Showing less content to search engines than to users isn’t necessarily a cloaking issue
John was asked about a website that had a lot of noindexed pages that had HTTP errors. They asked whether it’s considered ‘cloaking‘ to show an empty HTML page to bots to get those URLs de-indexed, while still showing users the page.
John mentioned that the part of ‘cloaking’ that is an issue is when search engines get more or vastly different content than users. Google wants to avoid promising users something they can’t find when they go to a page from a query. However, showing an empty page with a noindex will cause Google to drop those URLs and they will not care if users see something different because the page will not appear in search results.
Google ignores content in ‘noscript’ tags
A question was asked about whether using noscript tags could be a workaround for getting content seen by Google. John said that Google generally ignores content in noscript tags, so it wouldn’t be a workaround if the content you are including in noscript was content that you wanted to be included for indexing.
Google can only index what Googlebot sees
In response to a question about whether there are cloaking issues around showing Google different content vs. what a user would see on a more personalized page, John clarified that only what Googlebot sees is indexed. Googlebot usually crawls from the US and crawls without cookies, so whatever content is there would be what is indexed for the website. So, on personalized pages, make sure that you’re only changing things for users that are not critical to how you want to be seen in search.
Use View Source or Inspect Element to Ensure Hidden Content is Readily Accessible in the HTML
If you have content hidden behind a tab or accordion, John recommends using the view source or inspect element tool to ensure the content is in the HTML by default. Content pre-loaded on the HTML will be treated as normal content on the page, however, if it requires an interaction to load, Google will not be able to crawl or index it.
Ensure Accordion FAQS Are Set up Correctly When Using Structured Markup
An accordion style format can be used with FAQ structured markup to expand the answers when clicked on, as long as the question is visible by default.
Above the Fold Content is Not Always Prioritized For Rankings
Google doesn’t necessarily prioritize the content above the fold when ranking a page, but will also take into account other elements on the site.
Ensure Hidden Content is Set-up With CSS Rather Than JS if You Want the Content to be Indexed
Ensure Googlebot & Users Both See Same Primary Content to Avoid Cloaking Issues
Make sure the same primary content of a page is available for both users and search engines to mitigate potential risks of Google seeing your website as implementing cloaking.
Content Hidden in Tabs on Mobile Sites Will Not Appear in Featured Snippets
Content which is contained behind a tab on a mobile site will not appear within featured snippets in search results, this is due to Google only wanting to show something in a snippet if they can be sure the user will be able to easily find the content when they visit the page.