Experts Exchange. Stop the cloaking before its too late.

April 16, 20088 Comments
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camo_s.jpgOne website I visit quite often – normally through Google searches is experts-exchange. Searches on particular programming problems seem to be a covered on many different topics at the site, and I for one have found the answer to many a tough cookie. However I have one gripe / pet hate with the site, and that is the needing to register before viewing answers. Fair enough, so you may want to increase your user base, Jeremy thinks ready for sale? and not showing answers is until you register is one way of doing that- but stop trying to prevent visitors from doing what they need to do i.e. get to the results.

Experts Exchange achieves brilliant Google results. Cloaking. i.e. Serving Google the full non hidden results, and the users something else. Not a good plan, people like me take homage to this and work out that Google’s cache is going to show the full answer – without registering. Those in the search community get pissed off at you efforts – and report you to Google for cloaking. In addition to this now they try to further obsfucate the results with CSS – probably from monitoring how many cached results are being visited in their logs – so we turn CSS off with the webmaster tools in Firefox.

As visitors we still we aren’t using the site to its full capabilities, because I for one am not going to try and browse through a site which is inside Google’s cached frame. The site is also overly graphically rich, I’ve been accustomed to the huge header graphics on EE even on a broadband connection – the only reason I keep going back, is because I know the likelyhood of getting my answer is quite high.

Another superb example of security through obscurity. Better still a brilliant concept, and what could be a brilliant resource poorly executed.

So if you are a webmaster at EE – please get rid of all this cloaking malarchy. Just provide the answers on page. Restructure the site to show the benefits of registering, and structure it more like a traditional forum. Look at the size of some of those pages absolutely huge. Get rid of the huge banner and images..see the table below for how not to do it. Its so graphically rich and slow, that pageviews must be quite low, and pages per visitor would be the same.

Connection Rate Download Time
14.4K 215.21 seconds
28.8K 111.00 seconds
33.6K 96.12 seconds
56K 60.39 seconds
ISDN 128K 23.21 seconds
T1 1.44Mbps 8.22 seconds

In fact there’s been a bit of conversation around the web on how ridiculous this cloaking policy is.

http://forums.searchenginewatch.com/showthread.php?t=17350

http://forums.searchenginewatch.com/showthread.php?t=11974

http://tips.webdesign10.com/googles-double-standard-on-search-engine-cloaking

A few murmers in Matt Cutts comments on cloaking at EE. Still yet to be banned or wrist slapping from the Big G yet.

http://www.mattcutts.com/blog/a-quick-word-about-cloaking/

http://www.whoisgregg.com/blog/2007/07/experts-exchange-are-cloaking-asshats.html

So cut it out. Before someone starts a ball rolling that you cant stop.

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About the Author ()

Paul is a regular 30 year old web bloke / programmer with a penchant for online marketing. This blog is a personal outlet, with an eclectic mix of articles.

Comments (8)

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  1. Tom Humes says:

    Nice Site layout for your blog. I am looking forward to reading more from you.

    Tom Humes

  2. Mike says:

    I can’t stand EE because of this reason. I will absolutely never subscribe to their service. If only I could filter them out of my Google searches…..

  3. Paul Anthony says:

    @Mike

    I know its a bit of an awkward query, but using

    -site:www.experts-exchange.com

    will remove any results from that site.

  4. Jeremy says:

    UMMM….Th benefit of registering (which costs) is getting access to the wealth of solutions…but if you don’t have to register to see them…what benefit would you get from registering? They got to pay the bills somehow….

  5. Steve Hornby says:

    I can’t STAND Experts-exchange. They should re-name their site “Cash-exchange”. That’s all it is.

    Several people have complained about this online; numerous have stated that the content within this site is readily available *for FREE*. Somehow they have a LOCK with Google and get top billing for all my searches. Anyway, here’s what I did:

    I created a free “customized search engine” via Google. I basically included ALL root domain suffixes, and excluded experts-exchange.com, experts-exchange.org, .net, etc.

    And lastly – I sent an email to the folks at EE – I wanted to see the “SOURCE” documents related to their “high ratings” from their supposed partners (Microsoft, Novell, etc.). The email I received was something like “All of them, yes”. No links were provided.

    The EE folks have no interest in helping the tech community – they just want to make a boat-load of cash – at the expense of serious I.T. technologists like me (and you, if you’re reading this!)

    Annoyed,

    Steve

  6. Dave says:

    The ball is well and truly rolling and removing the cloaking is not going to stop it.

    What do you do when someone provides an inferior service or product and refuses to improve it ? You make a better one and steal all their customers. In this case, http://www.serverfault.com, http://www.stackoverflow.com and http://www.superuser.com.

    No cloaking, no paying, all answers are available for free, asking questions is free and the layout and back end are far superior. The best answer naturally floats to the top and discussions about that answer are listed below it and ranked in a similar way. The second best answer sits just below the best answer and all the discussions about it are listed the same way as the first one. Best of all, the source code that powers the whole thing has been open-sourced so if you want to start your own experts-exchange type site on a different topic, feel free.

    If experts-exchange want to cloak their content, let them. Who cares ? There are better options available now.

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