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Weird case study involving domain name change

Need your help...

     
1:06 pm on Feb 19, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Hi guys!

I'm (also) one of those guys who only read this forum for some time now, however I've been hit by (nowadays weird) Google, so here I am.

Need your help guys...

In 2003 I bought two domains: "example-store.com" and "example.com". Assume both domains have never been used (the real domains I bought have never been used before). I launched my brand new website with 100% original contents using "http://www.example-store.com" and kept "example.com" domain unused. In 2004, AOL spotted our work and we made an agreement with them. Our new main URL moved to "http://example.aol.com". We placed a 302 redirect from "http://www.example-store.com" to "http://example.aol.com". By the end of 2005, as our business has evolved and time change things, I've decided to move out of AOL and the reason which led me to use "-store.com" is no longer valid, so we moved to "http://www.example.com" which is cleaner and easier to catch for our readers.

Firstly (and probably wrongly, I know), for an entire week, we've made our website available through any of the three domains while our partners (REAL BUSINESS partners, not linking buying stuff, directories and so) changed their links to our new URL "http://www.example.com". In the end of that week our website was fully indexed by Google. So, we placed a 301 redirect either from "http://example.aol.com" and "http://www.example-store.com" to "http://www.example.com", page by page (i.e. "http://example.aol.com/news.php?id=222" and "http://www.example-store.com/news.php?id=222" redirecting to "http://www.example.com/news.php?id=222").

One week later my nightmare began. In the first days of January, my website that has always been, NATURALLY, in the top SERPS of "example" related articles in my native language vanished from Google SERPS, this is you can't find my website in the first 1000 results for any keywords you use. Also, if you query Google with [http://www.example.com] or [http://www.example-store.com] you get no result. If you query [http://example.aol.com] you will get as result "http://www.example.aol.com", an AOL automated search page for unknown subdomains ("http://www.example.aol.com" never existed! Our domain was ONLY "http://example.aol.com"). If you query [site:http://www.example.com] you will find the whole website indexed and cached, while the old domains still show some few hundred pages each out of tens of thousands.

I have already tried to get in touch with Matt Cutts and Google. However the first never answered my requests and Google took two weeks to send a human answer to my reply to their automated answers (I filled a reinclusion request). Google answer was completelly useless, telling it may be "normal fluctuations". If a major site disappears from any SERPS may it be considered "normal fluctuations"? I don't really think so. Well, my website is in my native language like a more specific version of a major site. If it vanish from Google SERPS, Google has almost nothing relevant to show up about "example", in my native language.

After all this, the REAL weird thing happened a week ago. We've made some changes in our website, however the webmaster forgot to re-enable our website's function that verify URL to avoid canonical problems (that function is disabled for internal testing in our labs). That function is also responsable for the 301 redirects. Two days later, I noticed we started to show up partially as it used to BUT with the old URLs. We noticed that we forgot to re-enable that function and so it has been re-enabled. However, we were in Google SERPS again and we were not sure why... Let me explain...

If you queried either [http://www.example.com] and [http://www.example-store.com] you would get "http://www.example-store.com" as result. If you queried [http://example.aol.com] the result would still be "http://www.example.aol.com", which has never been our URL as you remember. The TOP #1 SERPS we started to get again (as it used to be) were inside "http://example.aol.com" and we showed up again in #3 (for the same keywords) but only for our main page at "http://www.example-store.com". However still for the same keywords, "http://www.example.com" started to show up in #60 while it never showed up before AT ALL (in the first 1000 results).

As you remember, I told you we re-enabled that disabled function two days after the error right? Well, two days after fixing that error [http://www.example-store.com] disappeared again, [http://example.aol.com] continues to wrongly return "http://www.example.aol.com" however we still show up in TOP SERPS, [http://www.example.com] started to show the link "example.com/" as result (we never used links without "www.").

For some reason, Google is absolutelly confused about this just like me. However I try to talk with him to solve the problem but he doesn't, at least until now.

What do you think about this real case study? Anybody can help or offer advice?

[edited by: tedster at 3:55 pm (utc) on Feb. 19, 2006]
[edit reason] use example.com [/edit]

10:31 pm on Feb 19, 2006 (gmt 0)

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What can I say -- yes, you seem to have tangled up the Google back end into a snarled up knot. Hopefully, Big Daddy will sort this our for you IF the only urls that resolve are urls on the one domain you wan -- and only one url points to each unique bit of content.

I'd say you need to give it some time for the muddy waters to clear -- and you can't do that by stirring things further.

2:11 am on Feb 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Thanks for you answer tedster. :)

I know that it's not a good practice to mess things even more however when we saw serious people here delisted from Google for years "just waiting" Google forgets something "it thinks" it's offensive (and nobody else knows what thing is)...

Maybe someday European Comission remembers Google exists and also has a monopoly, that day things may (slowly) start to change about Google profit making on the results it serves based on OUR contents without even giving content makers ANY kind of basic support.

This should be a matter of basic common sense and social responsability for any company making profit like Google. Just compare Yahoo and MSN support with Google's.

4:31 am on Feb 20, 2006 (gmt 0)

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delisted from Google for years "just waiting"

But Big Daddy is nearly done -- give it a week or three before jumping into any significant changes. That's all I'm saying.

But you can definitely review your development for potential technical errors -- that does not ever need to wait. Make sure that nothing you are doing NOW is creating a duplicate url situation. I would take a hard look at every interaction between your server and Googlebot.

Also, you may find some ideas to check out here:
[webmasterworld.com...]

8:56 pm on Feb 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

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I have good news!

Now all the three domains are visible in Google and all the three pointing to the new one.

However something weird happened... This website always had PR5 (even while it was not appearing in SERPS). Now, after all the three domains are working as expected, the old two domains (which had PR0 while none of the domains where appearing in SERPS) got PR2 just like the new one (I repeat, which was already PR5)!

It seems to me that, for some reason, my real PR is being splitted between 3 domains (I recall you that two old domains, which had PR0 before "unban", are permanently redirecting to a new one, which had PR5 "unban").

However the wierdest thing is not nothing of this. Now that new domain's home page went from PR5 to PR2, my internal pages which had PR0 in the new domain, got transfered the PR they had in the old domains, this is PR4 for door pages, and PR3 and PR2 for articles!

Is it possible that old domains' data (cached pages and SERPS) may be preventing the new domain from appearing in the top SERPS? This is, one of the old domains is getting top SERPS apart from its splitted PR while the new domain with the same PR2 is far away from top SERPS. :¦

What do you think I must do? I'm considering the possibility of placing a robots.txt in the old empty domains disallowing spidering and thus ordering Google to remove those domains' content from its cache. Alternatively, I'm also considering to add Cache-Control HTTP header to inform spiders of immediate content expiration, while keeping the page-to-page 301 header. I have the feeling that this last method is more secure than the first and may speed up things a lot.

What do you think about this?

Regards!

[edited by: Vampster at 9:06 pm (utc) on Feb. 24, 2006]

9:05 pm on Feb 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Listen to the advice tedster gave and wait until BigDaddy is complete. Making constant changes at this point is a futile exercised, as you have no idea why you are making these changes since the results are in flux right now (so is the PR).

Just wait a few weeks.

7:27 pm on Mar 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

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As soon as I saw that your initial redirects were only 302 redirects, I just knew that you had duplicate-content-hijacked your own site, and that it would be all downhill from there....

Make sure that there is only ONE URL that returns "200 OK" for each piece of content, and that all of the alternative URLs return "301 Moved". Do that now, and don't touch anything else.

 

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