Aplus.net Accused of Cloaking Links Published: Apr 25, 2004
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According to users of the Webhosting Talk (webhostingtalk.com) message board, San Diego-based Web hosting provider Aplus.net may be using the Web sites of its customers, without their knowledge, to promote its own ranking within search engine algorithms.

Aplus.net Accused of Cloaking Links
According to users of the Webhosting Talk (webhostingtalk.com) message board, San Diego-based Web hosting provider Aplus.net may be using the Web sites of its customers, without their knowledge, to promote its own ranking within search engine algorithms.

Contributors to a Webhosting Talk thread claimed the company was "cloaking" customer sites to increase its own search engine rankings, displaying optimized pages to search engine spiders and unmodified pages to real users.

In a question posted to the Google Answers site last week, a Web site operator asked why their site's listing in Google search results included "Web Hosting | Dedicated Servers | Domain Names by Aplus.net," a phrase that did not appear on the site.

In a lengthy reply, another user suggested that Aplus.net might be inserting code, containing links to the Aplus.net home page, into users' sites. When visited by search engine crawlers, the links to Aplus.net can help significantly boost search engine rankings. The Google algorithm is known to value external links to a Web site as a strong indicator of overall popularity, and favors this factor in determining page rank.

Aplus.net did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Aplus.net's Google rankings would certainly seem to support the claims. According to Google, 17,300 pages link to Aplus.net, compared to 2,070 that link to Interland.com and 1,040 to cihost.com, the Web sites of comparably-sized Web hosting providers. A sample search of the term "web hosting" on Google turned up a thirteenth place ranking for Aplus.net. The term "hosting" registered a tenth place ranking, the last position on the all-important first page of Google's search results.

The linking codes - which appear in the source code of Google's cached copies of some Aplus.net-hosted sites, but not in the sites themselves - appear to have been added without the knowledge of site owners. There is no mention of Web page modification in Aplus.net's terms of service agreement.

Some Webhosting Talk users suggested that the alleged cloaking could cause Web hosting customers to have their sites blacklisted by search engines. Cloaking is typically penalized by search engine companies.

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Comments (1)

  • Gravatar - Larry
    Larry 22:22, March 2, 2006
    CIhost has 91,000 people linking to them now according to google. Maybe they are doing the same thing now?

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