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Cloaking is Against Google’s TOS, Trulia. (And other SE’s as well)

What is CLOAKING?

Here is Wikipedia’s Definition.

Simply put, it is the practice of showing one thing to a user and another thing to the search engine spiders. It violates the BASIC trust that MUST exist IMO between the search engines and webmasters in order for there to be umm…order. They need to know that you are not doing a sleight of hand.

In Search Engine Optimization, there are few things that almost all of the search engines treat alike. Even things like no follow links are handled differently (at this point in time) depending on which search engine is involved. But they all cry “foul” when it comes to purposely sending their spiders one thing and users another.

Why do I bring this up? Because Eric Bramlett just dropped a video bombshell on Trulia. (Fair warning, the video takes a while to load and may not explain easily to the typical viewer what is happening, so I will do some play by play…).

UPDATE: Bramlett has now added a post with STILL photos as well to explain.

Scene 1: Trulia has “partners” at the Seattle Weekly and Parade Magazine. Bramlett visits them as a normal viewer online would. The link takes him to a subdomain shared between the “partners” (just using the Seattle Weekly example here).

Scene 2: Bramlett then switches over to a tool we SEO types use to look at the same link AS IF WE WERE A GOOGLE SPIDER. When he does this and clicks the same link…

Scene 3: He goes to a completely DIFFERENT page, one that gives links DIRECTLY to Trulia and NOT to their “partners”. Yes, folks that IS the page that they are promoting to the TOP of Google for the keyword Seattle Real Estate! (My guess is that they are doing this to THESE partners the same way they do it to their REALTOR partners? That is the only explanation that I can come up with….)

Eric Bramlett’s video evidence has what they are doing. They are caught red-handed. Plain and simple in my opinion.

A word of advice to Trulia:

1) As you rise to try and compete with REALTORS nationwide on the search engines, your “less than white hat” practices will see increased exposure from talented REALTORS that understand SEO thoroughly (Like Eric Bramlett). Don’t expect those dogs not to bark.

2) Cloaking, whether to stuff keywords or to hide from your partners the fact that you are taking links from them is considered a practice that is against the TOS of all of the major search engines.

3) IMO, how you are treating your “partners”, whether REALTORS or Newspapers, is becoming increasingly clear. Is there a pattern here? Nevermind, it is a rhetorical question….

To the Real Estate Community at large…Why again do we support these MORONS with our listings and links? Nevermind…that is another of my rhetorical questions…

Great work, Bramlett! Way to howl.

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