Blocking US Users But Not GoogleBot - Solutions

Aug 31, 2011 • 9:11 am | comments (11) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

Ever run in to a situation where you cannot legally or practically show your web site's content to U.S. users? Did you know that if you block U.S. users, you are also blocking Google from accessing and crawling your web site. GoogleBot travels from the U.S. and if you block U.S. users, you are technically blocking Google from accessing your web site.

That is the question one webmasters asked in a Google Webmaster Help thread. His suggestion, which he asked Google for approval on, was as follows:

1. When user from Europe visits the page - he sees it normally

2. When user from (for example) US visits the page, the page contains exactly the same content - the difference is that this content is dimmed with black layer and on the top of it there is a notice that this page is not available in his country.

I've seen this on some sites, the effect looks like this:

Lightbox effect

Is this solution acceptable for Google? Yes!

John from Google said:

If you can do it like that, then that would work as well. One thing to keep in mind is that the Instant Previews will also reflect that state (dimmed content with the notice). Maybe that's better than nothing, and ultimately, it's a decision that you need to make on your side (especially if there are legal reasons involved).

The one thing that would not be ok with regards to our Webmaster Guidelines would be to show Googlebot different content than other users from that location would see. As long as you're showing Googlebot the same thing as other US-based users see, then that's fine.

Got it?

Forum discussion at Google Webmaster Help.

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Donna Fontenot

08/31/2011 01:19 pm

Ok, but is this ultimately helpful? I mean, it sounds like all the webmaster is doing is letting Googlebot index a warning message. Is that any more useful than blocking them? Maybe a teeny tiny bit, but not by much, I wouldn't think. Or am I missing something?

Barry Schwartz

08/31/2011 01:20 pm

Seems like it will let the bot crawl.

Paul Martin

08/31/2011 01:33 pm

I developed this solution a while ago, after chatting with John Mu, for a large fashion brand. I wrote it up as a YouMoz post on SEOmoz . Take a look here:

Paul Martin

08/31/2011 01:39 pm

Ultimatly Donna, you need to ensure that all content is accessable by both Google and the user (ie NOT cloaking). The above example is not quote 100% safe as you are allowing Google into this content but not the user. Have a look at what I wrote about this on SEOmoz here:

Barry Schwartz

08/31/2011 01:47 pm

Sorry for missing that Paul and thanks for sharing.


08/31/2011 02:20 pm

Well, AFAIK, you not being able to click on the links doesn't means you can not navigate across the site with CSS disabled . Does GoogleBot  started NOW to only crawl clickable links? Again, not AFAIK. So, a Javascript or CSS solution doing that shouldn't be a problem. At all.


08/31/2011 02:43 pm

If the set up is the same as the Lightview example above,  the 'blocked', dimmed content is still visible in the code of the site, thus allowing it to be indexed. Presumably the fact the content is permanently dimmed to a user, with a legal warning accompanying it, the website has satisfied its legal requirements in not displaying the content to users from the US. If the set up is the same as the Lightview example above :)


08/31/2011 05:01 pm

pathetic. Going by that logic, making the text's font color same as the bg color for one group of users should be fine with them, no?!


08/31/2011 05:04 pm

Most of the times, the lightview effect is achieved using javascript and googlebot would see the full text unlike an user from US in the above example.


08/31/2011 05:06 pm

It should be a problem if you go by the rules as with javascript and css you can hide content from users and show them to googlebot. i am not sure how this one is acceptable to them.


08/31/2011 05:17 pm

Agree with you, but my statement was only to make it clear : ggbot will crawl it. Honestly: John Mu is the most of the times useless, and the remaining ones he's wrong. IMHO

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