|I accidentially spammed Google - what now?|
I run a fairly successful site dealing with Green Widgets. The site used to be #1 for the search term, but then gradually dropped in the rankings over the course of last year.
Now today I do a routine Google search to see if there are any recent copycats who took content from the site and posted it as theirs. Turns out that Google gave me back quite a list of sites. I was shocked - but then rather speechless when I noticed it were my OWN domains!
Fact is that I own at least two dozen unused domains that I might use later - basically when I expand my business to the blue and red widgets, as well as the yellow widgets with the purple dots. But it seems like, due to a misconfiguration in httpd.conf (where my green widgets site is first in the virtual hosts list), they all went live with the content of my green widgets site.
Obviously they're not live anymore, so maybe it wasn't httpd.conf alone - I'm assuming that this scenario has been fixed since I moved to a different host nearly two months ago. But all those pages are still in the Google index, and I'm sure they will be for quite some time.
So what I'm wondering - can this unfortunate episode hurt my Google rankings for the Green Widgets site? I know that what one site does should never affect another site to the worse, and I've heard that, when there's duplicate content, the duplicate pages that have lesser authority/PR are simply dropped. But when all the sites/domains serving the duplicate content clearly reside on the same server, that may be another story?
But that's not all - I'm worried that all the domains that leaked out with the wrong content now have a penalty on them that could weigh heavily when I ultimately decide to lauch one of them with the content they were meant for. Warranted?
Finally - what would you do in such a situation? Hit yourself with a brick? Write a friendly letter to Google? Not worry about it?
EDIT: This is getting increasingly odd. As it seems, this is an ongoing problem - the freshest entry in the Google Cache is of March 7. But when I visit my blue widgets and red widgets domain, there is nothing to see, the browser window just times out.
How come Google sees more than I can? I really don't get it.
Make sure you have only one url for any bit of content - use your most established domain for this. Then 301 redirect any other domains to that principle domain - and do not use any other form of redirection. In my experience Google will sort this out if you follow this plan through with no technical errors and take no steps to promote the secondary domains.
Tedster, why should I point my red and blue widget domains to the Green Widgets site - that wouldn't only be spammy and misleading, but also kill them for good. ;) (After all they aren't meant for green widgets, so why intentionally ruin them?)
Like I said, I didn't purposely put up multiple domains serving the same content. I don't even know how Google indexed them with the same content in the first place. And since I don't know how it happened, I'm afraid I also don't know how to avoid it. Here's the problem.
Sure, the Green Widgets site is the first Virtual Host in my httpd.conf, so Apache would point all unknown domains in that direction. Just that Apache only operates locally on my server. There's a lightweight tux server listening on port 80, and it's technically impossible that it forwards any domains to Apache that aren't hardwired (and the domains I have the problems with are certainly not).
So how on Earth did Google pull this off? I'm afraid I don't even have a conspiracy theory to offer, I'm simply stumped.
If the Google cache date says March 7, does that definitely mean that the Googlebot was there and found the exact cache content under said URL that day, or is there an alternative explanation for this (like: the Googlebot was there that day, found nothing, so it stuck with the OLD cache)? A couple of months ago I had a different configuration for a day or two with apache listening on port 80, so if the Googlebot got by that day, I'd understand - but only two weeks ago, that's really quite impossible.
I thought Google already had them indexed as your Green Widgets site content, but as duplicate URLs. The 301 redirect would make them "honorable" and remove the dupe content stigma. But if you're sure they are now 404, and you're not seeing ranking troubles from the mishap, then you can ignore the issue, I guess.
In terms of the cache date, it should mean that is the davte of last spidering, whether the content was actually retrieved or googlebot just got a no-change response to if-modified-since. But Google has been known to have data glitches, too, so who can say for 100% sure, eh?
Yes, Google has them indexed as duplicate URLs, but wouldn't a permanent redirect perpetuate the problem? I mean red widgets are really quite different from green widgets, so in my eyes sending one to the other wouldn't look good. The other thing is that it would probably prolong the unusability of the other domains, as the redirect would tell Google that they're not domains of their own right. Ranking problems - right. Well I wish I had an answer to that. My reluctance comes from the fact that those domains aren't even configured to show content in the first place, so now I'd first have to bring all of them to life just to tell Google that they're actually NOT alive? What a weird exercise. ;)