Yahoo Autos Condemned For Cloaking

    May 23, 2007

The automotive world can get pretty shady, but it still came as a surprise when Yahoo was recently caught “serving keyword stuffed pages to the SE crawlers and regular pages to the average users.”  This is known as “cloaking,” and it took place on the Yahoo Autos site.

Andrew Gerhart first noticed the problem on Monday.  Gerhart collected screenshots to prove his point, and as he notes, Yahoo Autos is clearly in violation of Yahoo’s own policy regarding “search content quality.”

“Normally, I could care less if someone is spamming or using shady techniques,” Gerhart writes.  “BUT, I don’t feel that this applies to the search engines.  They are the ones placing the ‘quality guidelines’, penalizing websites, banning websites, and trying to enforce the rules that they’ve made up.  And they penalize and ban websites for less than what Yahoo! is doing above.”

Gerhart continues by asking, “How is that fair?  With one hand you’re going to ban a site and in effect reduce their revenue and with your other hand you employ the same strategies (or worse)?  Come on now.”

I should pause here to say that every fault Gerhart found with Yahoo Autos is a real one – a discussion in the WebmasterWorld Forum corroborates everything, and Search Engine Roundtable adds, “Tim Mayer of Yahoo! has confirmed on [the] May 22nd edition of The Daily Search Cast that Yahoo Autos has changed the page since this has been reported.”

But there’s one other interesting angle to this story, and it relates to Gerhart’s position as Director of SEO for Primedia Automotive.  As WebProNews reported, Primedia started a “Ride of the Month” contest last week, and that contest will involve a game for Microsoft’s Xbox 360.  So it seems that someone with ties to Microsoft is pointing out problems with Yahoo.

Interesting, yes, but again, it doesn’t in any way counterbalance the fact that Yahoo Autos was cloaking.