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http: url was on 1st page, now https: version is on 4th page

     
1:39 pm on Dec 9, 2008 (gmt 0)

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A couple days ago, I posted this experience, which I'm quoting from this thread [webmasterworld.com...]

I'd like to share this experience.

First I want to stress what an SEO newbie I am. I've said it in other posts and I'll repeat it here.

About a week ago, I wrote a small article for my e-commerce site about widget care. First I wrote down all the ideas and information I had about that topic, then searched the web to get some complementary ideas. I even went as far as going to a site that has relevance to mine and asked them if I could quote some parts of their info and in exchange I'd link to them. They agreed and even said they didn't need me to acknowledge copyrights as long as they got a link from me (outbound that is).

In the end, I didn't use the information from their site, only a picture (which I used as a link to one of their product pages). I used some other links, a couple links to wikipedia and that's about it. To my surprise, just a couple days later, my article was in the first page in Google under those keywords (3 keywords). Now, those aren't competitive keywords, but I managed to show up 1st page in Google with a decent written article just days after I posted it. For now, my PR show is 0 (I heard that's better than PR gray) but I'm pretty sure the company I linked to will get what you guys call "page juice" instead of a plain and simple directory (I have one in my site but it has PR gray atm and has been up long before this article I wrote).

Where I want to go with this is that (and I'm 100% sure I read this somewhere in this forum or maybe another) that there is a way to do reciprocal linking by writing articles and linking to the sites you want to reciprocal with. I am fully aware that is a lot of work, but from this experience, I believe your outbound links will be more valuable and your link partners will be more grateful and the so-called "content-hungry users" will be happy too because they will have something to read and at the same time may click on the links (as a customer, I never go to the "resources", "links", etc pages when I'm browsing e-commerce sites).

This weekend, just out of curiosity, I typed the 3 keywords to see if the article ranked up or down, and to my dismay, it was gone. I searched through the 2nd page, nothing. 3rd page? nothing. When I browsed the 4th page, I found the article, BUT, the URL was different and the meta description was different as well. I called my business partner right away and asked him if he made any changes during the weekend; he said no.

So basically:

The real article, the one that got 1st page was:
HTTP:// www. example. com/t-redwidgetcare.aspx
Meta Description = "An educational article on how to care for your red widgets".

Now, what I found at page 4 in Google is:
[example.com...] (note the S at https)
Meta Description = my "home page" meta description.

From what I understand, the S in HTTPS is an URL that has increased security measures or something of the likes. What I don't understand is why Google would change that.

Any comments or ideas on what or why this happened are most welcome.

Edit: Grammar and spelling.
Edit2: Editing the URL because the domain widgets.com exists.

[edited by: Argentdreamer at 1:44 pm (utc) on Dec. 9, 2008]

[edited by: engine at 3:15 pm (utc) on Dec. 9, 2008]
[edit reason] examplified [/edit]

2:04 pm on Dec 9, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Now, what I found at page 4 in Google is: [example.com...] (note the S at https) Meta Description = my "home page" meta description.

It appears you have SSL enabled for the site, that is normal in an ecommerce environment.

Unfortunately it sounds like your entire site can be browsed to under both http and https. To Google, they may treat that like a duplicate for a while until the bot figures things out. But, this should not be left up to the bot to figure out, you'll need to force https where applicable and make sure that http is forced where applicable.

^ You'll need someone with technical experience on your hosting platform to take care of this for you. Based on your topics so far, I wouldn't even try to do this yourself unless you have hours upon hours for study, testing and implementation.

What I don't understand is why Google would change that.

Google didn't change it. You did somewhere. I'll bet that when you browse your site and end up on an https page, that when you browse to other non https pages, the https remains huh? Ya, that is a common oversight with most SSL sites. The bot does the same thing, hits an https page and due to relative links internally, everything else gets appended under https.

Any comments or ideas on what or why this happened are most welcome.

See above. I might suggest that you hire someone to assist with this. Based on your input so far, I can guarantee you that you'll be chasing your tail for the next year or so unless you get someone in there fast to correct the technical underpinnings.

2:17 pm on Dec 9, 2008 (gmt 0)

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We use the HTTPS to access our admin site.

If you click on the https version of the article in question, you'll be sent to a page that says:

Secure connection failed
mysite.com uses an invalid security certificate
The certificate is only valid for www.mysite.com

etc etc etc

I'll talk with my business partner because he is the one with the knowledge in programming and he may find the problem.

2:28 pm on Dec 9, 2008 (gmt 0)

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This discovery is a heads-up for you to review your entire site and address URL canonicalization issues.

If you do not prevent your pages from being accessed at multiple URLs, you will have problems with "duplicate content" diluting the rank of your pages. And if any given page can be accessed at a very large number of unique URLs, you may incur an actual ranking penalty.

We've discussed duplicate content and URL canonicalization [webmasterworld.com] here quite a bit recently (try a search here on WebmasterWorld), but basically you must detect requests for non-canonical URLs, and 301-redirect those requests to the canonical (proper, single, unique, preferred) URL. Examples of non-canonical URLs include:

  • HTTPS versus HTTP
  • www.example.com versus example.com
  • example.com. versus example.com (FQDN - Fully-Qualified Domain Name format)
  • example.com:80 versus example.com (appended port number)
  • example.com.:80 versus example.com (both)
  • "/index.html" versus "/" (or index.php, .asp, etc., whatever you use for you index page)
  • /page.php versus /page.php?junk (spurious query string)
  • /MyPage.php versus /mypage.php (capitalization)
  • page.php?name1=value1&name2=value2 versus page.php?name2=value2&name1=value1 (query parameter order changed)

    Further, if your site uses "search engine friendly" URLs, then you must make sure that each non-friendly URL gets redirected to the corresponding friendly URL if directly-requested by a client.

    Search results listings of "variant" URLs can be caused by errors in search engines, by their efforts to "discover the hidden Web," by these variant URLs being found in publicly-accessible server log files, by linking errors on your own site or on others, and by "malicious linking" from competitors who have discovered that your site is vulnerable to exploit because your don't check for non-canonical URLs. I've undoubtedly omitted several more causes here.

    In the best case, having the same content reachable at more than one URL will result in the rank for the page being "split" across those multiple URLs, but with the "correct" URL ranked highest. It's also possible that the search engines will pick one of the variant URLs and list and rank only that one, but that it won't be the one that you prefer (plus, this depends on a back-end de-duplication process which can also go wrong). And in the case of massive numbers of variant URLs all resolving to the same page, you might actually invoke a penalty. However, I believe that most reports of penalties are just fear and unreasonable doubt -- search engines don't have time to manually review every site on the Web, and I suspect that most "penalties" are simply the result of automatic filters or the aforementioned page rank dilution. Either way, it's a problem though.

    So, you should check your site using variations on URLs like those in the example above, and implement server-side code to redirect the variant URLs to the correct ones. This can be done using mod_rewrite on Apache, ISAPI Rewrite on Windows servers, or using PHP or other server-side scripting languages if your site uses scripts to generate content.

    Be sure that every non-canonical URL returns a proper 301-Moved Permanently server status response, and the canonical URL of the requested page. If a page does not exist or cannot be generated by your script or CMS, then your server must return a 404-Not Found server response.

    Be sure that your on-site linking is utterly-correct and consistent; Each page must be linked-to using one and only one URL for that page.

    The title of another recent thread here says it all -- "Duplicate Content -- Get it Right or Perish [webmasterworld.com]"

    Jim

  • 2:37 pm on Dec 9, 2008 (gmt 0)

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    I'll have to admit, I'm overwhelmed by all this information. I'll make sure something is done ASAP.
    1:49 pm on Dec 29, 2008 (gmt 0)

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    Update:

    We managed to fix the http / https problem, and do redirects to http://www.example.com

    The page in question re-appeared, unfortunately not in the first page, but in the second, as the 16th result. However, 2 days ago, the page is gone again. I used one of those tools to see the page's ranking and it doesn't show up in Google anymore. I ran a site: and it is indexed, however, it's not showing at least in the first 200 results.

    I wonder if anyone else has any ideas on what might have happened?

    BTW, the content is not duplicated. It is an article I wrote using information I had in my head about the topic. Is there a way I can contact Google to know what's going on?

    Thank you in advance.

    3:38 pm on Dec 29, 2008 (gmt 0)

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    If you use a google site search look out for

    www.example.com/?cof

    in their serps because they will crawl their own site search results and create duplicate content this way.

     

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