Getting Around Age Verification

by SEO Expert on 06/24/09 at 7:20 am

A friend of mine on Twitter PM’d me on a question about getting around age verification. A common website-level SEO problem most somewhat questionable websites have is protected content (or in the SEO world, gated content). Fishing around for ideas, I picked up some great tips from our friends at SEOMoz.org; fortunately I’m a PRO Member or I may never had discovered these solutions.

Displaying Age Verification on a Web Site to Users and Not Search Engines

Below are two answers the gurus at Moz came up with to solve the problem of getting past gated content:

randfish
My suggestion would be to serve a CSS overlay that blocks out the page content visually and requests the age verification. This can be in the code of the website, so technically, search engines and users are seeing the same thing. This way, there’s no risk of cloaking and you’re still providing the age verification to every possible visitor, regardless of user-agent or IP address. This will only break down for mobile users, whose browsers may display the overlay differently. If you can live with the mobile issue (or use a separate stylesheet for mobile users), this solution should be a perfectly elegant one.

An example of what Rand is referring to above can be seen here, well at least the code to build something similar. CSS is a great way to do some pretty brilliant scripting. Be sure to place your actual CSS code in a file (such as style.css) in folder on the server (such as /css/) and be sure block it in the robots.txt file using Disallow: /css/.

Here’s another tip:

Oatmeal
I would trigger the age verification using a mechanism that a search engine would ignore – through javascript or cookies, for example. Detect if the user has javascript enabled or if they are accepting cookies and if they are either pop open the age verification form using some CSS/overlay wizardry or redirect them to a separate page (whatever makes the most sense for website).

JavaScript is another chunk of garbage that can increase page load time and be scrutinized by the search engines. Be careful with JavaScript and if you are going to use it, be sure to follow the same robots.txt rules as you would for CSS (separate file, separate folder, Disallow: /scripts/).

Hope this helps those of you struggling with how to display age verification on a website to users and not to search engines. Just be careful and don’t be afraid to use the Google Blog as a place to get feedback. If you ever feel like a technique may be “black hat”, it probably is and you probably should look for a better solution.


2 Comments

twitter services

Nov 4th, 2009

Some of these tools are new to me, maybe you could add them to my site for review.

indexed by google

Jan 2nd, 2010

I've considered the apparently simple ways the big G thinks. The affair is that even though a spider looks at your page countless times, it takes a ton of effort on your part in order to get your website to become interesting to Google. I guess this will add to my understanding of SEO!

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