Webpage Cloaking and Daggering!

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Cloak and dagger is a term sometimes used to refer to situations involving intrigue, secrecy, espionage, or mystery. In historical European martial arts, the term can be taken literally, and refers to wielding a dagger in one hand and a cloak in the other. The purpose of the cloak was to obscure the presence or movement of the dagger… Use of the cloak and dagger was considered a “dishonest” method of combat because of its deceptive tactics.

Web-page Cloaking and Daggering are related Black Hat SEO and White Hate SEO techniques, respectively. SEO, of course, is Search Engine Optimization. There are many misconceptions about what is and isn’t Cloaking, as well as some people who think that cloaking and Daggering is actually the same. Daggering is not the same as Cloaking. They are very different and that is what this post is about.

Cloaking

Cloaking is a black hat search engine optimization (black hat SEO) technique in which the content presented to the search engine bot (crawler, robot or spider) is different from that presented to the user’s browser. This is done by delivering content based on the User-Agent HTTP header or IP addresses of the user requesting the page. When a user is identified as a search engine bot, a server-side script delivers a different, deceptive version of the web page, one that contains content not present on the visible page, or that is present but not searchable. The purpose of cloaking is often to trick or deceive search engines, so they display a page when it would not otherwise be displayed (black hat SEO).

Daggering

Daggering is a white hat search engine optimization (white hat SEO) technique in which the content is blocked or presented to the search engine crawler (also called a spider, bot or robot) based on a websites whitelist or blacklist. This is done by delivering content, or delivering a 403 Forbidden header, based on the User-Agent HTTP header or IP addresses of the bot requesting the page. When a bot is identified as a blacklist (or non-whitelist) search engine bot, a server-side script delivers a 403 Failure header (or sometimes a 404 File Not Found or 410 Gone header). Daggering is related to other forms of user authentication, except that instead of using a user name and password, the user_agent and/or requesting IP Address are used. The purpose of Daggering is prevent the use of valuable resources by non productive search engines or other bots. This white hat SEO works by reducing the load (CPU seconds and bandwidth use) and thereby possibly making the page respond faster. Google does use response time as one factor in their SERP ranking algorithm.

The Internet Term Daggering was coined by Lan Tait, after an unruly bot took down his site for a couple hours.

Not Cloaking

There is a number of misconceptions about what Cloaking is and is not. Here is a short list of some things that Cloaking is Not!

  • Delivering dynamic content based on cookies or authentication. For example, a “Hello Percy” type of personalized message.
  • Delivering dynamic content base on geographic location. For example, providing different shipping charges to people in Germany and those in Japan. Google uses IP Geographic location to deliver AdSense Ads.
  • Daggering or Blocking anyone, or anything, from accessing the content of your website.  Anything would include any bot, crawler, robot, spider, or human.  It could include IP Address Ranges, time zones, languages, countries, regions or continents!

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