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Can Google choose one domain to display instead of a similar one?

10+ Year Member

Msg#: 4457379 posted 2:09 pm on May 24, 2012 (gmt 0)

We’ve seen something weird happen to a Penguin-affected site and wanted to know if anyone else had seen something similar?

This is a little tricky to explain (especially without using the real-life examples), so please bear with me. The client owns 2 sites:

Site A is their old/original site – not optimised at all.

Site B is their new site, about 1-2 years old now – which we’ve carried out link building on.

Site B was starting to rank well when Penguin came along and wiped out its rankings completely. What’s even stranger is now that the dusted is settled, Site A is now ranking for all the keywords (and in similar positions) in its place! The only way we can describe it is it’s like Site A has taken on and adopted all of Site B’s SEO benefit, even though no work has been done and they’re not directly connected.

When I say they’re not “directly connected,” I mean that the sites aren’t linking to one another, however:

- There are on-site similarities – after all, they’re by the same company, and although they’re not duplicates, CopyScape still seems to think there are some similarities, which might be a problem (and could even be Panda issue, not Penguin).
- They are both linked to from another site, a ‘corporate group’ style site.
- They’re probably located on the same server.
- They have different IP addresses but they’re on the same C-block (i.e. the first 3 numbers of the IP address for each site match one another).
- There was also a redirect issue at one point recently. Although we asked them to sort out the canonical issues on both sites, they hadn’t sorted it out, and in fact, at one point until recently, someone accidentally caused the non-www. version of Site A (the old site) to 301 redirect to the www. version of Site B. I believe the change was reversed just before Penguin struck, but it might’ve been a day or two afterwards and therefore still an issue when Penguin arrived.

Do you think one of the above issues – or a combination of them – is responsible for this unusual behaviour?

You often see Google changing the page it ranks for keyword to show a different page from the same domain, but can this happen across domains if Google sees them as the similar enough?



WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

Msg#: 4457379 posted 10:56 pm on May 24, 2012 (gmt 0)

Perhaps the simplest explanation is that Penguin hit site B but not site A. So site B fell in the rankings, and site A probably rose because other sites fell, and accidentally ended up at about the same level as the other site originally had.


10+ Year Member

Msg#: 4457379 posted 6:43 am on May 25, 2012 (gmt 0)

I wondered that but site B didn't rise straight after Penguin, it popped up in those places about 3 weeks later.


10+ Year Member

Msg#: 4457379 posted 12:50 pm on May 25, 2012 (gmt 0)

Sorry, that should have read "I wondered that but site A didn't rise straight after Penguin, it popped up in those places about 3 weeks later."


Msg#: 4457379 posted 1:24 pm on May 25, 2012 (gmt 0)

I have a very similar problem, in my case site A was the main site and site B was the blog / news section. Both different domain names but share the same nav bar and IP (set up over 6 years ago and all was fine until recently).

My theory is that google has realised the similarities between the sites and is assuming one is scraping or copying the other. In my case one ranked well while the other died, then the roles were reversed temporarily so it was pretty obvious one was knocking the other out of the serps.

I am in the process of combining the 2 sites onto the main site (moving news to the main site and 301'ing the old articles) which to be honest I knew I should have done years ago, I will report back here the results.


Msg#: 4457379 posted 1:33 pm on May 25, 2012 (gmt 0)

I should point out that I always assumed google thought this was one site, it is only recently I realised they had started viewing it as 2 separate sites.


10+ Year Member

Msg#: 4457379 posted 10:22 am on May 31, 2012 (gmt 0)

Very interesting. Thanks!

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