REAL not PERCEIVED Risk for IP Based Cloaking?

I know this subject risks getting a bunch of condemnation from White-Hat SEOs here. So with this thread I’m asking for replies specifically from people who either have a) actually used IP Based Cloaking for Google for at least a year, or b) have direct first-hand knowledge of someone that has used it. (Granted anyone can post anything on these forums with no one knowing if they are making things up or not, but that’s just how it goes.)

Let me first say that I don’t consider myself a Black Hat SEO. We are using IP Cloaking on a couple sites where the home pages are not FLASH, but they are graphically intensive nevertheless. The content we are serving to Google using IP-Delivery is 95% the same as if you were a user looking at the page. We’ve just removed a lot of the graphics and done some minor changes to the layout to make it more bot/indexing friendly. In my opinion it would be best described as ‘Grey Hat’ use of IP Cloaking but it is most likely technically against Google’s Webmaster Policies regarding cloaking. We don’t use any other single techniques considered grey or black-hat.

*** The purpose of this thread is not to discuss the appropriateness of IP Cloaking! *** IOW, if your comment is 'You’re crazy or your stupid, just optimize your normal content" please save your breath/fingers. Thank you for not cluttering the thread with a bunch of flame-ish comments.

I’m not going to go into the details about the differences in cloaking techniques as the person that should be responding here should already have a firm grasp.

We are using a company considered the leader in the business as far as updating the search bot IP list within minutes of discovering a new IP.

We’ve been using this on several sites for over 5 years without a problem Possibly because the content looks very similar to the non-cloaked content, but also possibly because it is extremely difficult to detect IP Cloaking.

One might say, Google could spoof their IP address or use a third-party proxy. While that is technically possible, whatever IP address they used would simply just get added to the list. I’m sure the IP Delivery company that provides this list has at least tens of thousands of clients with hundreds of thousands of websites. If Google tried to pull a fast one, it would seem they would only catch a handful of websites that they hit before the list updated and the handful that failed to update quickly after the list was updated. I’ve also read an article that IP Spoofing is considered unethical and the potential bad PR Google would get (being a publicly owned company with stock values) for spoofing IP’s is potentially not worth trying this sneaky route.

The only other reason I could see a site getting banned is if the search results indicated content that was so different than the actual content displayed, someone would send a complaint to Google and Google would have a human being verify the claim and manually ban the site. I’m sure sites get manually banned for all kinds of reasons all the time. A similar method would be if Google contracted with a third party with a large staff of people that manually reviewed suspected sites.

There is of course ethical uses for IP delivery such as delivery different content to different users depending on their region. We aren’t doing that though. And again, that’s not the subject of this thread.

So I’m curious for those that have first-hand knowledge of IP-based cloaking use, not opinions, not rumors, not theories, but actual experience or knowledge of others actual experience, what has the risk of getting banned been like and has it changed?

Why am I asking this question? I’m asking it because according to Matt Cutts Google was going to crack down on cloaking beginning Q1 2011. I have seen any evidence they have and am wondering if anyone else has seen evidence they have, specifically regarding IP-based cloaking, not the other much more easily detectable cloaking methods.

Personally, especially for sites using it in sort of a grey-hat, subtle way, delivering essentially very similar & good content, I think Google has better things to invest their resources in which is why I have no knowledge of anyone using IP-based cloaking getting banned (but then I don’t know a lot of people doing hence - hence the reason for the post.)

What is the reason you are cloaking? Is it to serve up the page quicker to Google, if this is the case I am curious as to what you are hoping to accomplish.

I have always felt that cloaking can be a fine line and comes down to what your intent is. If your intent is not to deceive Google with cloaking then I have found that they can be a little more understanding. Of course this is not the case all the time though.

I have worked for many large sites that have cloaked pages to not show ads to the search engines. Technically this is cloaking, but there is no intent to deceive the search engines. We have never been penalized for this method, but this is of course very mild when it comes to cloaking.

I also agree that Google has much larger issues to deal with, but you never know what they might focus on next. So in my opinion if you are cloaking to any degree you are running a risk, though if the content is 95% the same, then the risk is probably not too high.