Google Approves of IP Delivery

Google’s Matt Cutts: The Big Interview by Mike Grehan over at ClickZ has 2 interviews with Matt Cutts. Mike Grehan asks some great questions here for Google’s resident chief spam warrior. Mike published some of what Matt had to say in the article, but I recommend downloading and listening to the full audio of both. There is some great information in there.

One of the things that Matt said in the interview that I have not heard anyone talk about is Google’s policy on IP delivery. In the interview, Matt essentially says that cloaking is against Google’s webmaster guidelines but IP delivery is not. This is something that I personally have not heard before from Google. What does all this mean exactly? Well, let’s look at what Matt is talking about.

Cloaking is defined as having a script on your web site that can differentiate between a user and a search engine bot. When the script detects a search engine bot visiting the site, it will serve content that is different than the content it would normally deliver to a user. Search engine spammers have used this technique in the past to serve pages stuffed with keywords and links created specifically for search engines, but that users would not approve of, in order to gain undeserved rankings in the search engines. This practice has long been known to seo’s as something that can get you banned from most search engines.

IP delivery is different, however. IP delivery is serving different content to the user based on the IP address of the user. Many web sites engage in this practice including Google, according to Matt. Google is saying that this practice is acceptable under their webmaster guidelines. I think this is a good thing for webmasters who may have been afraid to do this for fear of being banned in the search engines.

Update: I just found a post about this on SEO Roundtable talking about this issue last month. It turns out Matt posted a comment on his blog saying the same thing he says in his interview. Here is a quote.

IP delivery: delivering results to users based on IP address.
Cloaking: showing different pages to users than to search engines.

IP delivery includes things like “users from Britain get sent to the co.uk, users from France get sent to the .fr”. This is fine–even Google does this.

It’s when you do something *special* or out-of-the-ordinary for Googlebot that you start to get in trouble, because that’s cloaking. In the example above, cloaking would be “if a user is from Googlelandia, they get sent to our Google-only optimized text pages.”

So IP delivery is fine, but don’t do anything special for Googlebot. Just treat it like a typical user visiting the site.

What does this mean for webmasters? Well, I’m not sure how you could use this to benefit your users. But, I may post about this in the future on how you can use IP delivery to help you improve your overall user experience for your web site.