This is an interview series from 2006 that was originally published on my personal website, I have moved the series here and you can also see the other SEO interviews below.
Dan Kramer aka Volatilegx Interviewed
I Hate Google.org
Cloaking Ethics & Tips, Search Engine Guildelines and SEO
I understand you've gone back to study at university, how did that come about and how is it all going for you?
I'm to a point in my life where I don't have to work full time in order to support my family's lifestyle. I spent a couple of years kicking around the home office working on various projects (my wife calls it being semi-retired) and keeping somewhat busy. However, I'm the type of guy that needs a challenge in life. I decided to go back to school to pursue a degree in Finance and eventually attend law school. So far I've found college is a lot easier after you've developed a work ethic.
In your opinion are many of the negative things said about cloaking largely unfounded?
There are negative things said about cloaking both from a practical standpoint (will it get your site banned?) and from an ethical standpoint (is it ethically defensible?). Neither issue is unfounded. Cloaking can get a domain banned. That is unquestionable. The wise cloaker will run his cloaking campaigns on domains that are unrelated to his "white-hat" domains.
Also, cloaking can certainly be used unethically. For instance, if someone optimized pages to rank for the name of popular cartoon characters, and then displayed porn sites to human visitors, that would be unethical (and probably illegal, too).
Also, cloaking somebody else's content is unethical (and illegal). Some folks argue that simply showing different content to search engines and and human visitors is unethical, but I do not believe it is. When done properly (meaning not following the strategies outlined earlier), it can and should increase the relevancy of search engine rankings, and what is unethical about that?
Should webmasters be able to cloak content and not feel guilty?
Absolutely! As long as you own the content, and are not trying to rank for irrelevant searches, there is no reason to feel guilty, in my book.
What are some handy applications of cloaking for the average webmaster?
Everybody knows about cloaking for SEO purposes, but there are many other applications as well. You have geolocation, subscription management, language cloaking, browser optimization, A/B testing, and probably several I've forgotten to list.
What is your opinion of search engines creating guidelines for our websites while basically using our content for free? Isn't the whole issue slightly hypocritical?
I know it sounds funny coming from a guy like me, but I think it's perfectly reasonable. However, many new search engine optimizers assume that the guidelines bind them legally. Nothing could be further from the truth. Remember, the search engine spiders are guests on your website. Search engines are using your content to fill their databases, with your implicit permission (which you can revoke at any time). Their guidelines are just telling webmasters what kinds of websites search engines want to index. Of course, there will always be plenty of websites in their indexes that violate one or more of their guidelines... it's impossible for search engines to keep up with all of us spammers.
Who invented search spam?
Gee, I don't know, but I imagine that they never could have guessed that so many spammers would follow in their footsteps. I know I was spamming like crazy in 1996, but there were surely many others before me
Moderating the cloaking forum at WebmasterWorld must have it's challenges! How do you stay motivated and so polite when dealing with so many of the same questions day in day out?
It's the huge paycheck. No, it's the chicks. Wait, maybe it's the free beer. Well at least the last one's true ;)
Participating at WebmasterWorld has always been one of the fun parts of my daily activities. I enjoy the interactions I have there. Also, handling technical questions for my customers is pretty entertaining. I've met plenty of interesting people from all over the world doing this, and had the opportunity to travel and talk with other geeks just like me... good times... good times.
Any hot SEO/SEM tips for our readers?
Here's a good top-ten list for you:
- If you cloak, host your cloaked pages on domains that can't be traced to you.
- Keep your lists of IP addresses up-to-date.
- Create your new pages a few every day. Use the "trickle-down" theory of spam creation.
- Don't cross-link between domains you detectably own, or at least don't do it more than absolutely necessary. Don't create linking networks
- Test your pages for whatever metric you are interested in. Then, test some more. Nothing beats tinkering around to find whatever formulae work in your niches.
- Don't neglect long-tail keywords. That means you have a better chance of getting a good ranking for "cigar stores in Lake Charles Louisiana" than just "cigars". Pick a niche, delve for keywords, create your content, then move on and pick another niche.
- Keep your white hat sites clean. Don't be tempted to try that latest black hat technique for getting quick links for your white hat campaign
- Spend a good percentage of every day gathering intelligence on your industry. Participate in discussion boards. Read blogs. Write a blog. Learn about the new trends and try to stay ahead of the curve.
- Don't get too attached to a domain. The chances are that your black hat projects will eventually get burned. Diversification of niches, strategies and implementations will protect you from changes in algorithms and spam-hating search engines.
- Work, work, work. The key to success in this business is to be constantly creating more domains, pages, content, niches and projects.
Search Fact file for Dan Kramer
Years in Search: 10
No of Clients: thousands
Services Offered: KloakIt
Favourite SEO/SEM reading material?
Are you Whitehat, Blackhat, Confused or Not into hats? Black hat, of course.
What are your hobbies outside of Search? Deer hunting, playing with my kids, reading.
Any shameless plugs for our readers? Check out KloakIt! Email
me and I might even be able to swing a discount ;)
Dan Kramer may be contacted via the KloatIt website or via any of the main SEO/SEM forums (volatilegx)