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What is a Stealth Website?

09/15/05

A "stealth website" is one that's been setup to deliver one page of highly optimized content to a search engine while delivering a page of more user-friendly and less "spammy" information to typical users. Also known as "cloaking", this is achieved through two means. The first would be to write a script that detects the visitor's IP then compares it to a list of known search engine spiders (the automated robots that go out and index websites). If there is a match, then the script loads the stealth page, if no match is determined then the normal page loads. The second way to cloak is to detect the user-agent of a visitor. If the agent is determined to be a spider (googlebot, slurp, etc) then the stealth page is loaded. If the agent is determined to be a typical browser (internet explorer, mozilla, etc) then the normal page is loaded.

Though highly effective, the use of stealth pages and cloaking is very unethical when it comes to ways to optimize a website and can lead to serious penalties from the engines if it's ever caught. The only situations where the reward might outweigh the risk would be when working with a site that has absolutely no optimizable content, is made up of 100% images, or is written completely in a scripting language that the engines are unable to index... in these cases there's not much search engine positioning to lose.

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