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I am using geolocation DNS to block some countries. Visitors coming from these countries will be directed to another web server with a blank web page with few words and contact email address.

I see our Alexa rank dropping a lot, and no keyword can find our website now (if no old customers, we would die now), so I'm wondering Google take our blank web page as a cloaking.

Should I respond 404 status page?

If Googlebot coming from USA, it will see the normal page. But if Googlebot coming from the countries I'm blocking, it will see another web page with only few words and contact email address.

I'm wondering it would cause Googlebot considering this as a cloaking.

  • What kind of redirect are you using? As long as you are not blocking searches, should not be any problem. Check how many traffic you had from this countries and that should be what you are missing. Rankings in allowed countries should remain the same. – Emirodgar Mar 12 '18 at 7:57
  • Amazon route 53 geolocation DNS. That said. Amazon route 53 will dynamically respond server IP by countries, so if the visitor coming from the blocking countries, I'll show them another IP, which only show a blank web page. Technically, the visitors won't know they are blocked, because they can see a simple web page with few words and a contact email address. – Ben P.P. Tung Mar 12 '18 at 8:32
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    Cloaking is when you have different content for bots than users. If you are blocking both of them, it's not cloaking. Are you losing rank and traffic in all countries? – Emirodgar Mar 12 '18 at 8:47
  • Hi Emirodgar, thank you for reply. Yes, we are losing rank and traffic in all countries. I'm using Firefox privacy mode to check some few hot keywords. Few days ago, I got a message from Search console which said fixes failed for index coverage issues. Then, at the same time, I cannot find us in that few keywords anymore. We just relaunched our website from 2 years idle time, in this relaunch, our website is changed to single page app. Unfortunately, google cannot crawl it. Then, I started to use prerender.io, google started to index our images. However, our rank still keep dropping. – Ben P.P. Tung Mar 12 '18 at 9:34
  • I wouldn't recommend blocking any countries. Geo location databases are pretty inaccurate and you are likely blocking some legitimate visitors from countries you want. – Stephen Ostermiller Mar 12 '18 at 10:09
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If you block users from a certain country and Google doesn't know about it because it just sees the page that it can crawl, Google will indeed consider this cloaking and it's going to hurt your site dearly.

What ends up happening is that if you block country XYZ but Google doesn't know this, Google will send XYZ users to your page and they'll be blocked. This is a bad experience for XYZ users. As a result, you created a poor experience for a percentage of Google customers, and Google wouldn't like that.

I don't recommend blocking an entire country. The internet is an open platform for the entire world. I'm not sure why you need to do that but I'm sure you have your reasons.

If you must block an entire country, the best solution that I can come up with is adding rel lang country tags to your head. You can tell Google which page to send visitors to if they reside in country xyz. And on that page they're blocked. Google might understand the situation better that way.

  • HI Michael, thank you for your advice. Our website is still in the top one page of Bing and DuckDuckGo, so I think what you said is correct. – Ben P.P. Tung Mar 14 '18 at 5:35

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