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Has anybody fixed things AND seen results

Big Daddy supplemental changes and impact

     
4:34 pm on Sep 22, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Hi,

I'm among those "victims" of Google changes since Big Daddy. I've fixed everything that everyone has talked about - canonical issues, meta descriptions, different domains pointing at the same site, robots.txt etc etc etc. I mean EVERYTHING. The words of g1smd et al have become the guiding force in my life - thank you :-)

BUT, I've seen no real improvement, and it is now worse than ever - ten days ago we had 200 pages, today we have 57. That's after several months of fiddling, analysis, heartache and stress. Frankly, I'm absolutely desperate, depressed and thoroughly tired of the whole thing.

My question is simple - given that I am not the only one who has fixed these issues, can ANYBODY report any success? Or are we all just wasting our time?

If no-one has been successful, might we be better off looking at it from another angle? Is duplicate content really the issue here? Is it too soon to see any results? Should I just give up?

I'd appreciate your thoughts...

1:13 am on Sept 23, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Thanks for the report, StarryEyed. That's some good stuff!

8. ran a site check for orphaned files- found MANY

That's an area we don't mention often. I'm not sure how muchorphaned pages can hurt, but practicing good "file hygiene" can't be a bad thing.

7:45 am on Sept 23, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Great list - thanks for sharing it!

9. I've been using sitemaps for awhile. Checked it very closely. Found www.mysite.com listed as a page as well as www.mysite.com/index.html. YIKES! That must have been there for a year - but now I think it matters! Got rid of the reference to index.html and resubmitted sitemap.

Does anyone else think this is critical if it is in sitemaps accidentally?

8:03 am on Sept 23, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Yes, unless you already have a 301 in place sending index to the domain root itself.
12:46 pm on Sept 23, 2006 (gmt 0)

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So if it IS in there... i mean the /index.html link, a 301 redirect would solve the problem?

In my case i have two links to the home page on every subpage, which may be the worst idea there is. One is aimed at the domain root, one is at the /index.html, only with different anchor text, and much lower in the HTML. This is... THE duplicate content you've been telling us not to feed Google, right? ( it's in my sitemap too )

And i should fix it.
Would a 301 be sufficient or... i should replace the one that's pointing to /index.html or... get rid of this second link once and for all? ( it's at the bottom of every page )

I feel like putting together a puzzle where there are endless pieces.

1:32 pm on Sept 23, 2006 (gmt 0)

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My site has been hit hard on Google for almost two years. I first noticed a problem in November 2004 (? I think...) and my site has never truly come back since then. For the past year or so, I've done little to nothing in the way of adding new content or updating pages, because most of them were buried so deeply it just didn't matter.

There have been so many suggestions made to fix the site: duplicate penalty, www vs. non-www, etc., and I was at a complete loss to determine what thing or things were responsible for my drop in Google, especially since virtually every page on the site was in the top 5 for their keywords since 2000.

I knew there was no new site (Sandbox) penalty, the domain is registered until 2011, and I felt to start making changes would be futile because I didn't really know what the problem was.

At any rate, several threads here at WebmasterWorld pointed to the index page problem. I was certain my site did not have this, but I checked anyway. I was shocked to discover that around 20 pages linked to the index page using /index.html instead of the full domain name! A few of them were important pages, as well.

Many of my pages are now supplemental, but my index page still has a PR5, (it used to be PR6) with others in the site PR4. Supplemental pages have PR0.

I started taking a really hard look at my site, and also found duplications in the meta tags for content and keywords, done back when those tags didn't matter, and I used several different generic combinations that described the site, which I now understand could also be part of the problem.

Googlebot has continued to spider my site, although not as frequently as before due to the lack of freshness for the past year. Since beginning to delete the meta tags a couple of days ago, and fixing the /index.html problem yesterday by correcting the internal links and adding code to .htaccess to 301 redirect to the domain when /index.html is requested, I've noticed increased Googlebot activity.

My traffic from Google is slightly ahead of Ask.com, if that gives anyone an idea of how few people find my site on Google. Approximately 1% monthly of what I was getting from Google prior to November 2004.

It will be interesting to see if this restores my site in Google's index. I hope so, it surely hasn't been doing anything for me the past couple of years.

My thanks to all the experts here at WebmasterWorld for the advice, and the time spent sharing knowledge with others. It means a lot, and I am grateful for the new insights I've gained. I'm crossing my fingers that I've adequately fixed the issues, and I'll let everyone know what the results are, if any.

1:45 pm on Sept 23, 2006 (gmt 0)

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AndyA

You sound like you and I are in naer the same situation
on all fronts. Only thing we haven't tried is the htaccess
adjustment for the 301.

1:49 pm on Sept 23, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Hi,

Thanks to everyone for their comments - it shows there is a way out of this situation. Thanks goes to StarryEyed for the comprehensive list of fixes. I've done those that apply to me already, so thumbs up for the reassurance.

Strangely, a load of pages came back today. We now have about 90+ pages that are not supplemental. I thought, OK, let's look at those pages and see what makes them so special.

There are both category pages and product pages listed, and most of them are linked from the index page. We have 40-ish links on the left menu, footer etc and they are in the 95. We have 50 products listed as a top 50, and 48 of those are in the 95. The only two that are not are almost-duplicates of another two - the only difference is that one is coloured silver, the other graphite.

This shows me that the duplicate content factor has come in here - I'll fix the two "duplicates" so that they are substantially different.

I think I'm on top of the duplicate content problem. I've closed all the loopholes and I think that the older duplicates will fade away in time, as predicted by g1smd. There is no point stressing about this now - I've done my best.

The big realisation is this - with a page rank of 3, there is no way that Google is going to show anything in the main index that is further than one click from the front page. If anybody disagrees with that statement, please feel free to let me know!

My mission now is to increase that PR (it used to be 5) - we've been submitting articles a lot recently, but seen no changes yet. Instead of focussing on duplicates, we'll focus on links.

Again, thank you guys for your time and invaluable advice - with your help I believe that we have a stronger site infrastructure.

3:03 pm on Sept 23, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Wow, StarryEyed, thanks so much for sharing all that.

AndyA wrote: "In my case i have two links to the home page on every subpage, which may be the worst idea there is. One is aimed at the domain root, one is at the /index.html, only with different anchor text, and much lower in the HTML."

Yikes, I've got almost the same setup, except my /index.html links are a navigation graphic.) I also have "Home" text links in the footer at the bottom of every page, pointing to the domain root.

So this will cause problems (she asks naively)?

Another question: how many links per page to either the index/home page or the domain root is too many? Should there be only one?

I implemented the 301 yesterday, with lots of help from kind people on these forums. I can't thank all of you enough for your time and trouble.

7:34 pm on Sept 23, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Yes, link only to "www.domain.com/" (not "/index.html" at all) and do install the 301 redirect from "index" to "/" too.

StarryEyed: Good list. You are well on the way to fixing your site.

9:22 pm on Sept 23, 2006 (gmt 0)

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"Yes, link only to "www.domain.com/" (not "/index.html" at all)"

It's done. Whew.

"and do install the 301 redirect from "index" to "/" too."

I tried doing this in my Cpanel's Redirect form, but I can't get it to work, though that has always worked well for other individual page redirects. So I don't know how to do this. Can you recommend some code?

11:05 pm on Sept 23, 2006 (gmt 0)

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DUH! I just realized the code I'm using for my non-www to www redirect already takes care of the "/index.html" to "/" as well.

A kind person over on the New to Web Development forum gave it to me, and it's only now I realize what they were talking about.

<Admin Note: For anyone reading this thread because of their own similar issues,
the discussion and .htaccess code is here: Canonical Problems [webmasterworld.com]>

[edited by: tedster at 12:01 am (utc) on Sep. 24, 2006]

6:28 am on Sept 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Yes, link only to "www.domain.com/" (not "/index.html" at all) and do install the 301 redirect from "index" to "/" too.

g1smd, I still don't understand what the difference is between linking to domain.com and to domain.com/. All my internal pages link to domain.com, same goes with most inbound links. Should I add "/" to all of them and would this be worth doing since I cannot control inbounds? Please note that I have never linked to domain.com/index/ or domain.com/index.html etc nor do I have duplicate content issues.
7:10 am on Sept 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

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I thought I could get away with the same descriptions on a few pages, but when Matt Cutts mentioned it speficially.

I found a few in a directory. Fixed it. 2 weeks later, those pages gained a bit of ranking.

I have a pretty massive site, and checking the entire site is gopnna take quite a bit of time, but now planning to check each and every page for similar/ same descriptions.

12:16 pm on Sept 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Maria,

When you link to a site, even to your own with internal links, if you don't include the trailing "/" at the end of the link, the server does a redirect to add the "/" before loading that page. Since Google seems to not be handling redirects as expected, or as it should, it eliminates this issue, and reduces server load because it doesn't have to add the "/" all the time before loading the page.

I was told long ago it was just basic proper coding, and also has the benefit of reduced page load time for the viewer, reduced server load, etc. There are more reasons to include the "/" than there are reasons not to.

Hope this helps.

12:23 pm on Sept 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Regarding meta tag descriptions: Mine were generic and described my site, but were not necessarily specific to the page itself. This was done years and years ago when meta tags did not matter to most SEs, and I used them just because I felt there should be something there.

Now with Google's renewed interest in them, I'm wondering if it's OK having nothing, i.e., content="" as opposed to wording that is duplicated on other pages.

I've been going through deleting the duplicate tags, using a replace function, because I have thousands of pages that need to be redone, and it will take a considerable amount of time to do all of them individually. I just hope I'm not creating a new problem by deleting all the tags.

Plus, it's difficult to find new ways of describing pages that in some ways are similar, but not similar enough to combine them all together on one page.

Anyone have any knowledge of the impact of removing the content from the meta description and keyword tags completely to get rid of the dupe issue?

1:15 pm on Sept 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

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...There are more reasons to include the "/" than there are reasons not to...

Thanks Andy, so I gather this is mainly useful to reduce loading time therefore I will start editing my pages when time permits. However, I will stop doing everything else and will add the trailing NOW if you think PR and ranking is even slightly affected - which seems not to be true, right?
1:38 pm on Sept 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Having no meta description, or a blank meta description, is just about as bad as having duplicated meta descriptions.

Each page needs a unique meta description that describes the content of that page. Do the job properly. There is no short cut.

4:01 pm on Sept 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Each page needs a unique meta description that describes the content of that page. Do the job properly. There is no short cut.

Gotcha - thanks. You are right about no short cuts, I'm the only one working on my site, so it will take a lot of time to write unique tags for each page. The reason I asked the question is because the #1 site for one of the phrases I target has no meta tags for description or keywords. It's also a huge page, 141K and growing.

That site has been #1 for the majority of the past couple of years, since mine dropped, and when it wasn't #1 it held the #2 spot.

I can start adding tags, but will only be able to do so many a day. So in the meantime, which is worse? Duplicate tags on multiple pages, or no tags at all?

4:13 pm on Sept 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

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"Plus, it's difficult to find new ways of describing pages that in some ways are similar, but not similar enough to combine them all together on one page."

AndyA, I have that problem on the pages of the Amazon store that is attached to my original art website. I have many pages of books in categories divided into subcategories, for example. While the meta descriptions are similar, I manage to vary them quite a bit by adding a few titles and authors of books on that particular page. Hope this helps a bit. Every page has SOMETHING that makes it different from all the others (or why would you have it?), and I figure you can add that to the meta tags.

Here is something I wonder about, though: sometimes I'll have one category or subcategory that has too many items for one page (don't want the pages getting too long either), so I'll end up with a few pages with titles like: Dragon Art Books Page 1, Dragon Art Books Page 2, etc. I'm wondering if these titles are sufficiently different fromm each other to be effective.

2:36 am on Sept 25, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Having no meta description, or a blank meta description, is just about as bad as having duplicated meta descriptions.
Each page needs a unique meta description that describes the content of that page. Do the job properly. There is no short cut.

What about pages acting as sitemaps, where the display of those pages is not essential, but the pages acting as indexing paths is essential?

Do pages not complying with this slow up the indexing process for the site?

3:32 am on Sept 25, 2006 (gmt 0)

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I have to warn about assuming that your "fix" did it. I have a site that has had NO changes in 2+ years (other than some data entry changes) yet it goes back and forth in Google's serps. There's no difference on my pages when it goes from #1 to #50, it's all based on how Google decides. It came back for a month, and it disappeared Sept. 15th.

All that said, looking at your sites and checking for anomalies is great and can prevent larger problems.

4:36 am on Sept 25, 2006 (gmt 0)

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I'd like to add that setting up unique title tags and ESPECIALLY meta descriptions is not just a PITA. When you do this task well, in many cases you are getting to write your own little "free ad" that will showup in the search results. You are not even as restricted as you are in a paid ad (no strict character limits of 25+35+35).

Google's migration away from using so many "ransom note" page snippets is a very good thing, in my book. Also, by looking hard at each url, you get to think more about your site's Information Architecture. Have you really split up your content into "piles" that are useful and intuitive for your visitors? If you really can't come up with a unique description or title, then why should both urls even show up in the search results? Would showing both pages do the searcher any good? How can you explain that difference in the title or description?

And so on. I find the exercise majorly fascinating, especially on larger dynamic sites. It often generates site improvements that go well beyond just getting out of the Supplemental Index.

9:37 am on Sept 25, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Yes, Tedster, I am in the middle of that sort of thing right now. Haven taken over the running of a site where every page bizarrely has a title of "Information Sheet 24 in German" even though none of it is in German at all!, I now have to craft a title for every page, and in doing so I see that there is no structure to the information. So, some pages are going to get moved about, and some folders amalgamated.
12:51 pm on Sept 25, 2006 (gmt 0)

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To redirect /index.html to "/" i used the following code.
I included a redirect for /index.htm as well.

# Options +FollowSymLinks -Indexes
# RewriteEngine on
# RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST}!^www\.domain\.com
# RewriteRule ^(.*)$ [domain.com...] [R=301,L]

# RewriteCond %{THE_REQUEST} ^[A-Z]{3,9}\ /index\.html
# RewriteRule ^index\.html$ [domain.com...] [R=301,L]

# RewriteCond %{THE_REQUEST} ^[A-Z]{3,9}\ /index\.htm
# RewriteRule ^index\.htm$ [domain.com...] [R=301,L]

Is it ok to do both .html and .htm? Usually only /index.html is mentioned in threads.

8:58 pm on Sept 25, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Thanks Andy, so I gather this is mainly useful to reduce loading time therefore I will start editing my pages when time permits. However, I will stop doing everything else and will add the trailing NOW if you think PR and ranking is even slightly affected - which seems not to be true, right?

Sorry, Maria, I just saw this. I somehow missed it earlier.

I don't know the answer to your question. But I can tell you that I just spent a big part of this past weekend fixing all these issues on my site. I don't know if they're creating a problem or not, but since it's something that's been identified as a potential problem, I felt it best to take care of it now, so I don't have to worry about doing it later.

I was surprised how many internal links were coded incorrectly on my site. It took a while to catch them.

9:05 pm on Sept 25, 2006 (gmt 0)

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longen: to avoid a redirection chain, you need to do the index redirect first, and the non-www redirect last.

You can test for both index.html and index.htm in one go, too.

We had this exact question last night in another thread [webmasterworld.com] where there are a lot more details posted.

.

What came out of that was two similar pieces of code that basically do the same thing. These both fix the index to / problem, and then the non-www to www problem.

Try one or other of these:

RewriteEngine on

RewriteCond %{THE_REQUEST} ^[A-Z]{3,9}\ /([^/]*/)*index\.html?
RewriteRule ^(([^/]*/)*)index\.html?$
http://www.example.com/$1 [R=301,L]

RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^example\.com [NC]
RewriteRule (.*)
http://www.example.com/$1 [R=301,L]

or you could try this one:

RewriteEngine on

RewriteCond %{THE_REQUEST} ^[A-Z]{3,9}\ /.*index\.html?\ HTTP/ [NC]
RewriteRule ^(.*)index.html?$
http://www.example.com/$1 [R=301,L]

RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^example\.com [NC]
RewriteRule ^(.*)$
http://www.example.com/$1 [R=301,L]

They both do just about the same job.

[edited by: tedster at 2:10 am (utc) on Sep. 26, 2006]
[edit reason] fix code typo [/edit]

11:02 pm on Sept 25, 2006 (gmt 0)

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thanks g1smd

The site loads a little faster without the redirection in the earlier code.

11:21 pm on Sept 25, 2006 (gmt 0)

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A question about the [NC] in the code samples.

If I use some Upper-Case characters in the URL - such as www.DomainName.com - that is how it gets displayed in the browser Address Bar when the site loads.

I was expecting it to be converted to lower-case www.domainname.com

Any risk of Google seeing duplicate data?

11:25 pm on Sept 25, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Domain names are case insensitive, so no Google should NOT see duplication there.
11:37 pm on Sept 25, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Sorry I missed this earlier:

>> I still don't understand what the difference is between linking to domain.com and to domain.com/ <<

Access to www.domain.com forces the server to issue a redirect to www.domain.com/ before the content is served.

Miss out that step by linking directly to www.domain.com/ instead.

For linking to folders without a trailing / there is an even bigger danger as I explained in another thread just a few days ago [webmasterworld.com]. That is important!

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