Search engine optimization is the art of making sure a site appears as prominently as possible in search results. There’s the respectable kind, which is all about tweaking pages users are likely to want in their search results to appear higher, and black hat SEO, which is aimed at tricking search engines into favoring sites users aren’t likely to want.
One of the major ways that black hats use to deceive is cloaking; presenting a different page to the user than to the search engines when they index the page. WebmasterWorld would drive me nuts with their registration-required pages in search results, though they now claim it was a side-effect of blocking bots. The New York Times always used to show up with pages that required registration, though they may have stopped that now.
This was one of the driving forces behind PeteSearch; I wanted a way to spot sites that were serving me up useless content before I clicked on them and wasted a small part of my life . The first line of defense is the term checking; the page I check is the one that the user will see when they click on the link, so if it’s cloaked, it won’t have the terms, and the result will be flagged. The second defense is the split-screen preview; this scrolls down to where the search terms are, so if the content is buried below a lot of ads, you’ll go straight to it without scrolling.
It’d be nice if this wasn’t needed, but the interests of web site hosts and users are fundamentally in conflict; hosts want as much revenue as possible and users want quick access to useful content. PeteSearch tries to give users a tool to hack through the jungle of misinformation that some hosts resort to.