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Cloaking: Does Your Web Host Change Your Web Pages?
Google Doesn't Like Cloaking
Originally Published: March 15, 2005
When you choose a web hosting company, you don't expect that they are going to change your web pages. You also don't expect that they change your web pages for their own benefit. Unfortunately, that's exactly what some web hosts seem to do.
What Do These Web Hosts Do To Your Web Pages?
These web hosting companies change your web pages when a search engine spider requests them. For example, if Googlebot visits your web pages, the web host will return a different web page than the web page that is returned when a normal web surfer visits your web pages (a technique with the name
The changed web pages contain links to the web host web site so that the link popularity of the web host site is improved. In addition, the web host creates new page and complete sub directories full of links on your web site.
Note that these changed URLs and the new pages cannot be seen by you. The URLs are not static and you cannot see them with your FTP client. Only search engine spiders can see the changed web pages because the web host intercepts the requests and dynamically creates the pages.
Some hosts also seem to add links to some of their clients on your web pages. They do this to artificially improve the link popularity of their clients' sites. If you see any
Secret backdoor to Google
offers from your web host without further details, you should be skeptical. If a web host changes the web sites of other people, it is likely that they will also change your web site.
What Does Google Think About This?
Shortly after this issue has been raised in an online discussion
forum, a Google spokesman commented on it:
"What a scuzzy practice. [...] I've seen stuff like that before, but it's usually pretty rare. Legitimate hosts have a lot to lose from deceiving their hosting clients like that [...] Practices like that just go way beyond legitimate and into scamming."
How Can You Find Out If Your Web Host Changes Your Web Pages?
Go to Google, search for your domain name and click on the "Cached" link next to the results. You'll see the web page that Google has indexed then.
If the web page in the Google page has links to other web pages that you don't know, chances are that your web host has changed your pages. In that case, you should contact your web host or
so that the problem can be solved.
Web hosting companies with ethical business standards don't use these techniques. If you find out that your web host changes your pages, you should consider a new hosting company.
If Google finds out that your web site uses
cloaking, you will get into trouble, even if the cloaking has been done by your web host and not by you.
search engine cloaking
to learn about intentional cloaking by webmasters.
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