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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.

Related posts:
  • Podcast interview with Trulia.com’s Heather Fernandez: “Real estate professionals are going to be able connect directly with consumers”
  • Agent branding is good, but Trulia.com is still deliberately hi-jacking street addresses, frustrating the interests of sellers
  • Google’s reciprocal link penalty for real estate sites explained

  • 49 comments

    49 Comments so far

    1. Greg Cremia June 27th, 2008 5:55 am

      Aww come on now. They just want to help us be more successful. Give them a break. ;)

    2. Greg Swann June 27th, 2008 6:28 am

      A great explanation of a great demonstration. Very impressive on both counts.

    3. Eric Bramlett June 27th, 2008 6:30 am

      Thanks for posting this Blackwell. While we’ve been howling about Trulia’s savvy SEO techniques, what they’ve done in the past has only been extremely grinch-like. This is CLEARLY against Google’s terms of service, and clearly demonstrates that they don’t play by the rules.

      Personally, I hope they get a penalty for this.

    4. Ryan Ward June 27th, 2008 6:38 am

      Eric and Eric,

      This is umm…well, let’s see. Important at the very least. It’s also:

      1. Against TOS.
      2. Grounds to file reports.
      For anyone who has a google account, this is where you file a spam report.
      3. Should (in my opinion) result in at the very least, a penalty, if not a ban. There are no excuses that they can possibly make for this to not result in some action from the search engines. A company like Trulia has professionals handling their search engine optimization who know that this is against terms of service and this is blatant “gaming the system”. If it was a small company or individual, they might not know this was wrong, but, there is no way that the people handling their SEO are not aware that this is against TOS.

      Trulia has systematically broken the web into sections that result in absolute benefit to them at the expense of their content providers and broken TOS. If all websites operated the same way that Trulia is acting, the web would not work as it is intended because links to relevant and trusted sources of information are part of the key ingredient used to build the importance of the internet.

      This goes back to the business model Trulia must used if they are to be successful and it appears that they are willing to do anything to achieve their goal even if it means that disregarding the very directives set forth for many search engine terms of service to achieve their desired result. If Trulia does not rank well, they have no leverage whatsoever.

      At what point will they be held to the same standards that other websites must adhere to to be included in the search results?

      This is outrageous.

    5. Eric Blackwell June 27th, 2008 6:45 am

      One can always hope that the SEO folks with their media “partners” start checking things out with them as should their REALTOR “partners”.

      “Partner” is starting to feel like a code word for “lackey”…

      Catching this stuff in the act is not the easiest…and this was done with VERY rudimentary cloaking. I think the pattern COULD be bigger than what we are seeing. Who knows. It would be enough evidence for me if I was working SEO at a newspaper website that was dealing with them to start examining things more closely and asking questions…

      Maybe they don’t care that they have been had…who knows?

    6. Carolyn Gjerde-Tu June 27th, 2008 7:06 am

      Maybe some of the “partnerships” will start to understand that some of Trulia’s tactics do not seem to be in the partners best interest. It might depend on how much advertising money is thrown their way.

    7. Eric Bramlett June 27th, 2008 7:16 am

      My friend Braxton just found 2 more partner sites they’re using cloaked 301′s on.

      http://www.kiplinger.com/money/realestate/
      http://www.americantowns.com/ct/fairfield-real-estate

    8. craig June 27th, 2008 7:29 am

      Thanks for the ammunition. I would encourage all to report this clear violation of Google’s policies in their Google Webmaster Tools account, see Google’s blog for more info http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2008/06/impact-of-user-feedback-part-1.html

      Maybe we can get t-r-u-l-i-a delisted.

    9. Braxton Beyer June 27th, 2008 7:43 am

      I just found another site they were cloaking. I started a short list if anyone wants to add to it, http://braxtoninaustin.com/2008/06/trulia-blatantly-ignores-googles-tos-cloaks-sites/

    10. Malok June 27th, 2008 7:49 am

      Busted. Plain and simple.

      Now, let me put on my Trulia spin/damage control hat:
      “It was an accident due to a coding error for our partner and has since been corrected. Thanks for bringing it to our attention. Please visit our blog for a discussion of what errors occurred.”

      (Which is absolute BS – but I remain impressed by their paid staff’s ability to spin (read: lie) to make something major look like no big deal.)

      Trulia’s actual definition of being a “partner”: Leech the bloody life out of anyone & everyone using whatever tactics you can to climb in the search engine rankings.

    11. Bob June 27th, 2008 7:54 am

      Nice find Eric.

      Aside from a death penalty though, Trulia can lose all the 301s and still win the war even if you get every agent to no follow every link.

      Here is an example of that shows how and why. Unless you can prove that those links are paid, this is still only baying at the moon.

    12. Eric Bramlett June 27th, 2008 8:08 am

      Realtor.com gets as many, or more editorial links than Trulia (most are negative, but they’re still editorial, and keyword rich “realtor”.) Realtor.com also has a fairly well structured site. Why aren’t they killing it in the SERPs like Trulia? Trulia is (arguably) buying links, cloaking, and using some killer widgetbait. Take that away, and they perform as well as Realtor.com. Just my opinion, of course.

    13. Ryan Ward June 27th, 2008 8:13 am

      Bob, you are right to a degree, but, if their tactics continue and they keep playing by rules that they think that they can set and get away with they, are playing with fire.

      Once they begin to be exposed for some “techniques” and if they don’t change their practices, it’s very likely that more “shoes will drop” so to speak.

      People are convicted on circumstantial evidence all the time and if enough is provided against them, they very well could dig themselves a whole they cannot get out of.

      How much “proof” is needed to determine if links are paid for? Do we need to produce the cashed check? I don’t think we do. If it is demonstrated, which I believe that it has been, that they are in fact participating in numerous acts of SEO malfeasance, then it might be enough to “convict” without the cashed check. Some have already pointed to a handful of what look like paid links already.

      Perhaps it’s time to get a list of the likely paid links together and examine them a little but more thoroughly?

      Rarely will someone get away with biting the very hand that feeds them forever.

    14. Bob June 27th, 2008 9:34 am

      Realtor.com gets as many, or more editorial links than Trulia (most are negative, but they’re still editorial, and keyword rich “realtor”.) Realtor.com also has a fairly well structured site. Why aren’t they killing it in the SERPs like Trulia?

      Did you look at the Money page and count the links to Trulia? Trulia does that all day long with targeted anchor text and links to their key city and state pages. They built something of value and as a result, it is being used by sites like CNN.

      Realtor.com doesn’t have a clue and certainly doesn’t have those kind of links, but in spite of their incompetence, they are still #3 for “San Diego real estate”, behind Trulia and myself.

      If Realtor.com did what Zillow and Trulia are attempting to do, Realtor.com could kill it across the board and put the other two out of business, but they have no vision and don’t see the big picture. Instead of Trulia widgets, you could have R.com widgets. Of course then agents would complain that they have to pay for enhanced listings, so the whining will never stop.

      Ryan, the only Trulia tactic proven to violate a TOS is the cloaking. The paid link stuff is hard to prove, and in the case of the CNN example, you won’t find a Google engineer that would argue that CNN’s use of Trulia’s content doesn’t add to the user experience.

      I’m not thrilled that Trulia is as strong as they are, but I would prefer to see the energy focused into making Realtor.com be better and do better. Go on the offensive and fortify your business model. Attacking the tactics of the ‘enemy’ is a battle plan doomed from the start. You may win a skirmish or two, but this war can’t be won as long as Realtors remain a house divided.

      If you want to drive a stake through the heart of 3rd party leeches like Zillow, Trulia and Homegain, the way to do that is with Realtor.com. Otherwise this is just an every man for himself fight.

    15. David G from Zillow.com June 27th, 2008 10:06 am

      Bob –

      You’re mistaken about Zillow. Zillow, attracted a massive audience to its own proprietary content; namely Zestimate values. Zillow was a popular brand among RE consumers long before we gave listing agents free access to that audience. Please do not call us leeches; that criticism is not accurate.

      You should also note that it’s Zillow’s policy to credit it’s listing partners as the source of their listing content. If you post your listings on Zillow, we ensure that Google understands that the listing came from your site. And Zillow is certainly not undermining its partners’ efforts to attract search engine traffic. Frankly, this kind of stuff leaves a pretty bad taste in my mouth; I’d appreciate it if you didn’t drag Zillow into this mess.

    16. Paul June 27th, 2008 10:47 am

      Good job on exposing another tactic from a selfish “partner” using another tactic against us. If it’s not one thing, it’s going to be another with these guys.

      Obviously we want to promote our listings to get the most exposure possible, but if our content (and it is our content) is being used against us for their profit, what are the options to stop it in the first place?

      Before Rudy shows up for some spin, I really have to wonder what the stats are for somebody buying a home because they saw it listed on a third party site.

      Does it really help sell homes, or is it just all spin that we’ve all been fed over the years starting with Realtor.com?

    17. Paul June 27th, 2008 10:50 am

      David,

      “Zillow was a popular brand among RE consumers long before we gave listing agents free access to that audience.”

      Thanks for the free access to that audience.

    18. Caleb Mardini June 27th, 2008 11:48 am

      Wow, I haven’t investigated this much, but what Eric is saying is damning for Trulia. I look forward to Trulia’s response.

      I do have to say that I agree with David G (Zillow) regarding Zillow. Like Zillow or not I don’t see Zillow “leeching” as Bob mentions.

    19. Bob June 27th, 2008 12:20 pm

      David, you are right. That was an unfair and incorrect characterization. I apologize. Zillow did a textbook job of demonstrating how to generate buzz and traffic based on the creation of something unique (although I’ll still debate the usefulness and accuracy of zestimates).

      Trulia got it’s start scraping copyrighted material from websites, including mine. Nothing original there at all.

      My point is that if the industry wasn’t so arrogant as to think it could rest on its laurels (basically a domain name with a lock on the listings) and work at keeping as far ahead of the curve as possible, these other sites would not be viable.

      My goal is to turn the conversation away from the penny ante whining about SEO tactics and focus on the real problem – a trade organization that has abdicated it’s position as the defacto destination for comprehensive real estate info in the U.S.

      With just a modicum of foresight, Realtor.com could have been Zillow and Trulia combined. The advertising opportunities that Trulia has now seized upon were R.com’s for the taking, but they screwed up, got greedy and tried to kill it’s own flock of golden egg laying geese – Realtors.

      With the current market and economy, I see a window of opportunity for the industry via NAR and Realtor.com to correct this and take back it’s market share.

      As many have pointed out, it’s the listings that attract the eyeballs. Trulia and Google need the agent to gift them the listing. Zillow took the most unique approach and started with an entire housing database where you can overlay the property, but it is still dependent on the agent. Give the consumer what they want via R.com and these others are fodder for the obits.

    20. Caleb Mardini June 27th, 2008 12:48 pm

      Agreed.

      “a trade organization that has abdicated it’s position”

    21. Bawldguy Talking June 27th, 2008 1:32 pm

      Anyone heard from Rudy? I’m thinkin’ it’s only fair we hear from him.

    22. Eric Blackwell June 27th, 2008 2:19 pm

      @Bawldguy-

      You are correct, Jeff. I wrote this post and I too think it is important for this to be a conversation. I don’t agree with Trulia or their practices in the least, but I want to be CLEAR that this can and should be an open forum IMO.

      A couple of folks have emailed me with ‘possibly plausible” explanations that are pretty technical in nature… my personal opinion is much like Ryan’s that the collection of evidence mounting against them indicates that they are being pretty agressive in competing with REALTORS and have now taken it to a new level.

      I also agree with Bob’s specific point about the fact that this was the ONLY clear cut violation of Search Engine TOS that we have seen so far… Bramlett referred to their other tactics as “agressive” and “grinch-like”. I agree with that.

      While I would LOVE to take up the point of REALTOR.com, I think that needs to be a post of its own. Maybe a full time blog. (grin) Bob’s sentiment that their abandonment of their trust in providing a world class national listing site is one that I agree with.

      I don’t see much in the short or middle term that can be done about them when they (R.com) are not listening to date.

      So yeah…I would welcome an answer from Trulia to explain their side of this. Perhaps there is some light to be shed on the subject and I am open to that.

    23. Bawldguy Talking June 27th, 2008 2:27 pm

      Rudy?

    24. Eric Bramlett June 27th, 2008 2:52 pm

      *cricket* *cricket*

    25. Greg Swann June 27th, 2008 2:54 pm

      > Rudy?

      They know about it. I made sure this morning.

    26. Bob June 27th, 2008 3:04 pm

      they are being pretty agressive in competing with REALTORS and have now taken it to a new level.

      Does that surprise anyone?

      Is the issue their SEO tactics or the fact that they compete for eyeballs? Their business model has always been to leverage listings for dollars. Third parties like these can only make money selling leads or ads.

    27. Rudy from Trulia June 27th, 2008 3:22 pm

      Thanks for asking Jeff. I’ll oblige.

      Having opinions is one thing, but name calling is just really unprofessional and despite being called morons, liars, leeches and various other unseemly names, there is nothing secretive going on here.

      In fact, we very publicly launched the Trulia Publisher Platform earlier this year as a way for publishers to get 100% of the Trulia search experience for their users – without paying even one software engineer – on their sites.

      Here are the facts:

      The Trulia Publisher Platform (TPP) gives consumers access to our search experience, and innovation – via their favorite websites.

      Every TPP has a disallow directive to crawlers in the robots.txt file, to tell crawlers not to index the TPP pages.

      Because search engines sometimes do not respect the robots.txt directive, we have put in place a redirect to the Trulia.com site to avoid the duplicate content issue. As many of you know, we don’t want duplicate pages to exist at the same time because Google considers that spamming the index.

      For example, kiplinger.trulia.com/CA/San_Francisco/ is basically the same Trulia page as http://www.trulia.com/CA/San_Francisco/ – to have Google index both would be spamming the index.

      For example, Parade Magazine readers can click on their “real estate” section and have access to our 3 million listings and all of our search tools, including those that we haven’t created yet. And thanks to the disallow directive and redirect, this shows you that Google is not indexing Parade Magazine’s TPP:

      http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=site%3Aparade.trulia.com&btnG=Google+Search

      The TPP pages uphold the spirit of the original page’s content – so the redirect goes to http://www.trulia.com versus abc.trulia.com. The user experience for the consumer is the same on both pages and the content is the same.

      Finally, we do not require links for the use of TPP, and in fact many of our TPP partners do not link to us as part of their implementation.

      More information is here: http://www.trulia.com/publishers/platform/

      Good day gentlemen.

      Rudy
      Social Media Guru at Trulia

    28. Eric Bramlett June 27th, 2008 3:24 pm

      My goal is to turn the conversation away from the penny ante whining about SEO tactics and focus on the real problem – a trade organization that has abdicated it’s position as the defacto destination for comprehensive real estate info in the U.S.

      While I don’t agree with you regarding “penny ante whining,” I completely agree with what you’ve identified as the real problem, and your potential solution.

    29. Eric Bramlett June 27th, 2008 3:49 pm

      Rudy –

      Every TPP has a disallow directive to crawlers in the robots.txt file, to tell crawlers not to index the TPP pages.

      If you don’t want it indexed, you simply “nofollow, noindex” the page – which is what you did. Because you guys greedily wanted the PR, so you did a cloaked redirect on top of it. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

      This is probably the weakest spin you guys have brought us yet…it took you all day to come up with that?

    30. Paul June 27th, 2008 3:51 pm

      I certainly have to agree with Bob and that statement quoted by Eric above.

      Somebody needs to learn a little something about serving the best interests of the client…

      “With just a modicum of foresight, Realtor.com could have been Zillow and Trulia combined. The advertising opportunities that Trulia has now seized upon were R.com’s for the taking, but they screwed up, got greedy and tried to kill it’s own flock of golden egg laying geese – Realtors.”

      That’s classic.

    31. Eric Bramlett June 27th, 2008 3:52 pm

      For example, kiplinger.trulia.com/CA/San_Francisco/ is basically the same Trulia page as http://www.trulia.com/CA/San_Francisco/ – to have Google index both would be spamming the index.

      And all you have to do is “nofollow, noindex” it so that you don’t “spam the index.”

      Here’s an example from my site:
      http://www.ericbramlett.com/steinerranch.php
      is basically the same page as
      http://www.ericbramlett.com/steinerranch-travis.php
      and
      http://www.ericbramlett.com/steinerranch-lakeaustin.php

      The only real difference is the banner, and I don’t want a dupe content filter/penalty. So, I “noindex, nofollow” the last two. Nothing more. No different pages served to Google – no reason.

      According to Google, cloaking is bad, bad, bad. You guys are cloaking – by definition.

    32. Eric Bramlett June 27th, 2008 3:55 pm

      And one last thing – if this weren’t cloaking, by definition, then this story would be getting flamed to high hell over at sphinn. The SEO experts over there voted it up to the first page.

    33. Bob June 27th, 2008 4:11 pm

      Eric, I think it is penny ante because it can’t and won’t change anything. Trulia has reached critical mass and will survive an SEO-based attack that may cost them a few hundred or even thousand no follows. But the awareness you have raised has value in bringing light to what I consider the real issue – what value do these sites bring forth that we should be doing ourselves?

      Rudy, I didn’t jump into the redirect debate because its a red herring. I’ll stand by leech though, because it is a thoroughly apt description. Without our life blood, which is the listing, Trulia dies.

      Before you were at Trulia, they blatantly scraped content and republished it without permission. The appropriate name for that is “thief”. Now Trulia list homes for sale because the inventory Trulia hsa is relatively small, Trulia commingle properties that are at various stages in the foreclosure process. Trulia advertises these as for sale, when many are not.

      Defending the no follow is easy. Defending the publication of information that is misleading at best is not. The name for that may very well be “Liar”. In no way do I think there is a moron on Trulia’s payroll, however. “Moron” implies a lack of understanding about the action taken. I don’t believe that name applies to Trulia.

    34. Ryan Ward June 27th, 2008 5:05 pm

      “In fact, we very publicly launched the Trulia Publisher Platform earlier this year as a way for publishers to get 100% of the Trulia search experience for their users”

      So, because Trulia publically announced this program it’s OK that it violates the portion of TOS specifically related to serving up different pages and in this case artificially inflating rankings?

      By that logic I can buy paid links that pass PR and use cloaked redirects as long as I publically announce it?

      For the record, Google would recognize the duplicate search on the other site and not penalize Trulia for it. That’s not how the duplicate penalty works. It would simply not serve up both pages for users searching Google’s index. I think Google knows which Trulia search page is the more relevant one. I have a feeling that the SEO experts at Trulia know this too.

      Someone please jump in and tell me if I am wrong here, but, that is my understanding of the dup content issue.

      I don’t buy it. Instead, I see a bunch of guys sitting around trying to find ways to utlize black hat SEO and justify it with spin like this.

      Bob,

      You are correct, but, unless someone knows how to light a fire under the boys behind r.com, we are stuck in the mire fighting an uphill battle against a company hellbent on outranking us and serving up a poor representation of the info consumers are seeking. It’s a whole other story how Trulia pulls the wool over these “partners” eyes, but, from the “partners” shoes, they probably don’t know the miniscule portion of the actual listing data they are receiving. More “partners” blinded by bells and whistles instead of looking to see where the most relevant information is for consumers (hint: it’s not Trulia).

      One more thing: don’t underestimate the power of the blogosphere for being powerful enough to stir up enough information to take a big guy down. They wouldn’t be the first to fall because of it…

    35. Eric Blackwell June 27th, 2008 7:16 pm

      @Rudy;
      You are correct, my choice of the word MORON was poor. My apologies. I should have chosen that word more carefully, but I stand by every other of the 488 of them.

      Like Eric and Ryan, I am not buying the explanation for a minute and for the same reasons. I think they did a fine job of explaining why while I was enjoying some dinner with my family.I am not going to add to it.

      What I think is happening here is that the REALTOR community is being repeatedly exposed to Trulia’s aggressive tactics. Hopefully they are realizing the truth.

      As Bob noted, …awareness.

      Hopefully folks are becoming TruliAware…

      Do your worst. We will not kneel.

      Do you know what I find offensive in what you said?

      “For example, Parade Magazine readers can click on their “real estate” section and have access to OUR 3 million listings”

      Your words, not mine. Emphasis added. YOURS? To you these homesellers are nothing more than a way to sell an ad. Perhaps I am overly sensitive, but I find that offensive.

    36. Louis Cammarosano June 27th, 2008 8:00 pm

      I’m with David here.

      Zillow’s traffic is not a result of “leeching” but rather of building a successful brand.

      I would dare say the bulk of Zillow’s visitors go there because they KNOW about Zillow not because they found it through SEO.

      BTW homegain’s SEO traffic is in the single digits as a percentage of our overall traffic.

      Our natural HomeGain.com traffic quite dwarves our SEO traffic.

      Indeed, since HomeGain does not display listings on our site we are at a disavantage for SEO for search terms like “homes for sale”

      Homegain gets the bulk of its traffic from Homegain.com.,our partners and paid search ALL which we redirect to our agent and broker customers.

    37. Paul Francis, CRS June 27th, 2008 10:45 pm

      @ Eric — “Your words, not mine. Emphasis added. YOURS? To you these homesellers are nothing more than a way to sell an ad. Perhaps I am overly sensitive, but I find that offensive.”

      My concern is when REALTORS listings (content) is being used to game the search engine rankings to rank higher then REALTORS in the search engines for every single relevant term possible and doing this intentionally to get in the middle of consumers and actual real estate agents.

      Don’t even get me started with Trulia putting properties on the site by RealtyTrac not even available for sale at the advertised price which is causing way too much confusion for consumers in our particular market. (Correct me if I’m wrong, but that’s a $25,000 fine per listing in Illinois since it’s considered a blind ad designed to capture the consumers information.)

      Trulia has a listing in a zip code that I specialize in(89135) listed for sale for $1,761 by RealtyTrac. That’s a complete joke when the median price for a home is well over $500K. (You can’t buy a Palm Tree for $1,761 in this zipcode, much less a home.)

      Louis has provided a service without the deceptive tactics, Zillow created traffic to their site without doing this, yet Trulia feels they need to employ tactics that do not respect the relationship of ACTUAL real estate professionals and an advertising service. (Without the listings — and content from REALTORS, what do you have?)

      Rudy with Trulia — your setup is far superior then what our greedy representatives of Realtor.com have done — I really wish you guys were working for the best interest of individual REALTORS. (Key word is Individual and you certainly know what I mean by this.)

      If it was up to me, I would dump Homestore in a heartbeat and pay the price to have your talented staff work for REALTORS and the best interest of consumers so you don’t have to employ tactics to game the rankings to generate advertising revenue.

      Unfortunately, the “Voice of Real Estate” is equilavent to our elected officials finding an agreeable solution to high energy prices. Pointless unless you stop paying (and using) the energy in the first place.

    38. Eric Blackwell June 28th, 2008 3:34 am

      Paul- Well written comment. Well made point. Well done!

      @ Yours and Bob’s point about R.com. One can only hope they are reading this….and that they would man up and take action. Like Ryan, the doubt level on that happening in my book is pretty highm but we can hope….

      Thanks for an insightful and well thought out comment. I enjoyed it. My compliments to the chef!

      Eric

    39. Greg Cremia June 28th, 2008 3:50 am

      If I didn’t know better I would say this post was created by Trul** as linkbait. They just got 6 high quality blog links from a well respected authority site.

      The spin offs from this post have probably generated even more.

      And to top it off, before G takes the time to look at this issue it will have most likely have been cleaned up.

      I’m confused.

    40. Eric Bramlett July 1st, 2008 3:23 pm

      This would be a horrible attempt at linkbait. It’s not a good idea to swap credibility for links (though some choose to do so.)

    41. Greg Cremia July 2nd, 2008 4:16 am

      Have they cleaned it up or are they still cloaking those pages?

    42. [...] title pretty much sums it up.  They’ve pulled down the cloaked 301’s that we identified last week.  So…they’ve either gone white hat with it, or they’ve gone deeper to an IP [...]

    43. James Boyer July 3rd, 2008 6:35 pm

      Great Catch Eric and Eric. Keep up the great work. Trulia needs to have their feet held to the fire to be honest. Trulia is worse then a leach, they are thieves taking the content the REALTOR’s give them and then tricking Google into thinking it is Trulia’s original content, bad bad bad.

    44. Halfdeck July 4th, 2008 8:14 am

      “The SEO experts over there voted it up to the first page.”

      Look at the list of members who voted for that post – not many of them are SEO “experts” – assuming there’s such a thing as an SEO expert/guru/whatever. Most Sphinners are bloggers and social media marketers, not SEOs.

      Secondly, “noindex,nofollow” won’t work. “noindex,follow” is the preferred solution. Why? noindex,nofollow creates dangling URLs.

      @Rudy: robots.txt doesn’t tell Google not to index a page; it tells Google not to crawl a page. Big difference.

      Finally, what Trulia’s doing is sloppy, but being sloppy isn’t against Google Guidelines. Their UA-based redirect serves up the same content to both users and Googlebot albeit different URL so that doesn’t constitute cloaking in my book. And even if it was against Google Guidelines, so what?

    45. Eric Bramlett July 4th, 2008 8:52 am

      Look at the list of members who voted for that post – not many of them are SEO “experts”

      touche

      Secondly, “noindex,nofollow” won’t work. “noindex,follow” is the preferred solution. Why? noindex,nofollow creates dangling URLs.

      Thanks. I’ve changed this on my site.

      Their UA-based redirect serves up the same content to both users and Googlebot albeit different URL so that doesn’t constitute cloaking in my book.

      I disagree. It serves up different outbound links to googlebot that it serves to human visitors. The value of reciprocal vs. one-way links is arguable, but it’s generally accepted that one-ways are more valuable. They’re creating very powerful, sitewide one-way links with the redirect.

      BTW – they’ve pulled down the UA cloak.

    46. Eric Blackwell July 4th, 2008 9:32 am

      Hi Halfdeck-

      Wanted to jump in here for a sec. You know me well enough to know that I like your blog (I have said as much online)and we’ve traded posts in a couple of places. I respect your work.

      I don’t like the “black hat / white hat” labels anymore than anyone else…I think there is “more likely to run into/attract a Google filter/penalty” and “less likely to do same”. Marketing oriented approach or technology oriented approach aside, Everything that we do to websites falls on that spectrum somewhere…IMO.

      In response to Rand’s post about “White Hat Cloaking”, and Matt Cutts’ comments, we all kinda have to make our own determination as to where this falls on the spectrum of risk. The issue of is there such a thing as white hat cloaking will be an interesting one that will continue past this little flap with Trulia.

      Our thoughts and opinion as to whether it should be against Google’s TOS factor a lot less into it IMO than their spam team’s determination and opinion. Theirs are the only votes at the end of the day that count. They have the unfortunate task of divining the intent of the webmaster.

      I’d agree with Bramlett’s opinion that different links = different content. Since the dup content issue could have been handled easily without the cloak, the links would be the only reason left to cloak…

      BTW- for inlookers…Halfdeck’s blog is a good and interesting read. Put your SEO thinking caps on and be prepared to use ‘em. (grin) Thanks Half for dropping by.

    47. Halfdeck July 4th, 2008 3:20 pm

      “They’re creating very powerful, sitewide one-way links with the redirect.”

      You’re free to disagree on that point Eric. Like I said “in my book” they’re not cloaking. To me its just a messy way to handle duplicate content; if you don’t want dupes don’t go out of your way to create them in the first place. For more on why the word “cloaking” is a grey area, check out: http://searchengineland.com/080701-151341.php.

      An interesting aside from that SEOmoz post is even if Trulia is “caught” cloaking, the worst that will happen – according to Matt – is Google deindexing those TPP pages that are robots disallowed anyway. Also if a page is disallowed, I believe 301 redirect never gets read; in order to pick up a 301 redirect Googlebot needs to issue a GET request to check the page header; Google will not issue a GET on a URL blocked by robots disallow.

      “they’ve pulled down the UA cloak.”

      Yep I know. Still, Trulia removing the UA cloak is just reputation management by minimizing angles of attack not necessarily an admission of guilt.

      @Eric Blackwell: Thanks for the plug :)

      I understand why this is such a hot issue. But seeing the same kind of thing unfold between the SEO industry and Google for months last year, I’m a little weary of people taking the “demonize the other guy” route, especially when the conversation devolves to name-calling. Right now, Trulia looks like Britney Spears, getting called out for every umbrella swing and trip to the barber. Should you “leave Trulia alone!”? I don’t really care either way, but RE agents pooling their resources to outperform sites like Trulia (e.g. creating better widgets) IMO is more productive use of your time in the long run.

    48. Eric Bramlett July 4th, 2008 4:21 pm

      To me its just a messy way to handle duplicate content

      Exactly. Wouldn’t you agree that they know what they’re doing?

      RE agents pooling their resources to outperform sites like Trulia (e.g. creating better widgets) IMO is more productive use of your time in the long run.

      Agreed. Right now we’re screwed because Homestore is driving the Realtor.com brand. I think the next logical step is to focus on this issue. We need to fire Homestore, or create something new.

    49. Eric Blackwell July 4th, 2008 5:50 pm

      @Half-
      One of the problems that we have in the real estate industry is even raising the awareness that Trulia is in fact a competitor. (I have been roundly booed for saying that in the past-still cannot figure that out…grin)(Hence the green ribbpn) Regardless of what happens with Google on the issue of cloaking…hopefully we have demonstrated that Trulia is in fact a competitor and needs to be treated (RESPECTED) as such. Sometimes labels fly around as part of that process.

      Part of us making REALTORS aware of the truth about Trulia being a competitor is designed to do just what you suggest–get them to work together and pool resources to outperform the rest. REALTORS are busy selling and it is difficult to make them aware of the threats that are out there…especially with the mis and dis information that is out there from NAR and the real estate establishment.

      REALTOR.com is a joke SEO wise (given the resources that they have to work with including so many listings…) Somebody used the word, “abdicate”… I agree. There is SO much that could be done there but homestore is not taking things in the right direction and are more focused on milking the realtor than providing the consumer with a world class product.

      @my plug- you have earned it. I test stuff. I like people who test stuff. I like people who think about SEO deeply and look at things with a critical eye.