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Has anybody else seen anything like this?
I would look at it more from the thought of a 'hijack' of some sort.
The first thing I would do is make sure every link is a full, canonical URL or an appropriate 'base href' is in place on all pages.
I might also examine server logs/request information and see if there are requests for pages from the competitors site, and 'surf' the competing website to see if there are any references to mine.
Added for clarity:
What I mean by the first sentence is: It is impossible for your .htaccess file to change links on your page, unless your page is already configured to change all links to point to your competitor, which would seem, uh, well, odd!
So, the problem must be coming from somewhere you either do not have control of, or do not know you have control of.
[edited by: jd01 at 12:49 am (utc) on Dec. 12, 2006]
joined:Dec 1, 2003
You will not see links to your competitor in your logs…
Yes, but you will see if requests are being made for your pages from the site in question, which should give you some insight into the type of hijack being used.
It's seems a little odd to me personally since it was your cache of your page, because I can't see the purpose...
What can a 'hijacker' get out of stealing your cache? (Unless the sites with stats I have access to have uncharacteristically low 'click through' from 'cached pages' the biggest benefit they can hope for is 'next to nothing'.)
If it was a cache of your page on your competitors URL ranking for the search term, it would make sense, but that doesn't seem to be the case with your situation.
It's why I would ask some questions about 'how' the problem is occurring before trying to determine a solution, because, to me, it seems atypical.
Maybe you clicked on the competing website?
But you obviously need to do a lot more investigation to see exactly what is happening and how.
Your .htaccess should not effect 'on page' links, unless you have some variable, which upon detection, changes your page(s) to link to your competitior.
My thought was maybe his .htaccess has been modified and if the person hacked it he would possibly change it whenever he wanted to if he had su access to the server.
Just a thought since he said he didn't modify the page.
I would simply report it to Google and see what action they take and view your logs for criminal prosecution if need be. I do not understand how the links in the page could be hijacked.....Follow the links and see where they go to on your competitors site. If the landing page on their site is an exact copy of yours it's a clear violation of the DMCA and very deliberate. I would proceed with legal prosecution in the fullest extent and alert Google immediately.
And with what jd was saying above...Make sure the base href tag is in your head section.
Ex. : <base href="http://www.yourdomain.com/">
And boy would I be one pi$$ed off SOB! I've had competitors utterly copy my entire pages and hot link to my images, but nothing like this!
[edited by: MLHmptn at 1:43 am (utc) on Dec. 12, 2006]
Just to to clarify. Basically, a page on my site which Google has cached is showing up with links to a competitor website. When I click the actual link on the SERP's and view the page on the server everything comes up as normal. It is only the caching which appears to be somewhat suspect. And to further the mystery all of the cached links go to a bog standard landing page, nothing custom at all.
I've checked all of my logs and entries to our server and nothing has set off even a remote alarm bell here or with our server providers.
Plus, why hijack just one (lowly) page when I have an entire site with much more juicy pages they could have used. ;)
In addition to what theBear suggested, I would also compare cache dates of the page Google has to the page in question, and visit the page in question as 'GoogleBot' (using something like the FireFox user-agent switcher) and check the links.
To 'hijack' a page, or to 'steal' a page, and make Google think it is mine takes a little skill...
To insert links to my site on your page takes a little magic...