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Dynamic rendering Vs. Cloaking: How does it impact SEO?

If you are venturing into the SEO domain, you probably have come across the term “black hat techniques.” Black hat techniques represent illegal and shady SEO techniques that will bring you quick results but is not sustainable in the long run. 

One such black hat technique is cloaking. Utilizing the cloaking technique is not just prohibited by Google, but it can also lead to the cancellation of your webpage if Googlebot detects it. 

However, sometimes unintentionally, people might use cloaking. Is article will discuss the misunderstood techniques of cloaking and dynamic rendering to help you avoid common mistakes while developing a web page. 

It is recommended that you use a JavaScript prerender for dynamic rendering.

Let’s get started!

What is Cloaking?

Cloaking represents a black hat SEO technique that involves presenting different contents to search engines and human users to manipulate Google’s search algorithm. Consequently, cloaking also misleads the users to increase their webpage ranking. 

For example, a website utilizing the cloaking technique will use a user agent or IP address of the request for identifying Google Bot and serve with a different page than what it shows to the online retailers. 

Using black hat techniques such as cloaking is not just against Google’s SEO guidelines. It can be harmful to your website as well. Most black hat practitioners will use illegal content or irrelevant keywords to attain a high ranking on search engine pages. 

Cloaking can lead to getting your website deindexed or permanently banned. Therefore, cloaking is never a choice for SEO. 

What Is Dynamic Rendering?

Dynamic rendering helps serve a completely rendered version of the JavaScript website or even single-page applications to search engines that find it difficult to execute JavaScript. 

For rendering your website or a particular webpage, you can use Reactjs prerendering. 

In most instances, search engines such as Google or Bing struggle to execute JavaScript-heavy web pages which can translate into various indexing issues. Dynamic rendering helps your website to readily identify search crawlers such as Google bots or Bing bots and offer them the static HTML version of the requested web pages after executing JavaScript content. 

Almost every Javascript prerendering follows a similar technique: 

  • First, middleware such as Javascript prerender is installed on your server that identifies search engine crawlers and sends a request to your service. 
  • The prerendering extracts the necessary data from your webpage and develops a snapshot of the fully rendered page. 
  • In the final step, it uses your server to send the static page back to the crawler and caches it for later. 

However, if the user-agent is a human, the request follows the regular route, sending the online user to your website.

Cloaking And Dynamic Rendering Are Two Different Concepts 

Cloaking and dynamic rendering might seem like similar concepts. But Google clarifies that the two are completely different approaches to SEO. 

The confusion arises because, in dynamic rendering, you send Google bot and human users different versions of your site. So why is dynamic rendering not considered cloaking?

To clarify this, Google released the following statement:

Googlebot typically doesn’t consider dynamic Reactjs prerendering as cloaking. If your dynamic rendering presents similar content, Googlebot won’t scan dynamic rendering as the black-hat SEO cloaking.

The primary difference between the two is:

Cloaking doesn’t just represent the process but also the intention of using the technique.  

By using a service like JavaScript prerender, you are creating a static version of your page. However, the content will remain the same for both search engines and users. 

When using a service like Prerender, you’re creating a static version of your page, but the content will be the same for search engines as for users. You’re just eliminating the rendering process from Google’s servers. 

However, that also means that you might experience cloaking penalties even without malicious intentions if you incorrectly use prerendering or dynamic rendering.

So how do you avoid that? Let’s find out!

How to avoid cloaking penalties while using dynamic rendering?

Dynamic rendering works similarly to cloaking– several variables can go wrong and make your website liable to cloaking penalties even without wrong intentions.  

Here are some details you need to consider while using JavaScript prerender

Always keep an eye out for hacks.

One of the most prominent tactics used by illegal entities is hacking websites that garner decent traffic. The traffic is redirected to the main websites by cloaking these pages. 

If you have experienced a recent website breach or are unsure why you received a cloaking penalty, hacking might be one of the reasons. To avoid this, always audit your websites to discover any weird redirects or backend issues that might suggest cloaking. 

Check for Hidden Text

Sometimes, during Reactjs prerendering, some of your text attributes might get altered, leading to hidden text issues. These components can be picked up by the Google crawlers and tagged as keyword-stuffing attempts, which can eventually lead to ranking penalties. 

Furthermore, Google will also consider your prerendering cloaking if there are significant hidden elements making the dynamically rendered page considerably different than what the users can see. 

Partially Rendered Pages

The primary aspect of cloaking that differentiates it from rendering is that in cloaking, there is a significant difference between what the search engine sees and what users receive. 

With partially rendered pages, some of the content might go missing, probably making Google bot think you’re trying to trick the algorithm. Partial rendering can be caused due to the following circumstances: 

  • Page rendering times out 
  • Page errors 

Wrapping Up

Not all sites require dynamic rendering. It’s primarily reserved for JavaScript-generated content that changes rapidly or content using JavaScript features that aren’t supported by Google crawlers.

The benefit of dynamic rendering is that it enables faster Googlebot crawling and rendering of JavaScript content, translating into faster indexing in search results. 

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