Help - we just got banned and they said we were cloaking!
 by Casey Markee

Help - we just got banned and they said we were cloaking!

  • On the 1st of June, probably after a manual spam report, I received a banning message via Google webmaster central and the site has been banned for cloaking. Our site uses a flash detection script so that anyone without flash gets text, and those with the Flash Plugin get Flash. The day after receiving the report, I cleaned up our content to make sure that all the text exactly matched the Flash and got rid of any pages that did not.

    cloaking.jpg I submitted a new sitemap file and turned in a reinclusion request apologizing for the problem. Two weeks later we received confirmation that Google had received the reinclusion request and they would reconsider the site.

    More than a week has passed, and we're still banned - what should we do?

Answer: Your site is going to be have to be as clean as pure fallen snow at this point after getting banned. Right now we don't know if the lack of response from Google is due to not having processed the reinclusion request yet, or because they still don't approve of the site changes. Typically I would advise to completely remove all server side content customization at least until you get back into the index. Your other option is to be sure to serve all requests the same content, except perhaps mobile. And only after a "cooling off" period would I think about starting back up the detection and even then very carefully.

Here's a little history on cloaking...
Google's public policy has changed dramatically since early 2000 when I was standing face to face with Sergey Brin at a Search Engine Strategies Conference - the first one Google Attended. That's when he told everyone that cloaking was an acceptable practice to give the bots something to index vs a flash page. He also proudly announced that there was no way to spam Google :)

As you know, their public policy has changed dramatically since then and is now "no cloaking allowed", which is much easier than to try and define when and how it's acceptable. There are many sites out there that cloak without problem...

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