Age Verification and Indexing for Alcohol Brands
If you are operating a website that markets an alcoholic brand, in many countries such as the UK, US and Australia it is a legal requirement that your website requests age verification to ensure that no underage users can access the site.
While this is certainly sensible, it can cause various problems when it comes to search engine optimisation.
If your age verification page is not set up correctly, search engine spiders can be fooled into thinking that your age verification page is, in fact, your homepage.
Therefore Google could understand that your website is actually about “You must be 18 years or older to view this website…”
What’s more, entering any internal page on an alcohol brand’s website will also require age verification, meaning search spiders may think that every page on your site is the age verification page.
This can effectively mean that none of your pages will be indexed by Google and therefore will not appear in the search results.
How to Serve Age Verification
There are various methods of serving age verification that are great from a user perspective but risky or catastrophic from an SEO perspective.
One example is User Agent Detection (cloaking) which could be used to detect if the incoming visitor is a real person or a search bot and send the real user to the age verification page and the bot to the content. While this makes sense, cloaking is against Google’s Webmaster guidelines and could lead to a penalty which would see some of your website’s pages removed from the search results.
302 redirects is another seemingly sensible option whereby users are temporarily redirected to a separate age verification page and then sent to the content. This makes sense to users, but to search bots, only the age verification page can be seen.
Susan Mowska of Google gave the best answer on how to serve age verification in a Google Groups thread. She said:
You may also be interested in the newest alcohol advertising AdWords policy change.