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Dangers of outsourcing web development: black hat techniques like cloaking hidden in your source code

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It is common for small and medium sized businesses to outsource the development of their websites. This comes along with its advantages (mainly a low cost) and disadvantages (dependency on the provider when upgrading or changing functions on your website).

In some extreme cases, unscrupulous developers will take advantage of the inexperience of their clients and include some sneaky and fraudulent black hat snippets into the source code, like this example of cloaking I discovered recently. It was sitting comfortably in the customer’s source code for several years.

While conducting a 10 minute website SEO audit before a meeting with a prospective customer, I came across this piece of code. It would be funny unless it was your own site..

black hat code, cloaking

We see in a very prominent position within the code (just below the “</head>” tag and practically in the first line after the “<body>” tag), a paragraph entirely dedicated to one of the most blatant black hat techniques, cloaking: search engines will see this data but users will not due to the “hide” instructions (highlighted).

In this case, the code contains links promoting other websites for the keywords Viagra, Cyalis, Penis enlargment, Casinos, etc. Using this cloaking technique can seriously affect the client’s webstite’s rankings since it is a technique totally forbidden by Google and other search engines.

The website had many other issues and rankings were very bad but that could also be due to use of frames (one unique url for all the content) and other structural issues too.

Please share your own experiences of this kind if you have come across any.

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  1. that’s why I’m skeptic in hiring web developers. I find some of them shady. better be safe than sorry.

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