Google Optimizer - is it approved cloaking?

4 comments

OK - a title likely to provoke knee-jerk reactions from all and sundry, but hold on a moment before cranking up those old cloaking arguments.

I think this is a whole different question.

For those that don't know, Google Optimizer is multivariate testing tool that allows you to split run test different versions of key parts of your page in order to improve conversion rates.

Its in beta at the moment, but using it on a number of client sites has shown it to be as effective as some of the high ticket price alternatives.

I like it.
..in fact, I like it a lot.

So whats the cloaking issue then?

Well, Google Optimizer works by inserting javascript in place of the page content that you want to rotate and putting the original content in a "noscript" tag.

This is a nice way of getting round the problem from which most other multivariate testing software suffer, the problem of showing many different page versions to the SE spiders and incurring a penalty.

IMO, its a sensible solution to the problem and I have no issue with its implementation.

It does, however prompt a few interesting questions:

  • This is obviously presenting one version of the content to spiders, and another version to the visitors. Clearly the intent is honourable, so is this specific evidence that Google are prepared to accept this technique as valid providing the intent is not to deceive?
  • Are Google prepared to accept this technique as valid from any other company offering a similar product, or does Google Optimizer have a 'get out of jail free' card?
  • Assuming the intent is similarly honourable, are PHP based solutions OK to use if they use IP based cloaking to mask their test content?
  • How will Google be able to prevent abuse of the technique - for example, at its simplest level, by setting up a test using high converting content in the tests and
    SEO targeted content in the base "noscript" content?
  • Are the other Search Engines going to penalise this use of the "noscript" tag?
  • Or, is all the above irrelevant because once it comes out of beta, Google will advise that we only use Google Optimizer on PPC or e-mail campaign landing pages?

Its a tricky one, no?

Comments

Very tricky

I have been doing a bit of research into this and it still scares me because it cloaks, but it's Google's, so are Google trying to get people who try and improve there customer experience banned?

It would be useful if Google could confirm if this could possibly lead to a penalty, hint hint :)

If you are worried,it's best

If you are worried,it's best to go back to basics

cloak the cloaking!!

Just spotted this in the

Just spotted this in the Google Optimizer Group, posted by "Website Optimizer Beta Advisor"

Quote:
Website Optimizer is designed to keep your original content visible in
the HTML source code of your page at all times. As a result, your
original content is visible to crawlers, which means there should be
no major impact on search engine ranking.

.. not exactly support for js cloaking with a "noscript" tag (assuming good intentions etc), but not far off it.

Soooooo dodgy given Google's

Soooooo dodgy given Google's holier than thou attitude. An explanation is surely forthcoming. Should be good too, if it ever happens.

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