to remove that company’s domains from our index.’

    So, do you just ‘reserve the right’ to do it, or do you actually do it? Am I the only one who noticed that this is a non-denial denial?

  14. 112.

    That’s the number of idiotic comments we will see on this post about about how evil Google is and how they can’t do this to poor innocent webmasters who are naive and how Mom and Pops are going to get screwed by this.

    Anyone else want in on the pool? First prize is a toolbar PR increase of +1.

  15. That is waaaay too funny!
    What amazes me most is folks are still busy trying to poke holes in algos versus building a business.

    Spammers, I know, you think it’s fun and makes you feel smart. Don’t you think your energies would be better spent on actually working on something worthwhile, something that has longevity…

    Again, way too funny

  16. Colin, for some of us it’s just fun. Blackhatting I mean. If the weather is nice I go fishing, if it is not, spamdexing and cloaking is a fun alternative. Not sure why, but I see so many parallels between fishing and blackhatting… BTW, going to the fish monger to buy fish would be much cheaper than going fishing myself. Yes, building a pretty website with useful content is probably a better investment of your time in terms of ROI, but it’s not as much f u n. Playing black hat is my favorite video game and it’s only fun, because Google is fighting it.

  17. Paul Laroquod, cloaking in general isn’t as common as it used to be (especially on large sites), in my experience. Most people wanting to achieve a bait-and-switch effect seem to use JavaScript instead recently. But yes, we absolutely have removed big sites for stuff like that.

  18. I have been reading a lot about SEO for a short time and just started reading your blog. I could not help laugh out loud when I read about your reference to Steven Wrights’ joke. Thanks for keeping such a good sense of humor in your blog about a topic that too many people take too serious.

  19. Dave (original)

    Matt, as you likely know by now, I hate spammers and especially the ones who prey on uniformed and/or naive Webmasters. However, why on Earth would you give out even the slightest of clues in the form of “takeaways” to these low-lives?

    Also, would I be correct in saying the site mentioned is out of Google’s index?

  20. Matt,

    There is no doubt that Google can detect cloaking. The real problem you will increasingly face is how to separate whitehat cloaking from blackhat (particularly difficult algorithmically).

    After all, I was at a meeting at the Googleplex where one of your own well known “evangelists” openly professed the virtues of whitehat cloaking. The exact idea was that if you know a person came in on a certain keyword, you should do everything you can to tailor the entire experience to that keyword, including changing the content of the page dynamically.

    Problem is…if the googlebot didn’t come in on that keyword, it will get a different experience and an algorithm could cry foul.

    Another great example is a company that we do conversion testing/consulting for. They are a travel company based in Alaska. They have found that Alaska natives have very different travel needs than lower 48 tourists, so we show different content to those visitors based on geolocated IP. According to your rules, as long as I show a GoogleBot from that Alaska the same content as a person from Alaska, I should be in the clear. But what if you don’t actually have a Googlebot from Alaska and instead it comes from Vegas or Mountain View? In that case the algorithm certainly could be fooled into thinking we’re pulling a switcheroo. Even if a human at Google were to look at the site to verify it, would they immediately see what we’re doing with geo-targeted content and realize that we are actually giving our users a much better experience? Or would they just say, “yeah, they are obviously advertising cruise ships to the googlebot (Vegas), but showing fishing cabins to the us web visitors (Kirkland, WA)”

    It’s potentially problematic for Google because many of our customers are dead set against trying conversion testing scripts like Google Website Optimizer for fear of getting caught in a filter–despite us doing our best to convince them that 1) It’s unlikely 2)If it did, we know how to get it reincluded. They usually counter that it will be difficult to detect the filter in the first place and they can’t afford to lose organic traffic while we go through the resubmission/investigation process.

    There are all kinds of cases that come up—one customer wanted to display local phone numbers to folks that could be identified to be from an area so that they didn’t have to pay long distance and could contact their local office easily. “But will Google ban us for cloaking?” We can’t say for sure.

    It’s a difficult problem, but I have no doubt you’ve got some great minds working on it. I’ve spoken with the GWO team at length about this, if you want to contact me from a webspam perspective feel free to email me.

  21. Dave (original), I’m more happy with our ability to look at JavaScript than (say) a few months ago.

    Corey, I understand the desire for people to do testing; I think the GWO folks may have some documentation on how that sort of testing is quite different from the sort of cloaking that Google considers deceptive. At some point I’d like to find the time to talk more about that subject. For this post, I wanted to talk about doing deceptive things with cloaking, and to emphasize that when someone is saying search engines “don’t stand a chance at figuring out who’s behind the solution, and thus cannot punish anyone for it” then they’re a) pretty clearly talking about a higher-risk idea, and b) undetectable spam is usually detectable in several ways. :)

    But I take your point, and may take a bigger bite on the topic of deceptive cloaking at some point in the future.

  22. Ah, here you go Corey Koberg: http://adwords.google.com/support/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=72507

    I think I worked with the GWO folks on some of the original language on that page and the tips for how to stay in good shape, and re-reading that page now, I think that page is still accurate.

  23. Harith

    Matt,

    Google WebSpam Team Rock :)

  24. Dave (original)

    Matt, thanks but I think you are answering a question I never asked.

    Here are my 2 questions;

    However, why on Earth would you give out even the slightest of clues in the form of “takeaways” to these low-lives?

    Also, would I be correct in saying the site mentioned is out of Google’s index?

  25. He he he, that kinda hubris deserves what it gets. :-) But I’m sorry to see that one of the websites mentioned in the error url is that of engodsag.dk (a good cause dot dk), a website that promotes ecommerce sites that give part of their revenue to good causes. Too bad they apparently think that the target justifies the means.

    However, you don’t talk about how you would discover the cloaking if they had not misconfigured some of their pages? If I read your post correctly you got interested because of the website text discussing using cloaking, so you found them through their writing about cloaking? If they hadn’t been writing directly about it, would you have found them?

    But I’m happy to see that you also handle Danish language websites now – there are quite a few opportunistic people who won’t play fair.

  26. Hi Matt.
    Here in Denmark I and a few others are very greatefull for your work. Some of us actually believe in White Hat SEO. And we get more and more customers because of you- customers, that have seen their site flushed because you guys found out they used Black Hat SEO.
    Thanks for the good job you do ;o)
    Best regards,
    Christian

  27. Good Day,

    I know cloaking is a black hat technique. Web masters use this technique to show different content to user and search engine crawler. Google can know those sites who adopts this technique and black list these sites.

    Another thing recently a number of websites have lost their Page Rank. What might be the Cause???? All they have adopted some black hat technique or any other cause.

  28. Matt, thank you so much for bringing up this case!
    Although I am from Denmark I have absolutely no affiliation with this company!

    This is a classic example of how NOT to run a SEO company. They have made so many mistakes, lied to clients and delivered a poor product. We just don’t need such a company on the market at all!

    On a side note, they now claim that they are about to sell Cloaking Systems to a “large US firm” … Wonder if they still want to buy after this post of yours, Matt :)

    Lets just make one thing clear: Even before your post here Matt and toy showed examples of how their system IS in fact detectable, there where many other ways to detect it. And there was many ways to detect that the brand-owners actually did buy this service. The separation between brand-domain and cloaking domain just isn’t there.

    In the public discussions we have had locally on this case I have often used an analogy from Public Relations (PR) …
    If a good PR-agent finds a very effective way of getting his clients into the major medias he would be very, very stupid if he the next day go out in publicly announce: “See how I fooled this newspaper!”

    Newspapers as well as search engines do know that some crap will slip through every day. But if you want to continue to be one of the guys that can still push some crap in now and then you just don’t rub it in the face of those newspapers and engines! They are humans too and nobody likes to be made a fool in public. Humans react to this. And they should!

    Cloaking Systems have acted like … well in lack of a better word, like idiots.

    I usually never engage in reporting spam to the engines. I don’t think it’s my job. But in this case I’ll make an exception ….

    Matt, let me know if you need anything more from me …

  29. Ramon Eijkemans

    absolutely hilarious :)

  30. @Dave:
    “However, why on Earth would you give out even the slightest of clues in the form of “takeaways” to these low-lives?”

    Given Matt’s position I doubt he is inadvertantly blurting out something he shouldn’t.

    Let’s face it, what he has “given away” should be absolutely obvious with a few moments thought and humility (i.e. realising that things can wrong even with your code) and if Matt is willing to post this I suspect Google is holding far far more cunning techniques for detecting cloaking in reserve.

    @Matt:

    I have previously “cloaked” a forum purely in order to hide the plethora of ways to get to the same page and hence avoid duplicate content. Would NoFollow do the job these days?

  31. Ben

    The large academic journals have been getting away with cloaking for years. Many times I’ve searched for technical information to be shown a result which Google tells me is a PDF file. Clicking on the link brings me not to a PDF file but to a web page with an abstract which often does not include my original search terms. What is included is a link to where I can pay for access to the article which was obviously originally served up to the GoogleBot. This is classical bait and switch search spam which Google has been tolerating for ever. The only difference I see between this and what Matt is complaining about is that one is being perpetrated by large well established organisations (often walled information gardens Google probably wants to negotiate access to). Given Google’s usual high regard for the user experience I find it hard to understand why they put up with being duped into giving users such misrepresentitive results.

  32. Thomas

    1) “Although I am from Denmark I have absolutely no affiliation with this company!”
    2) “They have made so many mistakes, lied”

    Yeah right.

    Your methods are doubtfull and include things concidered searchengine-spam too, and has been discussed in danish newspapers.

    No affiliation? Right, you had a partnership with the owner but lost it… now you use every forum and blog that you can find, to try and bad-talk him.

    Don’t call people liaers and tell lies in the same post..

  33. You mention the cloaking kicking up errors for two months. How long has Google been aware of it and penalizing the sites using it? If they’ve been doing this for 5 years and just got busted now, I’d say that’s a problem and a gamble a lot of webmasters would be willing to take… especially since the penalties don’t seem to stick for long. You mentioned a case at one of your conferences where a big company got de-ranked for cloaking (in response to a question if big sites had ever been de-ranked for link selling I believe) and they had been doing it for years, but only were out of the index for 72 hours if I’m not mistaken. That kind of thing doesn’t bode well for those of us not engaging in cloaking.

    On the note of cloaking; what are your thoughts on cloaking rel=nofollow, ie. showing it to Googlebot but not to users. It doesn’t actually appear to be against Google terms (user sees the same either way and it doesn’t help rankings) ….

  34. Im also from Denmark and i know the company Cloaking system by name. I work with SEO, and i allways recommend my clients NOT to use cloaking. And now i can refere to this post as a good argument.

  35. > If they’ve been doing this for 5 years

    Cliaking Systems only started this summer – they came, they screamed and they died … :)

  36. Shahid

    Its suprising to see sites still using a method of cloaking in this era of SEO. Anyone with any commone sense will know cloaking is a strictly forbidden art. They deserve to be penalised, and from looking at the urls structures, only a novice with next to no SEO knowledge could have inmplemented or as mentioned by a few above, could have been in the index for some time.

    Reminds me of the BMW example. Nice to see Google kicking ass….:-)

  37. Phil

    When you turn away cloakers which for sure are spamming user queries, will you turn to Wikipedia ?

    Those guys are stealing content from hard working webmasters without crediting them and their pages go top search engine queries.

    Therefore my understanding is that such as cloaking, Wikipedia is spamming too !

    Thank you

  38. Chis

    I totally agree with the point Rob made earlier.

    No matter what black-hat techniques a SEM may use, it’s not in Google’s interest to remove them from the index for brand specific searches. Of course they reserve the right to, but why shoot yourself in the foot.

    Saying that though, severe penalties for non-brand specific queries should be enough to warn SPAMers off.

  39. Rob

    Why in the world would I want to see eBay results in goggles results I want a relevant page say if I am searching for info on a “Cisco 2600” I want a relevant page not shed loads of crap pages from some dodgy eBay seller.

    If I want to search eBay for secondhand kit I will go to eBay thank you very much :-)

    And if a big company disappeared of Google I would think ah some marketing weasels redeveloped the site and fucked the brand up. Or internal politics has had the same result.

    An agency asked me about going back to the belly of the beast BT to sort out bt.com which would have been fun. I joked id have to take the HR director and my contact in IR down the pub and get them to give me a book a blank p45’s 

    Interestingly I interviewed at another London agency and when I turned up I saw that a dodgy guy (who I worked with at a small company before this one) who was into cloaking was working there.

  40. Cloaking is a necessary evil that should not in all cases be punished. For example one of our networks gets an extremely large amount of visitors that are students. The overwhelming majority of these visitors eat up bandwidth without buying anything, so we use cloaking to filter out who we want to see the “nice” version of our site, and we send the bandwidth eaters to a different page (with the same content), but infested with ppc ads on it. Obviously we’re not worrying about brand recognition.

  41. JB

    Matt

    As we approach 2008 all big businesses now realise how essential it is to have good Google rankings.

    In the early 2000′s big businesses thought banner ads and branding was the big thing and didn’t understand SEO, so the sole SEO’s had a clear run at dominating search.

    This resulted in loads of “affiliate” sites etc dominating the SERPS.

    Current day – Google has done a good job of stopping most thin affiliate stuff from ranking, thus now giving legitimate sites/businesses a clear run at dominating search.

    Stick with me, I will get to the point!

    In both scenarios there are companies (themselves or via SEO agencies) that do white/grey and black hat stuff.

    What I’m saying is, there will always be companies who try dodgy stuff, but moving into 2008 it’s no longer the sole seo’s/affiliate guys doing it, it’s the big boys, for example massive firms ranking well using the DP co-op link network or buying tons of irrelevant links for pagerank purposes, cloaking, paid blogging etc.

    My main point/question is – do you think it’s going to get harder and harder to enforce Google’s guidelines going forward, given that you will be dealing with big sites/brands that are bending or breaking the rules?

    The fact you are dealing with big firms has got to require a different approach?

    Hope you have a good time in Vegas Matt; I’ve wanted to get over for Pubcon for the past 3 years now! Hopefully I’ll make it in 2008.

  42. Hi Matt and other writers,

    I’m the founder of ENGODSAG.DK – the website that has been mentioned in this blog. I would just like to make it totally clear that our company could never dream of using cloaking!

    We have a well-known brand in Denmark, work with charity AND have a very good page rank and lots of results coming up when searching for the relevant words and phrases. However, we signed a deal with a Danish SEO company clearly stating that we should always approve their methods, domains being used etc. They have clearly violated our trust, the contract AND have confirmed this in a written statement to us. A statement that was also passed on to the CEO of Google in Denmark.

    However, despite them having promised 4 weeks ago that they would close down everything regarding cloaking, there seem to be this domain that still links to us – and of course to pages no longer being used. We have now contacted DK Hostmaster – the Danish company handling domains and asked for this domain to be suspended immediately. The domain is not owned by us, but we’re asking them to help us in this matter.

    Again: We’re both angry at the company helping us with the SEO and very sad that the methods they’re using are now being associated with us. We are very much against those kinds of methods and have absolutely no interest in using them. And I totally agree with the blog writer that these methods should not be accepted!

    We’re of course hoping that the acts of another company, never approved by us, will not influence our positive position on Google. I must also underline that I’m not an expert in SEO and search marketing, so forgive me if I’ve not addressed all issues in this post. But my main purpose was to let you all know that we have never accepted these methods, known about them and right away contacted the company, when we were made aware of them.

    Best regards,

    Jonathan.

  43. And I should perhaps add that we of course do NOT work with this company no longer and are currently considering what we can do legally about this matter.

    So to HT Olsen: I fully understand your point, if we had done this intentionally. But we actually underlined it in our contract that we should always approve the methods and domains being used – and we’re just sad that the Danish company the Mikkel mentions in his posts did not respect that!

  44. Cathy

    What are you plans to detect paragraphs of paid text links on select high PR articles?
    http://www.quickonlinetips.com/archives/2007/10/what-about-post-level-paragraphs-of-paid-text-links/

  45. Thomas

    You are not as informed as you would like others to belive Mikkel – the system has been running longer than the firm owning it.

  46. The company in question that did the SEO has sent us this written statement:

    “We’re sorry that we’ve made a cloaking website without your written approval of this. The mistake is ours alone, and we should have informed you about what this website could do. The website has not been in your interest, and it has been removed again right away.”

    They wrote this to us 4 weeks ago, and we’re now in contact with the Danish domain authorities to check up on this.

  47. It is like running a crack house but putting a big sign on the front door saying “Drugs Sold Here” and hoping not to get caught. Hilarious.

  48. As both client and server-side multivariate/hypertesting become more common, won’t it be very difficult to determine what is cloaking and what is optimization?

    What can I do when programming tests into my publicly accessible scripts to ensure the GoogleBot doesn’t label them as cloaking attempts?

  49. Just tp expand on my previous question – I read the Google page referenced earlier on testing (http://adwords.google.com/support/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=72507) -

    The problem I forsee is there isn’t a single “winning” combination always, but rather different winning combinations based on where the user arrives from, if they have a cookie already set, etc…

    In other words, Google says “be sure to update your test page’s source code to reflect that winning combination soon afterwards.” – moving forward, there may never be a winning combination, but thousands of winning combinations.

  50. Omar Yesid Mariño

    It would be very good if Matt can list some “brand-name” companies that have been removed from Google index.

  51. Harith

    Omar Yesid Mariño

    Usually Matt neither confirm nor deny a penalty imposed by Google on any site. Only on very few occasions Matt mentioned the specifics of penalized sites.

  52. Gary

    http://www.eweek.com/article2/0,1895,2222961,00.asp

    This is sort of off the topic (not really related to cloaking) but this article really provides another angle to spam that I would be curious to get your opinion on. I thought Google was already fighting this type of war via stopbadware.org however this article really puts a different spin on things from a public perspective.

    Does malware fall into your area of expertise in terms of ‘spam’ and is this even really possible to fight with any degree of efficiency?

  53. Brent

    I used to program for a company that was and still is the leader in it’s field. They implemented cloaking on all of their big sites specifically aimed at Googlebot. At the time, hese sites were averaging 1x,xxx number of unique vistors per day. Not knowing any better, I think they thought it was actually a viable SEO tactic. When Google found it, their traffic dropped by 40%. This was about 3-4 years ago. So I know first hand that Google does in fact penalize big sites.

  54. Naoise

    @TheMadHat

    you made me laugh out loud. I was drinking coffee at the time.

    you owe me a new keyboard.

  55. Dan Perry

    Wow; I don’t think I could have found a more relevant post to ask my “cloaking” question.

    Here’s the scenario: a friend of mine works for a big brand that is about to go live with a redesign, done by a top 3 agency. The design is completely Ajax and Flash, as expected, therefore there aren’t any individual pages anymore. They are adding some content to the non-javascript portions of the page. In addition, even though the products will be served and shown to the public via Ajax, they are willing to add individual TITLE and META tags for each product, even though this is officially cloaking.

    The question: Does it really come down to intent? There is no need for deception here; my friend is just trying to retain his current rankings, but with this Ajax/Flash redesign, they see trouble on the horizon. Any input, or any previous statements you could point me to for assistance?

    From the reading I’ve done, it all comes down to intent, but it’s still tough for them to pull the trigger.

    Thank in advance for the help, and see you in Vegas for Pubcon.

    Dan

  56. Hey Matt, this was revealed on SEO Ninjas 2 months ago and the owners of the business posted comments on the blog defending it, saying you’d never be able to trace them: http://www.seoninjas.net/google-promotes-cloaking.html

    How’s that for arrogance!

  57. I just wanted to add as well that the company in question here from Matt (cloaking-system.com by the way) were found by the SEO Ninjas and exposed because they were running PPC ads on Google under the key phrase ‘search engine optimisation’ and promoting their cloaking software.

    The question the Ninjas originally asked was why would Google allow a company to advertise on Adwords that blatantly flouted Google’s own spam rules.

    Any answer to that Matt?

  58. Matt,

    OneCall.com is looking at serving up different content based on referring domain. For example someone coming in from Google would have a page that speaks more to our expertise, our reputation for 5-star customer service, etc. Users coming from a price engine like PriceGrabber would emphasis price considerations. Users coming from our affiliate network would have the call center minimized on the page (affiliates don’t get paid for call center placed orders).

    I am concerned that utilizing this type of pseudo-personalization may cause an inadvertent cloaking problem/penalty (whatever you want to call it) from Google.

    Should I be concerned? At SES San Jose one of the topics was exactly about implementing these tactics to improve conversion (our goal precisely) but nothing was mentioned about cloaking.

    If you could let me know whatever you can about this topic I’d appreciate it.

    Sincerely,

    Brent David Payne

  59. To Matt Cutts and others in this blog,

    I tried writing a post in here explaining how this all came about – and how our site, engodsag.dk, have signed a deal with a company that has been violated. And how they used cloaking without us knowing it. We could never dream of approving cloaking in any sort – and have a written statement from the company saying that they’re sorry and taking full responsiblity for this matter.

    However, the post seemed to disappear from this blog… was it erased or? I hope that we can take part in this discussion and will be able to explain our side. Since we like Google and would never work with cloaking or other aggressive methods. Especially since we have a good page rank already!

  60. Dave (original), sorry I thought you were talking about cloaking vs. JavaScript. I don’t mind telling people not to call their software or variable names “CLOAKING_WHATEVER” because for some reason people always seem to keep doing it. I could give more examples of this behavior, but I’m still using them. :) Also, you would be correct in assuming that have taken action against spam like this.

    Mikkel deMib Svendsen, we don’t always agree 100%, but I agree with much of what you posted.

    Sam I am, as Mikkel points out, this company is pretty new. I’ve been aware of their claims for months, and frankly was waiting in case someone else would point out some of the stuff like I did above. :)

    JB, I don’t think it will necessarily be harder. For example, the webspam team recently took action against a very big company for exactly one of the reasons that you mentioned, and the penalty lasted for weeks. I don’t think many (any?) other people connected the dots, but Google was more than willing to take action on that case. Omar Yesid Mariño, I typically don’t call out specific examples unless it’s really necessary to make a point. Brent, thanks for weighing in with your outside experience confirming that we do take action on big sites as well.

    Brent, in the case you mention, the results were both spam and malware, so both my team (webspam) and the malware team were tackling it. What it goes to show is that there still are people out there who are willing to spam search engines for off-topic phrases and even install malware.

  61. Matt, the problem is, these guys have even been advertising in AdWords for cloaking, don’t you think you should ban those guys from doing that too? Otherwise it’s a bit hypocritical…

    (I know, because the company I work for advertises on the worth cloaking, with the text (translated): Cloaking? We know better…)

  62. Matt, that was a awesome post. The comment and your comments after users comments (so much comments in this phrase!) was fantastic to deeply understand some Google’s policy. Thank you (and sorry about my poor english).

    Best regards from Brazil

  63. Does Googlebot detect cloaked redirects with the help of Google Toolbar

    what I mean by cloaked redirect:

    if not Googlebot { 301/302 to $$$ }
    else { show whatever content }

  64. Joost, I’ll ask about this.

  65. Harith

    Matt,

    Maybe you pay a visit to Google office in Copenhagen next time you are in Europe. I’m sure the Googlers here can arrange a very nice Copenhagen one-evening-PubCon wehere you can talk about how Google look at the various “undetected” spam. Such a visit would be great support to ethical SEOes in Denmark.

    We might help in promoting the event on few news sites.

  66. I’d say that anyone publicly selling “undetectable cloaking” is probably not something to worry about from a search engine perspective. Kind of like the old “if it sounds to good to be true, it probably is not true” saying. Just take a quick browse of any black hat hang out and you will see the general consensus is that you will get caught — accept it and move on. They know that nothing is undetectable (especially if you bring attention to it). The quiet black hats… now those are the ones to worry about –if you are a search engine. ;)

  67. Matt, that was such an easy target!

    Now, how about showing us the unofficial Google response to that big American company that sells a web server proxy search marketing solution, said to be in line with all the search engine guidelines?

  68. I know I’ve shot Matt a couple of nasty javascript cloakers to examine that seem to have vanished ;)

  69. Harith

    esoomllub

    “I’d say that anyone publicly selling “undetectable cloaking” is probably not something to worry about from a search engine perspective.”

    True. However there was a very big risk that SEO-Unsavvy publishers in Denmark would purchase the cloaking service of the company in question risking their own sites to be deindexed from Google.

    IMO, Google WebSpam Team prompt action to deindex the cloaking company site was a right step to protect those SEO-Unsavvy publishers too.

  70. Frank

    Hmm,
    Funny to see Mikkel Demib Svendsen playing the smart guy here.
    Especially when every one knows Demib is Mr. cloaking nr. 1
    Furthermore its very interesting, that he actually hired a guy from Cloaking System in Denmark earlier this year. One of the people behind the software system it seems. And he not only hired him, he was offering him partnership, I just read.
    See, thats funny.
    What about that one, Mr. Cutts?

  71. Petrus wrote above:

    “for some of us it’s just fun. Blackhatting I mean. If the weather is nice I go fishing, if it is not, spamdexing and cloaking is a fun alternative. Not sure why, but I see so many parallels between fishing and blackhatting”

    So you believe that fishing and blackhatting are parallels?? That’s nice. I never knew that fishing was also cheating something? “Blackhatting” is cheating. Make no mistake about that Petrus. Good luck to you as you too will be caught, if not already.

    It’s amazing to me the large amounts of SEO’s in this industry who blog about how to trick Google and how to disguise paid links on blogs without giving a disclosure, and how to “buy links under the radar”, and how to everything blackhat.

    It’s very frustrating to know that Google will also take money from these very same blackhats via Adwords. It is disturbing to me and the one thing that I just do not like about not only Google, but MSN and Yahoo as well. I truly don’t understand the reasoning behind it other than greed.

    But anyway; I’m happy that Matt is outing these types of blackhats. I do wish Google would do more of this and also do more at conferences in this regard.

  72. Doug Heil, I got that feedback at SES San Jose. As a search quality person, I have much more influence on the organic results, but I’ve raised the issue with people on the AdWords side of things.

  73. Dave (original)

    Dave (original), sorry I thought you were talking about cloaking vs. JavaScript. I don’t mind telling people not to call their software or variable names “CLOAKING_WHATEVER” because for some reason people always seem to keep doing it.

    Thanks Matt, but isn’t that assumming you catch the ones who keep doing it and perhaps NOT the ones who take your advice?

    To borrow a DR. Phil phrase “Boy, you don’t know what you don’t know” :)

    BTW, I completely agree with the other posts that Google should NOT allow adwords on spamming SE. I hope Google is not going to fall into the usual big business trap of the left-hand not knowing what the right-hand is doing!

  74. Dave (original)

    Matt, how about Google starting an official Hall Of Shame where SE spammers are named?

  75. Now that would be a great idea! “Hall of Shame” for blackhats. Heck; Google should give a direct link to them as well. It certainly would go a long ways to warning people of the risks involved.

    It’s good to hear you have discussed the adwords issue and taking money from sites caught spamming with the adwords dept Matt.

  76. Now if you could just stop crawling through proxy sites it would be an immense help.

    I could give you some pointers over a few beers anytime… ;)

  77. I loved the joke, replace everything with exactly the same duplicates! After all, there are always people out there who thinks they are smart enough to cheat Google and their customers! “undetectable cloaking”? just like some one writes a program and said it has no bug! It’s just crazy or an idiot arrogant!

  78. Doug and Dave, of course if we make progress on reducing those sort of AdWords, then I’m sure that some people will complain that they were denied the ability to get the word out about their product/program. “I know the e-book is called Greatest Blackhat Cloaking Secrets, but the content isn’t that blackhat, so why can’t I buy an ad? Google is unfair!” Sometimes you can’t win no matter what. :)

  79. Just a quick note, I’d rather comments on this thread stay civil; I don’t want people to sling accusations or insults around.

    IncrediBILL, will you be at PubCon? I’ve been chatting with a few folks about proxies recently, so feel free to bring any examples you want.

  80. Dave (original)

    Matt, I can see how Google is always between a rock and a hard place, but unless there are legal issues involved, surely the ONLY course of action is that which has the best interest of keeping Google spam free?

    Google, from my knowledge, has always put it users 1st, why would AdWords, AdSense etc be any different. It truly does send out a mixed message.

  81. Google not ever winning is very true. According to most of the SEO industry and webmasters, it’s Google’s responsibility to make sure each website succeeds on the internet, so what’s the prob anyway? :D

  82. Hector

    Google would never turn down money from an advertiser wanting to spend money. Just as they would never ban a big advertiser that spends in the 6 digits each month on ad words for doing something black hat. (Matt claims they have, well who are they? and if they were so big why doesn’t anybody know about it?) If they did, companies would flee and they know that. Do you know how many companies spend in the six digits monthly with them and do you actually think they’ll penalize them? Do you think their stock is where it is because of a level playing field? Come on, wake up people. If you have money and want to spend it they’ll accept it. I’ve seen so many comments from several people either white or black hat. Stop your crying and grow your business. Google accepts money from everyone and all this talk for 10 lousy results on the first page. Matt, I mean no disrespect, but you can’t eat the spoon that feeds you, you know? All this back vs white hat crap is just so old and drawn out.

    Google is the king of search but that can change at anytime. There will be a time when someone over takes them as is the case in any industry. You’re in a tough situation between making people happy or unhappy. Glad it’s not me. Thanks.

  83. Doug and Dave, of course if we make progress on reducing those sort of AdWords, then I’m sure that some people will complain that they were denied the ability to get the word out about their product/program. “I know the e-book is called Greatest Blackhat Cloaking Secrets, but the content isn’t that blackhat, so why can’t I buy an ad? Google is unfair!” Sometimes you can’t win no matter what.

    The question I have is…why would you give a damn what people like this think?

    And just a suggestion, but there may be a very simple solution to the Adsense/Adwords issue. You’ve already got a very large chunk of the spam issue solved when it comes to organic SERPs (not all of it, but you never will). Could the same secret sauce not be applied to Adwords/Adsense for quality control checking? If a site’s a low-quality site, then you could penalize the site via increased CPC payouts for Adwords advertisers or reduced payouts/banning of Adsense publishers.

    Again, just a thought. Nothing more. I always wondered this, and I figured this was about as close a chance as I was ever going to have to get this off my chest. Thanks.

  84. Matt, how about Google starting an official Hall Of Shame where SE spammers are named?

    That would work on one condition that would never occur: the shamed would keep their mouths shut and their lawyers out of the equation.

    Look what happens when Google even appears to penalize a site or takes away PageRank. They say nothing, one webmaster with his/her head up his/her ass gets all bent out of shape, the SEO world follows and threatens to break the search engine that they all made (yeah, Google didn’t have anything to do with their own success…they only built the damn thing), and the Googleplex sinks 1500 feet into the ground and therefore becomes the seventh layer of Hell. Matt himself is often seen with a new set of horns and mysterious set of -30/-950 lightning bolts shooting out of his ass at poor innocent webmasters who really didn’t know any better when they sold their PR(x) text links.

    Now…let’s say Google named the fictional Craters of the Moon SEO as an SEO to avoid, based on cloaking, selling links, or whatever (it really doesn’t matter what they were accused of). Craters of the Moon SEO, being the truly angelic SEO company that most SEO companies are, gets very angry at Google and decides to get their law firm involved. The law firm says “you guys were SO SCREWED, based solely on your side of the story, which as we all know is the only one that ever matters in a court of law. You’re entitled to $10,000,000 in punitive damages caused by defamation of character.” And big G finds itself in a California civil courthouse forced to explain something in full detail that didn’t need to be explained in the first place.

    Now multiply that one case by the thousands that Google could probably name, factor in any Lionel Hutz wannabe that organizes a class action lawsuit for the sole purpose of making himself famous as an attorney, and a big pile of nothing useful can come of it.

    Not only that, the resources required to fight all this crap would get taken away from improving SERPs and other big G products.

    I’d love to see them implement it, as I thoroughly believe the SEO industry needs a few good swift kicks in the ass, but in the “sue you, screw you” society in which we live, it isn’t practical. Noble, way overdue, but not practical.

  85. paul brewster

    Matt

    Your opening response to the accusation that if a “brand-name” company cloaks, Google won’t remove the brand-name domain, is ambiguous to say the least.

    Your reply of ‘That’s simply not true; if we believe that a company is abusing Google’s index by cloaking, ‘we certainly do reserve the right to remove that company’s domains from our index’.

    It is this last sentence which any reasonably intelligent individual will realise – really means that in the majortiy of “brand-name” cloaking cases you will not penalise with the same voracity as “non brand-name” url’s.

    We are all aware of the “brand-name” websites which have been cloaking, spamming etc etc. but still continue to return page one results on Google – Moneysupermarket.com, Endsleigh car insurance, I could go on.

    Paul

  86. Dave (original)

    “A healthy disregard for the impossible” :)

    MWA, perhaps you should read a book called “The Google Story” by David A. Vise. It’s a great read and shows just how Google is NOT like any other company before it. There is even a chapter on Matt (AKA “The Porn Cookie “Guy”)

    Google is being sued, no doubt, as we speak, but it doesn’t bow down to it……and hopefully never will.

    One would need to weigh up the cost of SE spam V.S a “Hall of shame” page on their site to know if it is “practical”, or not.

  87. Kristian Kjærgaard

    I actually live in the same town as the two backers, and they seem to have disappeared off the face of the earth (for those who understand Danish, have a look at http://comon.dk/index.php/news/show/id=33792).

  88. Joost, as we mentioned in September they’re not just advertising on Adwords for the keyword ‘cloaking’. They’re advertising for ‘search engine optimisation’. I trust you’ll look into that as well Matt?

  89. glengara

    I’d rather not see banning from AW for “search” guideline violations, the more the two arms remain distinct and separate the better, IMO….

  90. I’m with adam in that I don’t quite understand why Google cares about blackhats either. They certainly show all of us daily how much they hate Google and that Google is the enemy.

    http://sphinn.com/story/15974

    Of course; that blogger/self-proclaimed blackhat hates Google just like he states that Google hates him and all of us. It should be noted how many “Spin” members in there “spinned” that blog to the front page. That’s simply what many of this industry think…. “Google is the enemy”. Why Google cares about these people is beyond comprehension. They want to cheat the google system at every opportunity they get.

    If Google is my enemy and gives my sites free referrals; I’d hate to see what a friend looks like.

  91. Peter

    oh man, the author of the Danish piece as shown in the top of this page cant even spell Danish words correctly. In every possible way they are just amateurs.

  92. BTW Matt; I’m very curious;

    http://www.google.com/enterprise/mini/success_stories.html

    Is Google actually “voting for” or recommending all of those sites on that page? Were they screened for search engine spam, etc first, or are they added to the page just because they bought the search appliance?

    I also see that 2 of the first 5 sites listed on that page are redirecting to a new domain, other than the one that is listed.

    I realize “you” don’t have anything to do with that page or the appliance, or really anything at all with that page, but what do you think about the idea of Google giving “lots” of credit to those sites like they are?

    just curious. :)

  93. >>> First, they claim that if a “brand-name” company
    >>> cloaks, Google won’t remove the brand-name domain.
    >>> That’s simply not true; if we believe that a company
    >>> is abusing Google’s index by cloaking, we certainly do
    >>> reserve the right to remove that company’s domains
    >>> from our index

    now .. do you remove or don’t you remove?

    or would you say “to remove” is basically the same as “to reserve the right to remove”?

    now this is what we love google so much for, they’ll never ever say “yes” or “no”, they’ll always give us a cloud of words which in the end means … nothin’ !

  94. Justin

    Matt, with all do respect…
    I have contacted Google in the past regarding a cloaking incident with a competitor of my now ex-client. It is my job to ensure that my clients get a fair shake at quality rankings, so yes, I snitched. This competitor is definitely a big-brand, and they were hiding text on their page within a DIV, not even true cloaking.

    After contacting Google the site got a penalty for a month. After the month, the site returns to the results same position as before #2 right above my client. I go take a look at the site and sure enough the same hidden text resides. I go back to Google and you say this time it will be 3 month penalty. Cool, maybe the cheater will get the message. Nope, sure enough after 3 months, they were right back in the mix and ranking right in there at #2 right above my client.

    As the time frame progressed, my client and I were completely frustrated as well we should be. While we are doing white hat SEO all the way, we have to deal with this SPAM-ing competitor and just take it up the you know what. 6 months later, our client ended the contract with us. We had them in a good position too! But, their competitor was in a better position. This all transpired in 2005.

    So, why do I still care right? Well, every 6 months or so, I go back to see how well that competitor is doing for the high profile term, and how they stack up next to my ex-client. Every time I check, sure enough there is that competitor outranking my ex-client and still hiding the block of content.

    So what did Google do to fix the issue; absolutely nothing. Two full years have gone by, the competitor still hides content and ranks without penalty. So does Google ban big brand companies cloaking? In my instance, the answer is a resounding NO.

    Danish Company – 1
    Google – 0

    The amazing thing is I still practice 100% white hat tactics after dealing and still seeing this whole mess continue.

    Justin

  95. Hey all, we’ve considered a “wall of shame” before but it would be pretty high-maintenance. I think working on improving our algorithms and mostly focusing on more positive messaging has been a better use of our time overall. Doug, I meant to check on that–thanks for reminding me.

    Dave (original), I do completely agree with you about putting the user first, and I’ve been working with AdWords folks on the issue. M.W.A., you asked why webspam couldn’t provide help/people to other parts of the company like ads. We do help how we can; in fact, one of my fave webspam engineers moved over to ads a year or two ago and has helped that part of the company with signals to improve ads.

  96. Shaun

    Nonsense the googlebot doesnt always distinguish, cloaking has been going on for years unnoticed

  97. Hey Matt

    Just checking … is cloaking, or blackhat in general, considered an acceptable business practice these days?

    I only ask because this thread and another recent one (giving the advice “keep your blackhat networks separate from your whitehat networks”) give the general impression that blackhat is OK as long as you’re good at it! Surely you don’t mean that? Otherwise I can see a whole new line of business I could open up. :D

  98. Henrik Strobel

    Hi Matt

    It’s a shame you don’t read Danish! Today the chief idiot from Cloaking System / Refocus, Marcel Fuursted, has posted a very long post regarding this case.

    He writes that Google and you has made a fool out of themselves by showing “very old stuff” from the early versions of their cloaking system and that the company today has hundreds of cloaked websites online that Google cannot detect.

    Furthermore he writes that Google does not have the courage to remove any brand domains and he states that he can prove this by the fact that e.g. engodsag.dk still is in the Google index. He also states that it is wrong when the management in engodsag.dk claims that they were unaware of the use of cloaking.

    It seems that Marcel Fuursted is doing excactly what he did some month ago when he and his company launched a press release saying: “How to cheat Google”. He has learned absolutely nothing and his disciples seem to beleive him. This means that Cloaking System is back in business.

    Also he states that the “American company ready to buy Cloaking System” is now even more interested after your posting here because your posting proves (according to Marcel Fuursted) that Google are unable to find and remove the cloaked websites made by their system.

    Many of us working professional and in serious maner with SEO here in Denmark are extremely mad at all this fuzz. Our clients don’t know what to think and beleive.

    Many of us hope that Google will make at clear statement and remove whatever you see fit to prove once and for all that this kind of businnes is not accetable.

    Anyway: thanks for providing us with some kinda proff that Google might remove brand domains because of cloaking. We hope that we kan remove the “kinda” and see a real actin taken against these fools.

  99. Henrik Strobel

    Sorry I forgot to post the URL to the forum where the above mentioned take place. I trust you know someone who can translate this for you. It will be worth it!
    http://www.amino.dk/forums/t/22527.aspx?PageIndex=6

  100. Brent

    Thanks Matt. One question. When will thescripts.com and velocityreview.com (both MFA scraper sites) be penalized? They dominate your SERPS for a lot of .net programming language search phrases and are just terrible sites that offer no unique content but still show up Page 1 constantly. They definately make Google look bad.

  101. Brent

    Pardon me, velocityreviews.com with an s in the domain.

  102. RugGuy

    Matt,

    I’ve been running into some pretty strange stuff lately that looks like some form of cloaking to me, and even though I don’t see directly how it is benefiting the site that appears to be responsible, I’m sure that it is looking at some of the positions they have.

    I have performed some Google searches for content taken directly from websites that sell rugs – among the sites that are returned for the content are several strange .info domains – for instance take a look at this SERP.

    Each of the .info domains returns a 403 forbidden response, yet somehow resolves on the RugsUSA.com site. It looks like cloaking because the cached version of these sites is not even close to the site that you reach by clicking through the result, and it contains content from multiple other rugs sites all mixed together. As I said the search that was performed was for content from another rugs site (which doesn’t even come back in the results anymore).

    As I said, I’m not completely sure as to how this cloaking is working, but given that when I do a site search for any of these .info domains I find many many pages that all behave this way, and when I search for some of the titles that they use on these pages (such as Size 2 3 X 4 Oval Rug) I find more than 8,000 of these .info domains that all contain the same type of content and resolve on RugsUSA.com for the user. Given that RugsUSA.com positions #2 for the term “rugs” – this seems to be working for them.

    So my questions – Is this cloaking? How does cloaking on this network of domains benefit the RugsUSA.com domain? And how does Google detect this sort of thing – if you even can?

  103. You should have Steven Wright quotes in every post :)

  104. Matt if you start the Hall of Shame I want to be number one… will it have a link to my web site?

  105. Damn straight you will have a link to your site Aussie. It will be totally direct as well………. with a nofollow of course. :D

    I see no legal reasons why Google couldn’t do it anyway. After all; they have a set of guidelines they ask people to follow, otherwise bad stuff can happen in the index to that site. Posting links to the blackhats who get caught spamming is simply an extension of that. I know Google will keep improving spam detection, but there will always be spam. The hall of shame would work to warn new people who are looking to find help with their sites.

  106. Harith

    Matt,

    “Hey all, we’ve considered a “wall of shame” before but it would be pretty high-maintenance.”

    Most of us here have noticed that you have lately been “very soft” or rather “very friendly” on those unethical SEOes. Aarton Wall? I wish to see you spend more time on supporting ethical SEOes instead :(

    In that spirit, how about a “SEO Wall of shame” listing the unethical SEOes who WebSpam Team consider them violating Google Quality Guidelines. That would be a very useful warning to unsavvy publishers not to deal with those spammers?

    That would be in accordance with Google Quality Guidelines
    Google Quality Guidelines :

    Choose wisely.

    While you consider whether to go with an SEO, you may want to do some research on the industry. Google is one way to do that, of course. You might also seek out a few of the cautionary tales that have appeared in the press, including this article on one particularly aggressive SEO: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/businesstechnology/2002002970_nwbizbriefs12.html. While Google doesn’t comment on specific companies, we’ve encountered firms calling themselves SEOs who follow practices that are clearly beyond the pale of accepted business behavior. Be careful.

  107. ahem,

    Yeah, I’m blunt.

  108. It took out the PHP:

    error_reporting(0);

  109. Carnitine

    Haha, reading that guy’s email reminded me of this fellow

    http://www.warnerwebdesign.com/engines.html
    “This is the equivalent of Raging Thermonuclear Warfare against the engines. We use secrets that are shared with no one. You, as the commander in Chief have only one job in this, “Give The Order””

  110. Sorry Matt, no PubCon for me this year. Brett announced the dates ONE DAY after I booked flights for the entire family to come to my place for a holiday visit so I’m stuck with people in my house while everyone else is having a good time.

    Heck, I’m just up 101 so anytime is good for me!

  111. Dave (original)

    Hey all, we’ve considered a “wall of shame” before but it would be pretty high-maintenance.

    I would gladly volunteer my time as would many others, I’m sure. A Google employee could screen before going live.

    Algos are great for after the fact, but too often the SEO company who uses the spam *gets off and paid*, while their naive customers are bannished and out of pocket for the pleasure!. I would love to see a prevention approach in addition to algos.

    Or, maybe Google could make an example of a SEO company who spams Google, sue them and make the case high profile and VERY public.

  112. VVRISTLE

    But Marcel Fuursted is absolutely right when he says that Google is not able to detect good cloaking. There are so much brands out there which are cloaking like hell for years now.
    Btw, when will eBay be kicked out of your index. They are probably the biggest spammers around. Ahhh, wait, they are also the biggest AdWords advertiser and this surely makes things kinda different…

  113. Dave (original)

    And how does Google detect this sort of thing – if you even can?

    You don’t seriously expect an answer to that, do you?

    Most of us here have noticed that you have lately been “very soft” or rather “very friendly” on those unethical SEOes. Aarton Wall? I wish to see you spend more time on supporting ethical SEOes instead

    Amen to that! In fact, I read the last few posts as Matt actually condoning spam (or a least being ambiguous) and even giving tips on how to NOT get caught.

  114. Alan, I definitely don’t approve of black hat techniques at all. I think I said as much on the other thread. Ah, here it is:

    “MWA, I’m happy to clarify. I think it’s a Bad Idea to do blackhat stuff. I absolutely do *not* condone blackhat spam. But if you have white hat properties, it’s even less recommended to mix blackhat-ish stuff with whitehat-ish stuff.”

  115. Matt, does Google do anything about all of the spam in that’s encountered in Blog Search? The wife uses it the most because she likes to use it for tracking down weird articles for work, but with all of the cloaks/redirects to the ‘bad sites’. I think its almost time to simply give up using it. I was using it myself for a few queries, but no dice, got redirected to a pharmaceutical site. Has any thought been given to implementing a user controlled method to “preview” what’s really behind the links without having to endure clicking them.

  116. Dave (original)

    Right click on any link and choose Properties.

  117. Harith

    Henrik Strobel

    “It’s a shame you don’t read Danish! Today the chief idiot from Cloaking System / Refocus, Marcel Fuursted, has posted a very long post regarding this case.”

    And Googling for the same “Marcel Fuursted” brings up few interesting things :)

    “Marcel Fuursted”

  118. Hi Matt, Nice post!

    One question though, on your road to automatically detect cloaking would be be able to answer a couple of questions. If a webpage has some content that is randomly shown to the enduser is opened by Google one time, and isn’t there, and then opened in a manual review and IS there does that count as cloaking?

    Technically speaking i think it is? But that doesn’t sound very fair to me! But that leads me to the question, how do you go about detecting the differences with websites that add for example “nofollow” to outgoing links via cloaking? Is there a manual review? Because if a website say for example lists random related websites in a list, not to saturate the websites content then surely it may be seen that people are removing content via cloaking?

    Thanks

  119. JB

    Matt

    Thanks for your reply to my question about whether enforcing your guidelines will be harder with big companies.

    One area which I feel could lead to problems is sites which specifically rank very well using the DP co-op link network.

    For example, there is large UK mobile network using this to target phrases such as “mobile phones”, guess what, they rank at position 2 for this phrase at google.co.uk

    Now, where I feel this is a problem, is that competitors might look and think if they are doing it why don’t we, and smaller firms might see the fact it works and goes unpunished as a signal of acceptance or even that it’s undetectible to Google – both of which I’m sure are not true.

    In this type of high-profile scenario, surely the sensible thing would be for somebody from google to have a word with someone from this (unamed) mobile network and point out they are breaking the rules and to stop it.

    Judging from your reply to my last post, where you mentioned penalties lasting for “weeks”, it’s obvious that google is not going to wipe out big brand sites or even penalise them for months, but I think high profile areas need a bit more policing or they will suck in more and more companies willing to give it a try.

  120. Peter Kristensen

    Mikkel deMib Svendsen >

    Fortunately that you just altered your blog post about hiring Marcel Fuursted (founder of Refocus and Cloaking Systems). And for those not believing me, we can use Google as a proof. Until Google again decides to crawl Mr. deMib Svendsen´s blog, which he surely must be waiting for.

    As of 24 November 2007, the blog post looked like this: http://64.233.183.104/search?q=cache:M6ian9rbCiEJ:www.demib.dk/marcel-fuursted-demib-524.html

    As of today, the blog post is changed to this: http://www.demib.dk/marcel-fuursted-demib-524.html

    Adding the line “OBS: Marcel Fuursted arbejder ikke længere hos deMib.com ApS” – meaning that Marcel Fuursted no longer is working at deMib.com ApS.

    It is rather convenient, that Mr. deMib Svendsen seems to forget his relations. Some days earlier he forgot he was co-owning a large Danish webshop – even though he was bashing about a competitor and explicitly related to Hjem.dk and favored them.

    And if people tend to be critical on his blog, they’ll get filtered out.

    Mr. deMib Svendsen, who are you working with – and couldn’t you just admit that you are offering cloaking for your clients as well? I could easily translate several of your postings, if you deny any knowledge of either cloaking or blackhat SEO.

  121. Michael

    Hi Matt,

    I’ve been following the last few days debate about cloaking. I second Henrik Strobels motion, and only wish you could read Danish. Then you’d thoroughly enjoy this Marcel Fuursted guy now wriggling like a worm on his blog: http://www.fuursted.net/cloaking-system-i-søgelyset.aspx

    To sum up, he now claims that the error pages were made intentionally and only as a bait to track where Google come from, and Googles procedure for closing/banning a site.

    Finally, he emphasizes that Google wouldn’t dream about banning brand sites using such cloaking/black hat techniques and that it’s all just one big PR stunt…

    He might consider taking a big bite of the reality sandwich ;)

    /Michael

  122. Hi Matt

    Congratulations! Your posting made you rather famous in Denmark way beyond us in the SEO world. All the major media now quote you and this article while describing the case with Refocus and Cloaking System.

    The story is basically that your “opponent”, Marcel Fuursted, says in the media, that Google and you are unable to detect anything at all and that the error files from engodsag.dk were “traps” placed in purpose to see, if you guys would find them – and then what you would do about them.

    Exciting to see what the next step will be in this farce….

    I take it for granted that your Danish language skills are a bit rusty, but in case you know anyone with a Danish background who can translate:

    http://www.computerworld.dk/art/42982?a=fp_2&i=513

    http://www.comon.dk/index.php/news/show/id=33824

    Have a happy weekend and greetings to your cat ;-)

  123. I guess I’m too simple to understand what “Undetectable cloaking” is. All you have to do is compare the google cached version with the real website and you’ll know. Google can do that too.

    What difference does it make wether or not a search engine can “find out who is behind the cloaking”? If it’s there they can remove the site from the index. Really doesn’t matter who did it.

  124. Alan, I definitely don’t approve of black hat techniques at all. I think I said as much on the other thread. Ah, here it is:

    “MWA, I’m happy to clarify. I think it’s a Bad Idea to do blackhat stuff. I absolutely do *not* condone blackhat spam. But if you have white hat properties, it’s even less recommended to mix blackhat-ish stuff with whitehat-ish stuff.”

    He did, too. I was the idiot he put in his place that way, so yeah he did. ;)

    What difference does it make wether or not a search engine can “find out who is behind the cloaking”? If it’s there they can remove the site from the index. Really doesn’t matter who did it.

    The same difference it makes whether or not the cops can find out who’s selling Colombian fine powder to the thousands of people who stick it up their noses via straws.

    Did anyone else think that was a no-brainer?

  125. I guess for Google it is beneficial to have good relations with some spammers. It helps them find out about new spam techniques before they get popular. That some spammers make some money with it is probably just an acceptable evil.

    “Don’t be evil” often means allowing some evil to prevent worse.

  126. “The same difference it makes whether or not the cops can find out who’s selling Colombian fine powder to the thousands of people who stick it up their noses via straws.”

    Right, so now Google should be the police?

    And besides that, if you want to reduce the fine powder consumption, you will fail misserably if you just try to cut down the supply. All you do with that is make it more expensive. What works better is make the public aware of the fact that it is stupid to use it. You know, like Google tries to make people aware that spamming is stupid to do. Works much better. If it wasn’t for Google, every company with a website would consider spamming. Now its just a couple of idiots that make a business out of spamming, but most websites online don’t spam. Which makes Google’s job of building great search results much easier.

    Most prevention is indirect and for that reason works much better.

  127. Thomas Dybdahl Ahle

    Hey, I just stumpled upon an answer to this post from the creator of the danish software: http://www.fuursted.net/cloaking-system-i-s%c3%b8gelyset.aspx

    It says:
    [quote]Google laver altså PR stunts ind imellem – og jeg er overbevist om, at de gør det samme her… Forestil dig alternativet! Google fjerner et cloak-domæne OG det domæne der redirectes/cloakes til – altså branddomænet. Der er INGEN relationer mellem cloak- og branddomæne, men Google vælger at fjerne branddomænet også (i dette scenarie altså ;-)). ENGODSAG.dk’s direktion ved ikke, at vi har cloaket til dem (igen, noget jeg beklager på det dybeste – jeg vil aldrig selv anbefale en velgørende virksomhed at cloake. Læs mere om min udtalelse her), men alligevel vælger Google at true med at udelukke deres branddomæne i søgemaskinerne (officielt via pressen for at skræmme ;-)). Tænk hvis de gjorde det. Der er cloaket til et domæne uden at ENGODSAG.dk har været klar over det og det skulle altså ende med at de bliver straffet for det, hvis Googles udtalelse skulle holde vand?! HVIS der var hold i deres udtalelse ville det medføre ragnarok i deres eget indeks. ALLE ville cloake (med vores løsning eller deres egne) til deres konkurrenter, da Google jo udelukker dem der cloakes TIL… Cloaking System ville ikke længere være et SEO værktøj. Det ville være BEDRE! Det ville være et online KRIGS-værktøj som alle bruger til at bekæmpe hinanden i søgemaskinerne. Fremtiden vil ikke hedde at kæmpe for en høj placering – nej, fremtiden er at kæmpe for at fjerne konkurrenterne…[/quote]

    Or translated: [quote]So Google makes PR stunts once in a while – and I’m sure that’s also what they are doing here… Imagine the alternative! Google removes a clock-domain AND the damain that’s being redirected/clocked to – the brand-domain. There is NO relations between the clock- and brand-domain, but Google chooses to remove the brand-domain as well (in this scenario). ENGODSAG.dk’s owners don’t know, that we have cloaked to them (again, something I apologise deeply – I’d never recommend a ‘good cause’ company to clock), but Google chooses to threaten to ban their brand-domain in the search engine (through to press to scare).
    Imagine if they did so. There is clocked upon a domain without ENGODSAG.dk knowing about it, and eventually they should be punished, if Google keeps its word at least?! IF they were to do what they say, it’d lead to Armageddon in their own index. EVERYBODY would cloak (with our solution or their own) to their competitors. As Google seams to ban the people who are cloaked UPON… Clocking Systemes would no longer remain a SCO tool. It would be even BETTER! It would be an online WAR-tool, which everybody would use to fight each other in the searchengines. In the future we would not fight to get a high rating, but to get the competitors baned…[/quoted]

    Or summarised: [quote]If Google starts to remove the domains that the clock-domains redirect to, everybody could create clock-domains redirecting to their competitors, and thus have them baned. Conclusion: This can only be seen as a simple PR stunt.[/quote]

  128. @ Dave (original): “Right click on any link and choose Properties.”

    I don’t see that as a viable solution for normal people, a better solution would be to add a small notification that you will be re-directed and allow you to mouse over it and see a preview of the actual site you are going to end up at. SEOs need to step out of their wonderlands and start thinking about how to make the web family friendly and user concentric.

    I have nothing against anyone, but with my business being my only source of income, a good customer experience and complete satisfaction is of the utmost importance.

  129. And besides that, if you want to reduce the fine powder consumption, you will fail misserably if you just try to cut down the supply.

    Okay…so by reducing the supply of product to consume, and therefore making it more difficult to find, you don’t reduce the overall consumptin.

    There’s nothing wrong with educating people, but if ther’es less of a likelihood to need to educate them (i.e. with reduced supply) then it costs less to educate and therefore frees up more resource for other things.

    Your logic is extremely flawed, and no sane person could come to the conclusion that you just did.

  130. Alan, I definitely don’t approve of black hat techniques at all

    I knew as much, but that wasn’t quite the question. :)

    The question was “Is cloaking, or blackhat in general, considered an acceptable business practice?”

    You [where you = matt|google|both] are sending out signals is that it IS acceptable, even if you don’t approve of it. The message is …

    - 1. If you [where you=webmasters] do it and get away with it, that’s fine. Good luck to you. We’ll try our hardest to stop you though.
    - 2. If we catch you doing something and you fix it, that’s fine eventually … where the length of “eventually” varies according to how much the absence of your brand from our search results will damage our searchers’ experience. Even if you don’t fix it, you may be fine.
    - 3. If you advertise your blackhat products and services on Adwords, that’s fine. It’s not as if you’re advertising evil things, like beer. And hey, your spend can fund our research into catching you. :D
    - 4. If you keep your black hat networks separate from your white hat networks, that’s fine. Just make sure you’re good at it, so we can’t catch you. If we catch you, go to step 2.

    It’s not exactly a damning indictment of deceptive practices, is it? :)

  131. roflmao, another stupid company :D

  132. Okay…so by reducing the supply of product to consume, and therefore making it more difficult to find, you don’t reduce the overall consumptin.

    There’s nothing wrong with educating people, but if ther’es less of a likelihood to need to educate them (i.e. with reduced supply) then it costs less to educate and therefore frees up more resource for other things.

    Your logic is extremely flawed, and no sane person could come to the conclusion that you just did.

    Well, I don’t want to get into a deep discussion about how to prevent fine powder use, but considering the fact that the use of fine powder in the usa never dropped while the usa has been extremely agressive in reducing the supply shows, at least in part, that just reducing the supply has little effect on the usage.

    So yes, I’m saying that simply reducing supply isn’t going to reduce the usage. So in my opinion your logic that it becomes more difficult to find is wrong. Because the reality is that supply isn’t reduced, the suppliers just have to be more creative in finding ways to get it to the consumer and accept that more shipments get cought, which has only one result: It makes the powder more expensive. That is, unfortunately, the reality and I don’t really care about solutions that work on paper but fail in the real world.

    Now don’t get me wrong,… I’m not saying the police should stop trying to reduce the supply. Idealistically the police should be able to stop every shipment. In that case your logic would actually work. But that’s in an idealistic world. In a realistic world, just trying to cut supply isn’t going to work. Public awareness does much more but that is also very difficult to achieve.

    So in my opinion attacking the problem from both sides is the best way to go.

    Google managed to change public opinion on search engine spam. All the old timer SEO’s that used to create specific pages for each search engine that mattered (before Google) are no longer doing this and they will even tell you now that that is spamming.

    Imagine you could fine every person that used the fine powder, every time they use it. Or that you could take away their findability (for example by taking them out of the phonebook, address search, disconnect their phonelines, etc.) Public opinion on the fine powder would change in a heart beat (from “I don’t care” to “don’t use it!!!”), especially if you’d make it very obvious why their findability has gone down to almost zero.

    See,. that’s what Google does… :) You spam and get cought, you´re out of their index, you can’t be found anymore and then they make it very obvious why you´re out of their index. That changed public opinion very efficiently.

  133. Henrik Strobel, I very much agree with you!

    Matt, I hope, and trust, that you follow the case closely and what is being said by Cloaking Systems in the Danish press. I do think, like henrik, that you will HAVE to remove at least one prominent brand domain (not just the cloaked domain) from cloaking systems to prove that Marcel is very wrong in stating a 100% guarantee that nothing can or will happen.

    I am have been fighting “gurantees” in SEO ever since I started many years ago. I guess most of us know that you just can’t give guarantees like that. Its like giving a gurantee that it will be good weather tomorrow :)

    The reason for me begging you to ban a site (which I guess, must be the first time I ever asked you to do that hehe) is that once you do this Marcel’s guarantee will be proven wrong. And we realy do need that. I beg you! :)

    Marcel keeps using the same old argument that you and I also discussed before, that if you ban a a site that a cloaked domain redirect to, cloaking will just be reversed to an attack weapon. However, what Marcel forget is that just because you may chose to remove some brand domains don’t mean you will remove all.

    Also, I am sure you have more data to prove your case than what I know you will bring in public. I am pretty sure that you have by now found the many technical glitches in their system that actually do connect the cloaked and the brand domains. If not, let me know …

    And listen to Strikepoint on Monday – it will be shockingly white hat :)

  134. Dave (original)

    Wave Shop,

    The day I rely on anyone other than myself to look after my best interests is the day I give it up.

    I have nothing against anyone, but with my business being my only source of income, a good customer experience and complete satisfaction is of the utmost importance.

    Again, then do NOT rely on anyone but yourself to deliver that.

    MWA, yes it was a non-brainer, but when they made Peter they accidentally (cough) dropped the mold :)

  135. Great post as usual Matt

    As a DIY Webmaster I just don’t “get” why people bother with cloaking.

    Write the words, put them on a page, then write more words and put them on another page.

    If what you write is relevant to a topic and a theme then surely both the visitor and the search engine will be happy.

    And in that case – why not just serve the same content to both……?

  136. Hey Peter Kristensen; I thought that deMib Svendsen has proclaimed he would cloak and do blackhat if his clients wanted it? I don’t think that is news to anyone. I do think he tries to educate clients that blackhat should not be used, but I also think he does use it on occasion.

    Matt Cutts; Please read the Alan Perkins post right above. Read it twice if necessary as it’s a very good point.

  137. I’ve had many ideas other than a “hall of shame”. Here’s one of them.. at least part of one:

    meta name=”SEO” content=”ihelpyou, Inc.”

    If a site hires an “outside” firm to help them, the firm applies to google as an outside firm and which sites they are helping, and firm is shown by the client in the head tag. Google could then show an icon of some sorts by the listing in the serps that the site is being helped by that firm. This would do a couple of things.

    First; it would pretty much weed out the blackhats from participating as they want to remain under the radar.

    Second; it would show people who need help which “whitehat” seo’s actually help clients do well in Google.

    Third; it would do all of this while keeping google from actually “shaming” blackhats directly, and would indirectly show google users who the actual whitehats are and who is not afraid of letting google know they are helping which sites.

    Much more to this but that gives the main points. :)

  138. It’s a good news.
    I loathe webspam. :)

  139. Cloaking has been going on for years unnoticed, it is about time google takes some actions against it…

  140. The good thing is that as others said the miniority does spam, this is actually good so google can learn from these guys what techniques are being developed and take action before it spreads.

  141. As a DIY Webmaster I just don’t “get” why people bother with cloaking.

    With all due respect, Ray, you’re an intelligent man whose head isn’t shoved straight up his own ass so there’s no possible way you (or I or anyone else with half a clue) could fully understand.

    Think like an idiot, and it might become partly clear.

  142. Hi Adam,

    Good to catch up with you my friend :)

    With all due respect, Ray, you’re an intelligent man whose head isn’t shoved straight up his own ass so there’s no possible way you (or I or anyone else with half a clue) could fully understand.

    Think like an idiot, and it might become partly clear.

    I’ve tried everything to try and bring my mentality down to this level, on a temporary basis, just to understand – yoga, hypnosis, chanting – you name it…

    …But I still don’t get it….

    I think I’ll just stick to putting new stuff on my site and mixing with intelligent people – it seems to work for me! :)

  143. Dave (original)

    I do think he tries to educate clients that blackhat should not be used, but I also think he does use it on occasion.

    Kind of a like an “ethical” hit man. He will TRY and talk you out of having someone killed…………….but money wins in the end!

  144. Guy in Problem

    Hi Matt,

    I have not been a regular reader of your blog but have been reading it on and off. I recently read your answers at the seomoz blog post. It is certainly a great task you are doing to fight out spam as a Googler. I would make sure that I add your blog to my daily reads. :)

    Coming to my query – I own a blog in a competitive niche. We have been following the google guidelines and adding good content to our site from several months and have seen gradual rise in our rankings for some competitive terms – all good so far :)

    However, I recently saw that our pages were not present on the results and were dropping from the index – this happened in the last week of november (when I noticed it) but when I checked deeply, I found that someone had inserted deeplinks in our blog (wordpress) code without our knowledge. It was not visible to us but hidden in a css. Those links were for some viagra stuff and definitely were of shady kind. As soon as we saw that, we removed those links but google referrals have been dropping every day. When I checked the google cache, it seems that this has been going on for more than 10 days before I stumbled upon this.

    My query is – once I have removed those links and made sure that they do not appear again, is it something else I do to get back those good rankings we enjoy? We are adding content to our blog as we were earlier and getting new links every day. If we do not need to do anything additional, how much time should we realistically wait for to get back those rankings? Anything we can do to speed up the process?

    I know you have a busy schedule and I don’t expect a full site review but if you could just give a brief answer, it would be greatly appreciated. If that would take too much of your valuable time, please give a few pointers to where I could find more related answers.

    Thanks in advance. :)

  145. Guy in Problem, it’s possible that we detected the hack and classified your site as spammy. To be safe, I would do a reconsideration request. You might also post your story and site name in our webmaster help group at http://groups.google.com/group/Google_Webmaster_Help-Indexing/topics

  146. Guy in Problem

    Thanks Matt for taking time to answer – much appreciated :)

    I’ll be doing what you mentioned but was curious that if without doing these steps, my site doesn’t stand to come back in the rankings by itself – like when google detects the site as spammy – there should be a way that google also detects this site automatically as being devoid of spam – I understand that this may take some time, let’s say – 10 days, 30 days, 60 days, 90 days or more but there must be some way to safeguard some innocent sites algorithimically, don’t you think so too? This should be in the interest of google also otherwise too many innocent mom and pop sites are in the danger of loosing their well-earned rankings because of several years hard work of legitimate sites being exploited my malicious competitors. just trying to give some feedback because of my recent experience to you which should help you in fighting web spam

    Once again, thanks for taking time to answering my query – it’s good that Google has great people like you in web spam team. :)

  147. If this is true, then how-come you continue to let sites like expert’s exchange mask content? They’re essentially doing the same, showing content to search engines for SEO purposes but then hiding it from real users. In fact what they’re doing is worse because users are likely to do a search, find out the listing to expert’s exchange, read the description and realise they’ve found a solution. But when they get to the actual site the solution is no longer there. This not only confuses them but also can’t put much confidence in Google’s finding abilities if it finds content that is no longer there.

  148. Dave (original)

    I agree with Lewis 100% I would think the least Google could do for its users in flag these type links with “Registration required to view”.

  149. Sune

    Im kind of embarrassed to be dane! Engodsag.dk is a charity organization, though the man in charge refuse that he ordered cloacking, it seems a bit odd.

    I think its funny people have to cloack there websites to get hits! Why dont the just build a proper product or advertise like every other company on f***ing planet earth!

  150. Henrik Strobel

    Yeah it’s odd. And even more odd that engodsag.dk claim to be without knowledge of the performed cloaking. Consider that you’ll find pages like these on their domain as well. Also without their knowledge?

    http://209.85.135.104/search?hl=da&q=cache%3Ahttp%3A%2F%2Fnetbutikker.engodsag.dk%2Finternetbutik%2Fnetbutikker-herretoej-basicwear.php&meta=

    Try visiting the page directly: http://netbutikker.engodsag.dk/internetbutik/netbutikker-herretoej-basicwear.php

  151. Lewis: in the case of Experts Exchange, the masking is actually pretty simple to get around. “Cached” is a wonderful thing. ;) (Just because I know some people don’t know it, and I’ve never been big on Experts Exchange charging premium prices for what effectively is free content.)

  152. Michael Wagner

    There are occasional reasons when cloaking is sensible. Consider it more url rewriting. phpbb V3 uses it to remove id tokens from the url shown to search engines. The id tokens are used to preserve state information within one visit (for users who are casual visitors, not members). Without this function, as I understand it, search engines would see the same content with slightly different URLs on each visit.

  153. Henrik Strobel

    Now this is interesting! On December 3rd I posted a cloaked page on engodsag.dk her at Matt’s place: http://209.85.135.104/search?hl=da&q=cache%3Ahttp%3A%2F%2Fnetbutikker.engodsag.dk%2Finternetbutik%2Fnetbutikker-herretoej-basicwear.php&meta=

    This URL is no longer in the Google cache. However aprox. 136 other cloaked pages are still live and searchable in Google: http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=site%3Anetbutikker.engodsag.dk%2Finternetbutik%2F&btnG=Google+Search

    Isn’t that a bit odd? Google removing just one URL out of more than a hundred cloaked ones? In case the commercial company engodsag.dk has found a way to plea “not guilty” after getting caught with two different cloaking solutions and succeed in the plea, I would love to have the recipe… ;-)

  154. To Sune writing in here:

    There’s really no need to be embarrassed to be Dane! You write that it seems a bit odd that we refuse we ordered cloaking. Well, as I wrote in here, here is the confirmation from the company, at which we WERE a customer:

    “We’re sorry that we’ve made a cloaking website without your written approval of this. The mistake is ours alone, and we should have informed you about what this website could do. The website has not been in your interest, and it has been removed again right away.”

    You might add to this that we knew nothing about the domains in question – how should we know that another company have registrered a domain using our brand name at the DK Hostmaster? Please note that we have of course requested to get this domain shut down at once, when we learned about this. Which is done by now. So this should explain your question about the domains being used for the cloaking – we have NEVER owned these and would never order domains to use for that purpose. We can, of course, also prove that we never owned these domains, said okay for them to be used etc.

    Apart from that, I totally agree with you that people shouldn’t cloak there websites to get hits. Also, it would be extremely stupid for us to do on purpose – since we have a good Google Page Rank, have a high brand knowledge in Denmark (62%) and therefore would have absolutely no interest in trying to “cheat” Google.

  155. And to Henrik Strobel:

    As I mentioned to the other person writing in here, we can’t control what other companies put up – and which domains they buy. As I mentioned, we asked DK Hostmaster to ban these domains – since we never booked them or used them ourselves. And as you can also notice, if you check it out, the domains are not active – because DK Hostmaster suspended them after our request. (the domains are using our brand-name, and that is not acceptable).
    Google might still have them in their search results, but they don’t exist so hopefully they will soon automatically be out of the Google results – since they are not in our interest. As I mentioned, we’re against cloaking and have no benefit from using it with our Page Rank, brand knowledge etc. in mind.

  156. Henrik Strobel

    @ Jonathan Low:

    OK – I grant you the fact that those guys at Cloaking System obviously are extremely stupid. We hear and read about the so called SEO genious Marcel Fuursted almost daily and the stories are so “way out” that one can only laugh (or cry).

    But, Jonathan can you explain how more than hundred cloaked pages are on a subdomain to engodsag.dk without your knowledge? Onle the company in control of the domain are able to issue a subdomain. Andt that is basically what I don’t understand: How can this be on your website without you knowledge? I mean… netbutikker.engodsag.dk DOES belong to your company, right?

    I truly doubt that is is without your knowledge: http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=site%3Anetbutikker.engodsag.dk%2Finternetbutik%2F&btnG=Google+Search

  157. If you check for these pages, they are not existing – and have not been for a while. I have never been informed about these pages, and I hope they’ll soon be out of the Google index too. They do no good for us, our Page Rank etc. I presume they were part of the thing that our FORMER seo-company did for us – without us knowing how they used it and why they did as they did. As they have also confirmed to us.

    I should underline that I do not know much about cloaking, search engine optimization etc. since I’m not a tech guy – but I know about principles, and our principles are transparency, being honest and following good industry standards. Therefore I would never approve cloaking or other methods to “cheat” search engines. People that know me or our company and the company ethics will confirm this to you. I will also apologize if my responses in here are sometimes slow, but I’m a busy man and no in here so often. So please do e-mail me directly if you have any questions and I don´t response quickly enough in here. Search engines are very interesting, but luckily life is about more than just that matter … as interesting as it may be.

  158. Henrik Strobel

    OK, Jonathan. This is the case for you:

    No matter how extreme it might be you have been exposed to TWO different SEO Companies in Denmark, that BOTH made cloaking without your knowledge. You truly are a very unlucky man!

    First Notabene / Aizee does some cloaking as documented above for your company as early as in september or maybe even earlier. They do it at your own domain and without your knowledge. And they are leaving so many foot prints that even a rookie SEO kan track them in a minute.

    Second ANOTHER company – Cloaking System – does some cloaking on another domain. And again: Without your knowledge.

    I really doubt that you can fool Matt Cutts with this story. I don’t care about you using cloaking at all. But I really dislike the fact that you are so unwilling to take the blame that you try to convince the world that you have been fooled TWICE by two different companies. And despite the fact that you have been cloaked by two different companies you still claim that the cloaked pages documented by me is the same as the pages found by Matt.

    We’ll have to wait and see what Matt Cutts is going to do. If nothing happens we have learned a valuable lesson about how to cloak and get away with it. If you get deranked or blacklisted you have learned a valuable lesson, I hope.

  159. To Henrik Strobel: In the case of Cloaking Systems we have never been a customer with them. We were a customer at Refocus – their other company that is now bankrupt as far as I’m informed. And as I posted in here, we have a written statement sating that Refocus did something that we didn’t approve. This has also been passed on to Google of course.
    AND we have contacted DK Hostmaster to have these domains suspensed / closed.

    Regarding Notabene / Aizee we’re not a customer there. We used to be and used them to optimize our own pages. I can see that there is a subdomain, as you mention, but that this has also been closed. And in addition to this I have a contract stating that we must approve all methods and domains being used – and if they at some point have used cloaking that would be a clear violation of this deal. As a customer in general (regardless of the product being purchased) we can’t control everything they do, but only sign a deal protecting us against them violating the deal.

    We have no intentions about fooling anyone – if you knew me and our company, you would know that to be true. If you don’t trust me that is really your issue – not mine. We can only protect ourselves by writing contracts that are clear and can’t be mistaken. We can never control everyone, but we can prove that we have never accepted or condoned such methods – cloaking etc. These info have been sent to Google Denmark for their info.

  160. Henrik Strobel

    OK, Jonathan. I guess that’s just about it. We can conclude that you have been fooled twice by two different companies that both did cloaking to enhance engodsag.dk in Google and other search engines. I guess you qualify to “Most unfortunate SEO buyer of the year” :-)

    It does not look good for the SEO business in Denmark if this is normal practice! Notabene is one of the largest SEO companies in Denmark and now you state that they do cloaking etc. without their customers knowledge and/or accept. That’s not good! Regarding Refocus and Cloaking System: They were just a bunch of idiots that most of us in Denmark concider the “stupid boys”. And they are gone for the moment but back in business in another company as employees. One should better stay clear of their names in the future ;-)

    I’ll note the recipe and send you, Matt and all the readers here my wishes for a merry Christmas and a happy new year!

  161. Hi Henrik,
    I wish you and everyone else a merry Christmas. We’ve just donated more than 1,6 mio. Danish kroner to charity – a wonderful feeling and something making a huge difference for the charities that we work with – and the causes they support. That makes it all worthwhile!
    Just to clarify: I have not accused Notabene of anything. I do not know if they have used cloaking or not – as I stated we have never condoned or approved any sort of cloaking, but I’m not an expert so I don’t know the methods they are using or have been using. So I’ll not pretend to be an expert about that and won’t accuse others of anything.
    My main point was to ensure you and others (which we have also proof of) that we have never and will never approve cloaking – regardless of who we’re working with.

  162. Matt, pleasure getting to talk to you at Pubcon.

    As for my question, would you advise against non-nefarious acts of cloaking such as not serving up session id’s/affiliate urls or even ads to google but do so to users?

  163. K. Nielsen

    Dear Mr. Cutt

    Please try take a look at Mr. Mikkel DeMib Svendsen website:

    http://64.233.183.104/search?q=cache:M6ian9rbCiEJ:www.demib.dk/marcel-fuursted-demib-524.html

    It is written by Mr. deMib april 19. 2007. Below is a copy of the first chapter:

    “Det er lykkedes, at få lokket Marcel Fuursted over i mit firma deMib.com, hvor han som partner, søgemaskineekspert og salgsleder skal hjælpe med at fortsætte den positive udvikling i virksomheden. Jeg glæder mig meget til at arbejde tættere sammen med Marcel, og jeg er overbevist om at vores kunder vil få store glæde af hans brede erfaring”

    It’s written in danish, so I will translate it for you:

    “I have managed to get Marcel Fuursted into my company deMib.com, where he as a partner, seo expert and sales manager, will help continuing the positive expansion in my company. I’m looking forward to work closely with Marcel, and I’m convinced that our customers will get great pleasure of his great knowledge”

    The person, Marcel Fuursted, that Mr. deMib have “managed to get as a partner”, is the exact same person that owns the Danish cloacing-company. Macel Fuursted is abusing Google’s index by cloaking – and he is deMib’s partner.

    My question to you mr. Cutt is:

    How can I trust you and Google when you support mr. deMib? It is well known here in Denmark, that Mr. deMib himself use cloacking.
    Why is the one black hat okay and the other one isn’t?

    Please be aware that I don’t know any of the persons personally. I don’t prefer any of the two persons. But why do YOU favour Mr. deMib?

    Regards

    K. Nielsen
    Denmark

  164. K. Nielsen, you are a bloody liar!
    Why did you not translate THE FIRST PART of the text that clealy states that Marcel no longer have any affiliation with us?

    What is your interest in spreading lies?
    Trolling Matts Blogg with false information certainly do not earn you a star anywhere. Grow up and act like a man!

    Marcel was with us less than a month – then we realized he did not play an honest game with us either. We value honestly greatly and do not work with anyone we cannot trust or that lies to us.

  165. K. Nielsen

    Mr. deMib – Am I a liar? Why? Can you please tell me what I’ve said that’s not true???

    BTW – You knew Marcel very well before you hired him, and you knew how he is working. He works no different from you. So of course that is not the reason you don’t work with him anymore.

    He’s a black hat and so are you. The only difference is that he’s honest about it.

    K. Nielsen

  166. K. Nielsen

    Mr Cutts – I’m looking forward to hear from you.

    The same for you mr. deMib.

    K.Nielsen

  167. K. Nielsen

    Well. It doesn’t seems that neither mr. Cutts og mr. deMib want’s to comment on those questions.

    I am a great Google-fan, but it’s very hard for me to understand why one SEO black hat is okay in the eyes of Google, but the other one isn’t. Both mr. deMib and mr. Marcel Fuursted use cloacing and a lot of other dirty tricks to spam Google, resulting in bad search-results.

    But apparently the answers to my questions is flowing in the wind.

  168. K. Nielsen

    Okay. Still no answers. Not worth waiting for. I’m out of here and won’t be back.

  169. I doubt that you will get any further response her, Preben! Aknowledge your situation as it is now in Denmark. Stay with your printers instead!

    Sorry if this posting seems a little odd, but we have found the identity of “K. Nielsen” and it’s a long and sad story.

    Tomorrow there is a new day :-)

  170. The White Hatter

    Hi Matt,

    I found this post while doing cloak detection research on a website that is surely cloaking with what I believe to be undetectable cloaking code.

    The site is serving Google SER a description that cannot be obtained using readily available SEO analysis tools. And the description that is being fed to Google cannot be seen via View Source.

    “Save Page As” in Firefox and “Save As” in IE do not work either so it must be server side.

    I have also run the URL through at least a half dozen cloaking detectors and only one picked up anything fishy.

    Any way to verify if the site is indeed cloaking with proprietary Google tools?

    The site is: thisplace.com

    Any insight on this would be great as this site has mysteriously appeared on page one almost overnight.

    Regards,
    TWH

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