The gray area on cloaking just got grayer. Apparently the debate on cloaking got some more fuel to fire more debate. Yesterday their were reports that Google was discovering cloaking some of its Adwords pages. Highrankings has a good thread on what is going on and examples of Google stuffing keywords into the titles of their own pages in order to rank higher for specific terms in their own results. Treadwatch also reported on this here. It appears the Adwords folks are definately not communicating with the Natural Search guys on what is and what is not against the Google TOS. Guess this kinda shows that hand tweaking of the serps is off limits even to Google. What is curious is that this isn't full blown cloaking as some might know it, which is roughly feeding the search engine an entirely different page then what the user sees. This is just cloaking of page titles. It could deserve another explanation which if you can relate please comment in this post. Bit disturbing nonetheless, and the argument could go several ways that what Google is doing is actually benefical to its Adwords customers.
So what is going on?
Clearly this search speaks for itself:
Take a look at the following page from Adwords Support. Notice how the title says: Google Adwords Support: Why do traffic estimates for my Ad Group differ from those given by...".
Now take a look at the Google Cache of this page here. Notice the title now says: "traffic estimator, traffic estimates, traffic tool, estimate traffic"
This is not limited just to that specific Adwords page, as globally there are several versions of the page in different languages and regarding other questions.
Some of the members on Highrankings are reporting these specific pages back to Google as a problem. How can you can shun a particular tactic but then turn around and do it yourself? It could be that the intentions of this were good, and its only to help further aid in the user experience to finding the most relevant results. Which I guess trumps the need to observe the TOS that says: Don't employ cloaking or sneaky redirects. Either way, it doesn't help that Google is doing this, and then going to SES conference like the one in New York this past week and specifically saying to attendees "Do not cloak".