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#1 cre8pc

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Posted 31 January 2003 - 09:30 AM

An interesting post from Brett Tabke in his forum is drawing attention, while at the same time, so is an article with another viewpoint that Jill Whalen provided in a recent guest article in her newsletter.

To bring yourselves up to date on what cloaking is or isn't, these are worth reading...


Why Cloaking Is Always A Bad Idea

http://www.highranki...om/issue041.htm

Cloaking Gone Mainstream

http://www.webmaster...forum24/411.htm

Kim

#2 Guest_PhilC_*

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Posted 31 January 2003 - 12:45 PM

The problem with the Alan Perkins article is that it doesn't try to discuss cloaking in an unbiased and objective way. It tries to define cloaking, and it does it in a very biased way. But it's not surprising because Alan Perkins is the person who wrote an article that unsuccessfully tried to define search engine spam. In other words, he is a person with strong opinions, and his article reflects and supports his own very biased opinions. I suppose it's really an attempt to justify the sort of cloaking that search engines accept, by claiming that it isn't really cloaking at all. That view flies in the face of what cloaking has always been - providing different content to different requestors.

On the other hand, the WMW thread contains various views and opinions as to what is and isn't cloaking, and is a much better read.

Phil.

#3 cre8pc

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Posted 31 January 2003 - 01:15 PM

I've come to the conclusion that I'm undecided about cloaking. Two years ago I was dead set against it when used to manipulate search engine results. Nowadays I'm getting more and more email from companies desperate to compete in competitive subjects and don't stand a chance in hell with basic content driven, or keyword driven SEO techniques.

I'm in a quandry lately on exactly what these companies are supposed to do other than blow a ton of money on branding and high-end advertising. This wouldn't work for our friend Ed, whom you and I are both helping out, because his field is aimed at engineers only, not mainstream users. He doesn't need a brand. His users know exactly what they're looking for but unfortunately some of the terms his site covers can be confused with other definitions for the same word. So, keywords are a struggle for words that have more than one meaning or definition.

I like articles like Alan's because warnings of risks are good. I also like Brett and company's remarks and opinons because if I find myself in a situation where I have no answers for someone, I want to be able to point them to alternatives. Everyone has to decide what route to take based on the objectives for their company and website.

Kim

#4 Advisor

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Posted 31 January 2003 - 02:31 PM

But it's not surprising because Alan Perkins is the person who wrote an article that unsuccessfully tried to define search engine spam. In other words, he is a person with strong opinions, and his article reflects and supports his own very biased opinions.


I'm not going to debate the subject here because I'm already debating it on two other forums. However, since Phil wants to try to disparage Alan Perkins, I feel I must at least say something in his defense.

I know a lot of people in the SEO world. Some who I've met in real life, and some who I've only had online discussions with. There are only a handful of these people who have my utmost respect because of their sheer intelligence, knowledge and integrity. My very short list includes people like our own Ammon Johns, along with Barry Lloyd and Danny Sullivan. Alan is also included in that list, and regardless of whether you agree with his definition of cloaking, his thoughts and perspective on things regarding search engines and SEO are always worth listening to and thinking about because they don't get written lightly.

Kim wrote:

I like articles like Alan's because warnings of risks are good.


Actually, I don't believe Alan's article warned about the risks at all. It was simply an article to clear up the confusion regarding what cloaking is and what it isn't. If as a group we were always talking about the same thing when we used a certain word, it would make for a lot less arguments.

The article was not about what is spam and what is not spam. It was just an article to define cloaking. Sending different stuff to people in different parts of the country is not cloaking. Sending different stuff to a handheld PDA than you'd send to a PC is not cloaking. Sending a Flash movie to most users, but all text to others is not cloaking.

It's all really very simple. Why some people would rather lump the above technologies which all have great uses with the one thing that only is used to show the search engines one thing and the users another, i.e., cloaking, is beyond me.

Jill

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Posted 31 January 2003 - 02:34 PM

By the way, Kim, what about cloaking would help a company get higher rankings than what they could do without cloaking? Cloaking in and of itself is not going to produce any high rankings. Anything you could do with cloaking, you should be able to do without it, by doing all the things you discuss in your usability reports.

Jill

#6 Guest_PhilC_*

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Posted 31 January 2003 - 02:58 PM

However, since Phil wants to try to disparage Alan Perkins...

I merely pointed out that the Alan Perkins article was written by a person who has a very big bias about cloaking, and it puts forward views that are designed to support his bias, plus he attempts to change the meaning of the word "cloaking" to suit his own bias. Therefore, it isn't a balanced piece of writing. The WMW thread isn't a piece of writing as such, but it does contain various views and opinions and is, therefore, a better read.

... what about cloaking would help a company get higher rankings than what they could do without cloaking?

How about the cloaking (IP delivery) in this forum? Without it, we simply wouldn't get most of the rankings that we have.

Phil.

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Posted 31 January 2003 - 03:09 PM

How about the cloaking (IP delivery) in this forum? Without it, we simply wouldn't get most of the rankings that we have.

By that do you mean you are watching for the bots IPs and sending them one thing and sending everyone else something else? In other words, you are cloaking as Alan defined it? (I really don't know enough about the different technologies yet to know what you mean for sure.)

Because if that's what you're doing, I would be very concerned if you or Kim or anyone cares about this site remaining in the search engines.

I'm hoping that by cloaking you are talking about one of the other forms (that really aren't cloaking).

Jill

#8 Guest_PhilC_*

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Posted 31 January 2003 - 03:14 PM

The forum spots Googlebot's IPs and ensures that it gets a certain type of page, which is slightly different to the pages that most users get. But you know about it, Jill. I'm not concerned with how Alan described it. It's cloaking, pure and simple.

You asked the question, "what about cloaking would help a company get higher rankings than what they could do without cloaking?". I provided this forum as an example of rankings that are achieved because of cloaking, that would otherwise not be achieved.

Phil.

#9 cre8pc

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Posted 31 January 2003 - 03:20 PM

Anything you could do with cloaking, you should be able to do without it, by doing all the things you discuss in your usability reports.


Certainly so! But, they'd have to "get" that usability is vital. There's still a long way to go in that respect, both in large and small companies.

I also only see the front-end when I review/test sites. Dynamically generated pages that are sent to engines only (doorway systems) are pages I never see.

In the case of different definitions for keywords, again, copywriting would help, and how they word things like Google Ads. Simply buying a keyword invites mis-fires, but even a well written page can sway someone to click on it even if they didn't come to the page purposefully.

I do want to keep my mind open to all possible options for any client. In some cases they're simply not interested in usability help, or how that can help with SEO efforts. It's frustrating for me when I get these clients, but when I do, I have resources and people to send them to. Then, it's "Use At Your Own Risk" ;)

Kim

#10 robwatts

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Posted 31 January 2003 - 03:41 PM

The forum spots Googlebot's IPs and ensures that it gets a certain type of page..


Sorry for stating the obvious, but isnt this against G's TOS and likely to result in a penalty?

#11 cre8pc

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Posted 31 January 2003 - 04:18 PM

As our forum Tech Admin, Phil doesn't do much without checking with us (other assigned Admins') first. I forwarded you (and him) what I think is his plan. It sounds less scary when you read it but I agree, we need to understand what's being done.

Phil's been working hard to make the forum perform well in Google. We just need to understand the processes and risks, if there's any at all.

Kim

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Posted 31 January 2003 - 04:34 PM

If I remember correctly, what he was going to do was not cloaking. Unless he forgot to mention the part about IP cloaking in his emails.

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Posted 31 January 2003 - 05:50 PM

It boggles my mind that people don't want to accept Alan's very, very simple definition of cloaking. It would solve a lot of problems and arguments. I'm not sure why people would prefer to hold on to calling all those other things cloaking. It could be to throw up a smokescreen so they can say, "Google cloaks, why can't we"? But I don't think that's the whole reason. I guess a lot of it is people don't like someone coming in and trying to define something for them...even if the definition makes perfect sense!

Jill

#14 Guest_PhilC_*

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Posted 31 January 2003 - 05:56 PM

The cloaking that we have here is that Googlebot gets the identical pages that users get when they have cookies turned on. Googlebot arrives without the ability to accept cookies (cookies off) and so it is recognised by its IPs and given pages as though it has cookies turned on. It is IP delivery, and that's cloaking.

The way it came about is that I discovered that Googlebot doesn't spider urls that have anything that looks like a session ID in them, otherwise they would be spidering a potentailly infinite number of urls. I found a modification for the forum that takes care of the problem. It ensures that Googlebot get pages with the session IDs left out of the urls (links) - identical pages to what those of us with cookies turned on get, but different to what people with cookies turned off get.

So I emailed Google, explaining the situation and asking if they have anything against the solution. I got the auto-response, but I've heard nothing since. After a while, I decided that they aren't going to respond, so I installed the modification. The result is that both Google and us get want we want - all the pages spidered and, because of IP delivery cloaking, we get rankings that we wouldn't otherwise have got.

#15 Guest_PhilC_*

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Posted 31 January 2003 - 06:01 PM

It boggles my mind that people don't want to accept Alan's very, very simple definition of cloaking. It would solve a lot of problems and arguments.

I think the reason is that cloaking has been around for a long time, and everyone understood what was meant by it. But because the engines do even more cloaking than they used to, Alan has decided to narrow the definition of the word so that what the engines do isn't really cloaking. He can't do that. The number of people who support his views are such a small number that his definitions simply aren't going to take off - except amongst that small number.

Phil.

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Posted 31 January 2003 - 06:19 PM

So Phil, do you just have it set for "googlebot" to see the other pages, or do you have to go to a database and download all possible Googlebot IP addresses, and keep up on it all the time.

I really don't know much about this, but the one the engines don't like is the latter. (Not sure what, if anything, is the difference, but that's my understanding.)

#17 cre8pc

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Posted 31 January 2003 - 06:25 PM

ok, so who can fanagle their way into the heart of someone at Google so we can get a definitive answer and not a darned form letter?

#18 Guest_PhilC_*

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Posted 31 January 2003 - 06:28 PM

It only recognises Googlebot and it sees all the current main and fresh crawler IPs. If Googlebot changes IP addresses I would need to update the changes.

It isn't necessary for the other main engines because they spider urls with session IDs in them, but I can set it for whatever spiders it's necessary for.

#19 sanity

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Posted 31 January 2003 - 06:29 PM

Well I'm not up with the technical stuff so have no idea wheter what we're doing is ok or not. Let's just not get a Google ban. Not a good look for a SEO related forum. :roll:

#20 Guest_PhilC_*

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Posted 31 January 2003 - 06:35 PM

What happened was:- we asked Google, they didn't bother to respond, we (I) did what nobody could find fault with, so I suggest just leaving it alone.

It is cloaking but it isn't spam, and there is no way in the world that Google would find any fault with it. I find a number of faults with Google, but even I don't believe they would penalise a site for this cloaking. If they did, I'd create a bit of a stink around the forums.

#21 peter_d

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Posted 31 January 2003 - 07:55 PM

I have nothing against Alan, but it matters not one bit to me what he defines as cloaking. Or Spam. I'm not saying he shouldn't do it, but it should be seen for what it is: an academic exercise. Some appear to consider it objective truth, which is a shame.

I do care about how the search engines define it, or more appropriately, the fact that they do a very bad job of same.

To my mind, Phil is doing exactly the right thing by ensuring Google is able to crawl this site. That is optimisation. Is the method wrong? I don't know - perhaps Google, or the other search engines, would like to tell us. It's simply not good enough for them to fail to accurately define technical process, and then ban without a right of reply.

I've long since given up worrying about the delivery process. As Brett rightly points out, the days of a single browser access model are over. You guys should see the WAP/Web site I'm working on at the moment....

<edit: bud spellinkg</edit>

#22 BillSlawski

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Posted 31 January 2003 - 08:15 PM

I agree with Peter here. Pretty much with everything he said.

#23 Guest_PhilC_*

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Posted 31 January 2003 - 09:01 PM

Hah! I just re-read the email I sent to Google, and I've found that my memory is at fault (not surprising). It's not IP delivery, but User-Agent delivery. Even so, it's still cloaking.

Phil.

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Posted 31 January 2003 - 09:38 PM

As Brett rightly points out, the days of a single browser access model are over. You guys should see the WAP/Web site I'm working on at the moment....


Exactly! Which is all the more reason to define it. How many people are thinking that designing a WAP/web site is cloaking, and are afraid to do it because of that? That's just wrong for them to be afraid because some people say that it's cloaking.

And Phil, I was pretty sure that what you described before about these forums and Google was not going to be a problem. I didn't remember what you said, but I remember not being worried about it...so it makes sense that it's agent based.

But again, even you weren't sure if that was okay with Google. And that's because of the mixed usage of the term.

Now, I'm not gonna try and make you all believe in Alan's definition, but can we agree that it can help to have words for things that everyone agrees on? It would sure make our lives easier. Probably ain't gonna happen though.

Jill

#25 peter_d

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Posted 31 January 2003 - 09:49 PM

That's just wrong for them to be afraid because some people say that it's cloaking.

Agreed that a common definition of terms is a good thing, however, in terms of technical definition, the search engines are the only credible authority. And they tend to obfuscate, for obvious reasons.

#26 Guest_PhilC_*

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Posted 31 January 2003 - 09:51 PM

As we've seen, I don't remember the exact details from back then. I do remember you saying something like "as long it isn't IP based", and I do remember it not being fully agreed to - which is why I emailed Google.

From a spam point of view, there's no difference between IP and UA based cloaking. They both do the same thing. The only difference is that UAs are very easy to spoof whereas IPs are not, so IPs are more 'hidden'.

Phil.

#27 Black_Knight

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Posted 31 January 2003 - 09:56 PM

What Phil has used is user-agent delivery, and it targets a search spider (googlebot) user-agent in particular. That has always been known as cloaking by anyone's definition.

While I have a lot of respect for much of Alan Perkins' advice, I find his attempts to create rules on things such as cloaking and spam rather simplistic. In this case he has decided unilaterally that most cloaking isn't really cloaking. Well, it was and always has been up until now, and if he wants to change that he should make his case that way, rather than declaring that certain things are not cloaking when they always have been. Alan didn't invent the term, thus he's not so easily able to decide to redefine it for the rest of the world.

Personally I think he's tried to redefine cloaking in such a way as to only include 'bad' usage, but this too is doomed to failure. We are using cloaking here, and we are doing so in a way that doesn't mislead the spider, but rather enables it to overcome its limitations.

It might be harder to justify using IP based delivery for this particular purpose we have here, simply because it would make the issue more personal to Google and less about content delivery that is designed for the user-agent used to access the site.

The purpose of the user-agent delivery Phil has in place is to enable access by a user-agent that would otherwise be hampered. Anyone who wants to access these pages using the software known as 'Googlebot' is served a page that is suited for the limitations of that software. This is no different to making a site detect when browsers support frames, or javascript, or whether they are using a Mac, WebTV, or a Palm device.

I'm going to quote something that I personally believe is more important than Alan's article. I'm going to quote Tim Mayer of FAST. The reason I quote this particular chap is that he himself has quoted Alan in the past, but he also has something else to say that qualifies a lot more...

You see, early in a recent interview, Tim Mayer quoted something many of you may have remembered from another document that Alan wrote:

A webmaster should create pages and sites for users not search engines. Ask yourselves, "if search engines didn't exist, would I be doing this?"


More importantly, he goes on to say:

We consider spam to be pages that deliberately trick the search engine into offering inappropriate, redundant, or poor-quality search results. There is no specific technique that we consider spam. spam is more about how and to what extent a specific technique is used. There are specific techniques that can be used appropriately but are used to spam in the majority of cases. Cloaking would be one of these techniques. For more information on FAST's Spam policy, your readers can visit ...http://www.alltheweb.com/info/about/spam_policy.html



#28 Guest_PhilC_*

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Posted 31 January 2003 - 09:57 PM

Agreed that a common definition of terms is a good thing, however, in terms of technical definition, the search engines are the only credible authority. And they tend to obfuscate, for obvious reasons.

Also, according to Brett, some engines publish nothing against cloaking. AV is one that he mentioned. So nobody can say that cloaking for AV is wrong if AV don't say it themselves. Maybe they've said it at a conference but that's not quite the same thing.

Phil.

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Posted 31 January 2003 - 09:59 PM

You obviously don't get the same kind of email that I get.

You wouldn't believe the confusion people have over cloaking, which is the reason that I asked Alan to write the article (you can blame me, not Alan!).

People think anything and everything is cloaking. At least now, I can point them to Alan's article and they can not live in fear that they may be cloaking by mistake.

Jill

#30 peter_d

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Posted 31 January 2003 - 10:15 PM

You obviously don't get the same kind of email that I get.


Do you think you get that sort of mail because you often talk about what is "good" and what is "bad"? Don't get me wrong, it's not a criticism of you, (I'm a subscriber, remember:), I just think a natural side effect of that approach is that it can cause some people to worry.

Saying cloaking is bad and then redefining cloaking to suit the argument is, as Ammon put it, "doomed to failure". Cloaking is a technical answer to a technical problem. It is neither good nor bad. Most cloaking carries risk, as does all optimisation. Manage the risk - forget about morality.

Ammon - great post.

#31 Black_Knight

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Posted 31 January 2003 - 10:34 PM

You obviously don't get the same kind of email that I get.


I sincerely hope not. :) You aim your information mainly at the non-techie crowd, the one's who wouldn't know what cloaking was, and often wouldn't even know where to search and find out. Thus the email.

I'm not knocking that, Jill, I think you provide a great service in making SEO more accessible to the general populace, many of whom couldn't even code a page without FrontPage. However, it's only natural that in catering to that market, you'll get the questions that such people are likely to have and email you (like your time is free) rather than do some very simple research.

In short, the kind of people who would email you with those kinds of questions are not SEOs and God forbid that they should ever think that they are. Many SEO techniques should be left to those who understand them simply because they are complex both in terms of technology, but also in terms of how using them may or may not be spamming.

You wouldn't believe the confusion people have over cloaking, which is the reason that I asked Alan to write the article (you can blame me, not Alan!).


The trouble is that Alan has written only about Alan's own, very personal, definition of cloaking. A definition that I can assure you does not match with what others mean when discussing cloaking. In other words, Alan is creating that very issue of multiple meanings that you are seeking to avoid.

He does so with the best of intentions I believe, in trying to purely define 'Spam cloaking' rather than acceptable cloaking, but even in this, as I mentioned before and illustrated, he fails. It is an exercise doomed to failure because (as my father was fond of quoting) "circumstances alter cases".

People think anything and everything is cloaking.  At least now, I can point them to Alan's article and they can not live in fear that they may be cloaking by mistake.


People who are misinformed do that. Most especially people who've been given over-simplified 'tag-line' explanations in the past. Pointing them to Alan's article would do them a dis-service, Jill. It takes a big discussion like this one to even touch upon the issues, and even here we cannot do what some folk would need done - we can't cover every possible use of cloaking and say which are dangerousand how dangerous they are.

The alternative, to give them over-simplified answers, is tempting but would be both misleading and risky. How will it look to such confused souls when you tell them one thing, but Tim Mayer tells them something else and says you're wrong?

#32 Advisor

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Posted 31 January 2003 - 10:36 PM

Do you think you get that sort of mail because you often talk about what is "good" and what is "bad"?


Nope. It's because so many of my readers are total beginners. They know nothing. They still think all they need to do is put meta tags on their pages. I get a lot of email from people who have just subscribed, because I send them a really personal sounding "thanks for subscribing" message that invites them to ask me questions. So I hear some doozys!

But the point is, they hear stuff, but don't understand it. They hear the word cloaking, and they hear that it's bad. But they have no idea what it is. They seriously think that getting a new domain is somehow cloaking. Or the google cache is cloaking. Or whatever...really weird stuff. So all I was trying to do was to give a very simple, easy to understand definition of it. I knew Alan already had that definition.

If it would have been acceptable to the rest of the world, it just would have been nice. I have to say I'm really disappointed in the reaction from most people. But I probably shouldn't be surprised.

I'm still going to use that definition, and promote it to all the newbies that I talk to. Even if the old-timers won't come around, at least new people just learning can have something to work with and go by, giving them some guidelines they don't have to be afraid of.

Jill

#33 peter_d

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Posted 31 January 2003 - 10:50 PM

giving them some guidelines they don't have to be afraid of


Be not afraid, go in peace to love and serve the Googlebot. Although careful how you serve her, and with what.

Amen.

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Posted 31 January 2003 - 10:53 PM

Be not afraid, go in peace to love and serve the Googlebot. Although careful how you serve her, and with what. 

Amen.


Sounds like the perfect guidelines for any good husband! :)

#35 peter_d

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Posted 31 January 2003 - 10:54 PM

shhhh.....don't want the wife hearing that :)

#36 Black_Knight

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Posted 01 February 2003 - 12:18 PM

Regarding this discussion, I think this thread is one of the best discussions I've seen on cloaking because it provides a specific contextual case which clearly is cloaking, and yet equally clearly is not either misleading or 'wrong'.

#37 cre8pc

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Posted 03 February 2003 - 08:48 AM

shhhh.....don't want the wife hearing that


What wife. Ya mean you're MARRIED????

Kim :twisted:

#38 peter_d

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Posted 03 February 2003 - 04:31 PM

Kim, I fear you flatter me far too much. Can't say I mind though :)

Yah...been under the thumb for the past six years. Can't say I mind that either :)

#39 theincrediblehelp

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Posted 06 February 2003 - 01:27 AM

You folks are fun reading about on the cloaking subject. For cloaking or against it, or trying to define it, it really doesnt matter to me. I don't use it, nor do I need to. Simply work with the clients current code and you will always win on the search engines!

:D

#40 peter_d

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Posted 06 February 2003 - 02:03 AM

Welcome to the forums :D

Simply work with the clients current code and you will always win on the search engines! 


That's half the problem.

Some code, particularly that found in enterprise solutions, is not what anyone would call search engine friendly. It is not easily altered. "Working with the code" is what we do, defining what we do....

...now that is problematic ;)



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