We have a big website with a lot of content, that is doing pretty well in terms of SEO. Google likes the site, visitors like it as well. Our problem is that there is a lot of content that would only be suitable for our USA visitors, while other parts of content would only be suitable for certain European countries.

At the moment all content is visible to Google (search engine) and all visitors naturally (as a big site) with many interlinked pages.

We are looking for a way to be able to personalize our content to (for example) our American auditory, without impacting the current SEO rankings.

We use ASP.NET and IIS 7.5 and I was thinking to implement authentication for our visitors and enable them with an option to personalize the content according to their choice - so they will only see content that is relevant to them (say only content relevant for USA)

The site is dynamic and using IIS Url rewrite module for it's URLs.

I can add a simple "Condition" to a URL rewrite rule (in web.config) that would check for a presence of authentication cookie and rewrite to a more suitable internal page to handle content, while preserving the original URL that everybody sees without authentication.

That means I can basically personalize content to a visitor that has "logged-in" and made his preference clear...

Sounds like a completely legitimate thing to me... It isn't cloaking or something right? We actually need to do this in order to improve conversions of our site, without affecting current rankings.

What do you think ? Would you agree with me that it is a completely legitimate solution that should not (if implemented carefully and correctly) have the negative consequences of being triggered (by Google) as some black-hat tricks practitioner.. ?

(I am asking this because tomorrow I will have to convince my partners in that it might be a good option for us to implement)

4 Answers 4


Cloaking is when you intentionally serve different content to search engines for the explicit purpose of manipulating their rankings (to your benefit). Customizing content for your users definitely does not meet this criteria. In fact, customized content for users is the norm for websites nowadays with Google's very own search results pages being an excellent example.

So, to summarize, as long as you are showing the search engines the same content you would show a user if they were not logged in you're not doing anything wrong and will have no issues with your site's pages' rankings.

  • how come in the same answer, you recommend to show the user specific content for him, and on the other hand say "show the search engine the same content the user see's" ? Oct 18, 2011 at 10:28
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    I think that he means that you would not hide porn content behind fairy tale stories that would be indexed by Google. So that after you log-in to the site, you would suddenly see something else. Oct 18, 2011 at 11:06
  • what happens if you show google Fairy Tails, and show the user Magic Lizards ? its not something else, its the user preffered Faily Tails... but still since it is the same url.. the content would be diffrent. Oct 18, 2011 at 11:52
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    Your example is irrelevant to this question. You're talking about serving completely different content when the question-asker is talking about personalizing the content displayed to non-logged in users. Printing a user's name on the page and/or showing them modified content to suit their preferences when they are logged in is not cloaking.
    – John Conde
    Oct 18, 2011 at 12:00
  • i partialy agree with you, i do not know how GA works, and if it used on the site, but if it is, google might see the diffrence in content, links on the website, and if not now maybe on a later update. to be on the safe side, i would have created a personlized page for the user. Oct 18, 2011 at 12:24

Well, this is my opinion. While you are doing a legitimate thing (as you assert, this is not cloacking), I think that the best way to prevent SEO damages is to check if a user is logged and then redirect he to his personal page. Doing that, while the S.E.s will not see any difference (they are still able to crawl all your contents) and so you will have not effect on your actual rankings. Your users will be happy due to their custom page too. Thus, you will be happy due to your (probably) improved conversions.


Thank you for the time you have found to reply on this question. I believe that all points of view are important to consider, while I just wanted to see some opinions.

The idea is not to display different content, but more relevant content. (Filtered content, stripped out of 'noise').

Please consider these links that can help to explain the concept:

We would have a "personal preferences" page where our visitors would be able to check what they are mostly interested in, what communication language they prefer and whether they would like to be notified of new content. This personalized view of our site will only be available to them after "Sign in" to our site (being authenticated in this way or another, but mainly by a presence of an authentication cookie - like with ASP.NET Forms authentication).

We are not doing anything tricky here. The goal is to make the experience of browsing our site more pleasant and convenient, while suggesting information that could interest our visitors more than other pieces that are available without authenticating / applying preferences.

  • from your own link at the WEB SITE PERSONALIZATION, Figure 1. Elements of a personalization system, look at D... ASSEMBLE PAGE FOR DISPLAY FOR THE USER, that is a SPECIFIC PAGE for him. Oct 18, 2011 at 11:36

I am sorry to disappoint you but that is cloaking. Cloaking is serving one page to users then a different page to the search engine bots. [Cloaking, sneaky Javascript redirects, and doorway pages][1]


Cloaking refers to the practice of presenting different content or URLs to users and search engines. Serving up different results based on user agent may cause your site to be perceived as deceptive and removed from the Google index.

Some examples of cloaking include:

• Serving a page of HTML text to search engines, while showing a page of images or Flash to users. • Serving different content to search engines than to users

I also agree with AurelioDeRosa, you should take the user that has logged in to a private URL. That will make him happy and this method will not be considered cloaking by Google or any other search engine.


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