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I have a website offering translation services in several languages (www.your-translations.com), as well as many articles for translators and translation software.

Most visitors come from search engines and I want to customize the experience for the visitors based on the search string. For instance, if the visitor searches for "English to French translation", I want to show him the page on English to French translation instead of a generic "Translation services" page and if he searches for tech detail on a translation software, I would rather direct him straight to the article section.

Google and other SEs have a tendency to send most of my visitors straight to my home page which is less than ideal for the visitors. After all, if they search for French, odds are that they don't care about my pages on the Chinese market.

The problem is that it results in some minor cloaking (The SE collected the page as "Translation services", but I display "English to French translation services" to the visitor) which is supposed to be a major no-no for SEs, even though it actually improves the website usability for the visitor.

Is there a better way to do the same thing? Or am I simply worrying too much about what Google & co will do about such an evil instance of cloaking?

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You could also try creating separate landing pages for specific translation types as opposed to the general translation service. That way, what the user sees on the SERP is exactly what they'll get. And it could also attract more users since they know that you offer the translation type they're specifically looking for. If the page already exists, then you need to figure out why it's not showing up in the relevant searches. –  Lèse majesté Sep 9 '10 at 10:41
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up vote 3 down vote accepted

You are not cloaking. Cloaking is intentionally serving up different content to the search engines then you are to human visitors for the purpose of SERP manipulation. You are not doing this.

Dynamic content is normal and part of the every day web. I see lots of websites that tailor their pages to users referred by search engines usually in the form of keyword highlighting but I am sure others are more creative then that. What you are doing falls into this category as you are merely tailoring your pages to suit what you think your visitors are looking for. The search engines would get the same content if they followed the same path as the search user.

So you are not cloaking and, IMHO, offering up a better user experience which is a plus.

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Exactly. Users have an expectation that what Google's description/content preview shows is what they will get when they click on the page, but it doesn't have to be identical. As long as you don't claim to have a piece of content or a product, and then do a bait-and-switch and try to sell the visitor something completely different, then it's fine. E.g. if Google indexes a guest version of a page, and I see the registered users version because I'm automatically logged into the site, then it's not going to bother me or Google. Just like you, Google is concerned primarily with usability. –  Lèse majesté Sep 9 '10 at 10:38
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