Google Warns Against Cloaking HTTP Status Codes

Learn why HTTP status code obfuscation is hazardous, Google’s position on the matter, and the significance of ethical SEO practises.

• Prevent cloaking, as it violates Google’s guidelines and can damage your website’s credibility.

• Use the “noindex” element for a more secure method of removing pages from search results.

• Rely only on ethical SEO:
Transparency should be prioritised for improved rankings and user experiences.

During Google’s April 2023 SEO Office Hours, a website proprietor asked Google Analyst Gary Illyes if it was acceptable to serve Googlebot a distinct HTTP status code from human visitors.

Specifically, they desired to serve Googlebot an HTTP status code of 410 (gone) while providing consumers with a status code of 200 (ok).

The HTTP status code 410 notifies search engines that a page has been permanently purged and must be removed from their index.

In contrast, an HTTP status code of 200 indicates that the request was successful and the requested resource was delivered.

Google Warns Against Cloaking HTTP Status Codes
Google Warns Against Cloaking HTTP Status Codes

Giving search engines and consumers distinct HTTP status codes is known as “cloaking.”

This is a common black-hat SEO technique used to manipulate search engine rankings by displaying a different version of a page to crawlers and human visitors.

Google’s Opinion Regarding Cloaking

In response to the website owner’s inquiry, Illyes cautioned against cloaking status codes, citing their inherent danger.

He explained that multiple serving conditions could result in potential problems, such as Google de-indexing the website.

Obtain a competitive edge and dominate the SERPs.

Instead, Illyes suggests using the “noindex” robots meta tag to remove specific pages from Google’s index.

This method is simpler and safer than establishing potentially problematic serving conditions.

The Consequences of Cloaking

Google’s webmaster guidelines consider caching a blatant violation.

It is viewed as an endeavour to deceive search engine crawlers when done intentionally.
Cloaking may result in a decline in rankings or the removal of content from search engine results.

Avoid giving distinct status codes to search engines and users.
To this purpose, avoid all forms of concealment.

Cloaking can involve displaying distinct content, meta tags, or design elements to search engines and users.

It is all against Google’s regulations and can make a website appear unprofessional.

Being transparent and truthful is the best way to keep search engines and visitors pleased, resulting in higher rankings and improved user experiences.