A Question for Google about Ethical SEO

Today I was talking to a prospective client who wishes to rank for the keyphrase “Hinsdale Interior Design”, among other terms. Now this phrase in itself is nothing special as it’s extremely low competition, but one of their competitor’s sites definitely made me raise my eyebrows.

When I visited Donna Michelle’s site (www.donnamichelle.com), I was presented with a nice looking flash movie, but an absence of content that would have let them rank for this phrase. So I decided to do some investigating. I started by inspecting the source code to make sure nothing was cloaked, and sure enough there wasn’t any cloaked content. The next logical step was to check the Google cache, which redirected me back to this flash movie on her site.

My next thought was that Javascript was coming into play because Google’s cache should never redirect your web browser. I then disabled Javascript through my Firefox Web Developer Toolbar, and re-pasted the URL into the address bar. This time I was presented with a black page, with a scroll bar on the right. After scrolling down through 1000 black pixels I found all the content that Googlebot was caching, and a Javascript redirect in an onload attribute on an image tag (ie you load the page and your redirected to the specified webpage). Would you consider this cloaking?

Personally I would consider this cloaking as the user is being redirected to different content then Googlebot. Compounded on top of this even if the Javascript was delayed in loading all the user would see is a black screen. Only one person can really answer this question, and that’s Matt Cutts the Anti Spam Czar of Google.

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