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  1. #1
    Newbie Akarin's Avatar
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    Do You Consider Internal 301 Redirects Cheating?
    If you cloak your affiliate links to point back to relevant content on your own site, do you consider that cheating? By definition, cloaking is cheating, but what do you personally feel in that situation. Just wondering if G is going to push people in to gray areas with some their recent shenanigans.

  2. #2
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    I don't understand the question. Having internal links that redirect is neither unusual nor irrational - nor would I think of it as "cloaking." You might do it for tracking purposes, or because you've moved content but haven't yet updated existing links, or to provide "short forms" for longer links.

    "Cloaking" is normally used to refer to internal (or third-party) intermediate links which are redirected to an external destination URL. In the context of affiliate programs, cloaked links are often used to "hide" the actual destination URL, but for more reasons than just "hiding links from Google."

    I also disagree with your premise that "by definition, cloaking is cheating" -- even if we agreed that "hiding link destinations from Google" is "cheating," there are other legitimate uses for using the exact same exact practices (two examples: URL shortening services, and cloaking to fight "parasites.").
    Last edited by markwelch; September 7th, 2009 at 07:12 PM.

  3. #3
    Newbie Akarin's Avatar
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    sorry, my mind was in 5 different places when I wrote that!

    Let me clarify what was going through my head. I was reading a post by "lansing" in another thread.... The recent change in AdWords quality scores guidelines get you dinged for having Affiliate links not just "Affiliates that don't meet our Webmaster Guidelines", in essence saying by virtue of having affiliate links you are just a doorway page. Therefore you get dinged.

    So with G trying to shape some of the established methods of revenue, do you think it's ok fight back with your own technical manipulation by detecting crawlers and 301-ing or 302-ing based upon the user agent to make crawlers believe you don't have affiliate links. So not just for regular site maintenance or operation, but for the sole purpose of skating around decisions made by G that would affect your revenue.

    Sorry for sounding like a JA, it was a 3-day working weekend (lol like everyone else on here).

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Akarin
    So with G trying to shape some of the established methods of revenue, do you think it's ok fight back with your own technical manipulation by detecting crawlers and 301-ing or 302-ing based upon the user agent to make crawlers believe you don't have affiliate links. So not just for regular site maintenance or operation, but for the sole purpose of skating around decisions made by G that would affect your revenue.
    Doing that will get you banned very, very quickly. Matt Cutts and Google are very clear that you need to present to the bots the same content you present to your site visitors.
    Deborah Carney
    TeamLoxly.com BookGoodies.com ABCsPlus.com

  5. #5
    Newbie Akarin's Avatar
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    Yeah that is the pretty much the bottom line and I play by the rules.

    But what *if* G said if your page had more than 25% affiliate links on your home page then that automatically drops you to page 4 no matter what. But that's just a G rule and no other SE applies that rule. I just see that people would change their site game plans if push comes to shove.

  6. #6
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    I guess I don't see your point. If Google says have less than 25% links to affiliate programs per page, than just do it. And I haven't heard of such a rule.

    Reliance on the search engines is waning... make your sites in a way that appeal to *people* and you will do well no matter what G or any other search engine decides.

    Gaming any system is a short term fix. Don't spend time on it. Spend time making your site better overall.
    Deborah Carney
    TeamLoxly.com BookGoodies.com ABCsPlus.com

  7. #7
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    So the original question (about cloaking "internal links") was actually about cloaking external links?

    Basically, what you're saying now is, "now that Google has apparently changed its rules to penalize not only 'affiliate sites that violate its rules' but also 'all affiliate sites, period,' is it now more acceptable to use the same 'cloaking' practices which Google has always penalized when detected?"

    I think what you want (what we all would love) would be an "exception" -- since we're good guys (web publishers who provide content that legitimately adds value for consumers), we should be allowed to engage in practices that deceive Google's algorithms (since Google really ought to want to rank our useful content more highly than its algorithm actually will, if the links were recognized). Sorry, no.

    If Google adopts a rule that you don't like, you either modify your practices to comply with that rule, or you accept the penalty. Presenting different content to a (legitimate) crawler than a human, or using any other "trickery" to try to circumvent Google's algorithms, will soon push your sites to the bottom of the search-results pile.

    Yes, it's very annoying that Google not only "changes the rules" frequently and without notice, but also "hides the rules" by not identifying or explaining them. If you think that's illegal, hire a lawyer. Otherwise, strive to play by their rules or accept that you'll be excluded from their audience.

    Again, the practice of using internal or external 301 redirects is not prohibited or disfavored by Google, when done right (though use of 301 redirects is likely to be a factor in some of Google's algorithms). And Google encourages the use of robot-exclusions when appropriate. But the term "cloaking" has a connotation of "deceptive intent," which Google strongly disfavors (whether your definition of "cloaking" includes "presenting different content to search engines than real people" or not).

  8. #8
    ABW Ambassador Joshua's Avatar
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    Straight up gray/black-hat SEO. Is it cheating? To Google, yes, but only if they find it. Can a newbie to the field effectively cloak a few affiliate links? Maybe for a short period of time. You're not going to be able to do any of that long-term unless you're really on the cutting edge of black-hat, and frankly, you don't need to. If you have a good site with quality content and backlinks, a few affiliate links won't hurt - Just look at coupon websites full of affiliate links & their search engine rankings.

    If you're talking about cloaking a landing page on AdWords to get around content/subject blocks, that's a bit harder. Google has recently changed how they run manual reviews and some automatic reviews, so they're starting to catch more cloaked pages. If you're using cloaking to advertise disallowed content, and Google changes their methods and finds the banned content, your account just might be banned...

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