According to a recent post on, one of Australia’s top travel websites - is possibly using blackhat cloaking technique for their website SEO although according to Colin Bowman, GM Marketing Flight Centre Limited, their intent is “purely to improve the visual experience and not to deceive the search engines.” Here is the response from Colin Bowman.

Flight Centre has developed an online brochure system that converts brochure pages into javascript which allows people to quickly and easily view travel information. The online catalogue pages are images, so the content in those pages, while discernible to the human eye, cannot be indexed by search engine spiders and hence this large volume of travel information may never be accessed by the public. Our intent is purely to improve the visual experience and not to deceive the search engines.

In the development of this solution for our customers, our technology partners conducted research to understand how content from our brochures could be searched by people researching travel. We sought a second opinion from Google about how to index the content from the brochures to allow our customers access to this information. We showed our solution to a Google CSE. He reviewed our site maps and robots.txt and replied in writing that “everything looks ok”.

It is clear that our intent is not to show content to spiders that differs from the content in the pages and therefore should not be regarded as blackhat cloaking. Further, Flight Centre did not receive any extra benefit in natural rankings from providing content in this format. The content that was visible to Google’s spiders is an identical replica to what is shown in the customer friendly brochure viewer so no unfair advantage was gained nor sought.

We support Google’s stance on blackhat cloaking. However, we need to further understand how their universal mandate to outlaw the solution to indexing images can be modified to account for situations such as ours where our intention is purely to provide the best possible user experience. We are working on an alternative solution and would also welcome the opportunity to work with Google to document a solution on how to index images rather Google adopting the stance “we can only educate on SEO, we cannot tell you what to do ”.

You can read more about the story at:

The Dangers of Cloaking Revealed at SMX Sydney

Danny & Rand Discover Flightcentre Possible Blackhat Cloaking : SMX Sydney Day 2

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