Yesterday, we reported that Google's John Mueller said that if you block a whole region from accessing your site, it would be considered cloaking and thus be against Google's Webmaster guidelines.
Since then, we have seen many comments on that coverage, including lots of discussion across dozens of forums. The discussion was not positive and they called this policy, simply, outright wrong. Well, you are all right. Google has retracted that statement.
John said at the Google Groups thread:
After a bit of double-checking, I have a clarification where I was mistaken. Sorry about the confusion!
The important part is that you do not treat the Googlebots any different than other users from that region. So if your site blocks users in the region where the Googlebot comes from (based on the IP address and your IP/Location lookups), you should be blocking it as well. Blocking users outside of the Googlebot's region would generally be ok.
For more questions, feel free to post here, thanks!
That is alright John, we all make mistakes. At least you gave us something to get excited about. :)
Google also gave us a general statement on this saying, "As long as the web server always blocks IPs from (say) Africa, it's not doing anything special/different for Googlebot, and so it wouldn't be considered cloaking, but geolocation instead."
Then Matt Cutts of Google commented at the Sphinn thread explaining why Googlers can make mistakes:
The downside of doing a lot more talking to webmasters and site owners is that sometimes we'll misspeak, but I'd much rather have that problem and sometimes need to clarify than not be talking to webmasters as much.
Barry, thanks for highlighting this, and JohnMu, thanks for always being willing to answer questions in the Google webmaster discussion group.
Yes, people make mistakes and John was bound to slip up once. Heck, he is a robot in answering questions at Google Groups. I don't there is another Googler that comes close to his daily average post count. So John, please do keep it up, you simply rock!