no cloaking

Google de-indexes cloaking websites

What is cloaking? 

Briefly put, cloaking is the technique used by web designers and SEO companies to show something different to visitors than to Googlebot, the crawler software responsible for determining the content of your website in order to index it, which means determining where to rank it in search results.

What does it have to do with my website? 

In short, tracking phone numbers have been the best way to determine the success of a web presence. Nothing is easier than to count the phone calls, compare with the phone numbers of existing customers and voila a report and bar chart shows the number of prospective customers for my business. Isn’t it great?  It is, with the slight hurdle that Google compares the phone number on your website with the phone number in your Google Local Listing and if not identical, drops in ranking become inevitable.

To avoid that, clever web programmers pull a trick, which makes the visitor of the website see different content than the Googlebot. In other words, a visitor sees the tracking phone number, whereas the Googlebot sees the phone number in your Google Local Listing.

Really clever, isn’t it?

It is and it isn’t. If cloaking is the preferred method of your web designer to replace the real phone number by the tracking phone number for the visitor, but showing the real number to Google, your website is in danger to be de-indexed.

What does de-indexing mean?

De-Indexing means your website is gone from the surface of the earth. Not really the surface of the earth but its online equivalent. When entering the website domain, it still exists, BUT it doesn’t show up in any search results anymore. And isn’t that the purpose of the website in the first place? Recovering from that state takes supposedly 6-9 months.

How do I find out whether my website uses cloaking?

There are at least three ways, and used in combination makes it a safe way to find out. You can also ask us and we give you an analysis of your web presence.

  1. Ask our web design company how they implemented phone call tracking, using a cosher method or cloaking. 
  2. Use any of the many 3rd party tools on trusted websites to check your website for cloaking. Below are a few.
    1. this checker displays the html content for both the GoogleBot and the Visitor. Cloaking is easily identified when the number of bytes is significantly different. 2. this checker on the other hand compares the visuals shown to Googlebot compared with visitors to your website. Be aware that the Googlebot window only shows text. So simply compare the phone numbers shown in both windows.
  3. Go to your Webmaster account, use the feature “Fetch as Google” and check the results.
    Is it the same the visitor sees concerning the phone number or is it different?
    If different, then your website uses most likely cloaking.

What do I do about cloaking?

The choices are simple:

  1. Stick with your web design company, since you feel it is worth it.
    Your website hasn’t been de-indexed so far, why should it happen now?
    My advice: Don’t rely on it. It takes a while to surface again. 
  2. Ask your web design company to use one of the safer methods for call tracking.
  3. Look for an alternative, since vanishing from Google Search shouldn’t be a risk your web
    presence provider should take. Or at least share it with you from the beginning.

If you are interested in more in-depth knowledge about cloaking and tracking phone numbers, please watch the video below by Matt Cutts, the authority at Google and check out the article here. Of course we are happy to help as well, in case you have questions.