Cloak and dagger games were a favorite pastime for us as children. All in good harmless fun we could pretend to be someone else, or disguise yourself completely. Science fiction has even taken it a step further, giving Harry Potter a cloak that renders him invisible!
However, we are not dealing in science fiction or childhood games. Cloaking is also a term that is very familiar in the online marketing world. Here cloaking is done with a far more capitalistic and sinister approach.
Most consumers probably believe that the search engines are policing most of the content that is displayed in their search results. It is this belief that allows marketers to use cloaking to show consumers otherwise unapproved content on the first page of the search results.
To understand how it works, let’s first take a quick look at how a search engine reviews and approves content that is submitted. Obviously with billions of searches a day and tens of billions of websites, articles and blogs indexed it would be impossible to manually review every single search result. Not to mention re-review whenever content is updated. So the search engines utilize bots, or automated content search technology that can quickly scan a website and report back if the content is within the approved policies and is relevant to the search terms it is being displayed for.
The use of automated technology is what opens the door to marketers looking to trick the search engines and get their content to be displayed. Using programming code that can identify when a bot is looking at their website allows the marketer to display basic approved content to the bot. Then when a real visitor lands on the page they continue to show the unapproved content to the real visitor.
Why do marketers need to do this? Unfortunately a lot of that unapproved content is the key to generating more user actions or sales on a website. The reason the search engines ban the content is specifically because marketers want to use it to influence the consumer unethically. Cloaking allows them to continue to display this type of content to the consumer and avoid the shutdown from the search engines.
Cloaking has become very prevalent in the work at home and diet industries. Unfortunately marketers have found it is easier to continue to show the consumer unethical or false content that converts very high, rather than try to develop real high quality content that would be approved. Cloaking allows them to continue to display their preferred ads and sites while the search engines work to catch up.
Specifically, in the work at home niche, this shows itself in the use of fake news sites or farticles. These fake third party endorsements of a product or opportunity are against the polices of the search engines, but on a recent peek we saw no fewer than 5 fake news sites linking directly off the organic and sponsored search results.
Why should you care? As consumers you should expect a certain level of trust and transparency from search engines and specifically the results that you are shown in your searches. If there are simple tricks that marketers can use to increase their own visitors and sales, rest assured they will use them. The result is that the consumer is the one who ends up feeling used and abused when they find out that a site they saw on the first page of the search engine is really just a fake marketing side created solely to separate them from their money. Give a marketer and inch and they will take a mile.
Our advice, as always, is buyer beware! Those front page search results are only one or two lines of programming code away from being manipulated to make you react in a certain way. Always double check the website you are on after you click on a search result to ensure that it matches closely with what you were looking for.
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