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Webmaster Tools, ignore an already indexed variable

2:28 am on Jan 31, 2014 (gmt 0)

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joined:Jan 9, 2014
posts: 150
votes: 0

A lot of the pages on my site have a variable in the path for the last postdate; this way, the user gets a cached version if the page hasn't had any updates since their last visit.

Eg, http://www.example.com/board/1234/?h=20140130213214

So technically, the variable is irrelevant for search engines.

Looking in Google Webmaster Tools, though, I see that 8,667,936 pages are indexed with the h parameter.

If I mark it to be ignored, though, am I going to lose 8 million indexed pages?
9:31 pm on Feb 3, 2014 (gmt 0)

Senior Member from US 

WebmasterWorld Senior Member netmeg is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

joined:Mar 30, 2005
votes: 214

I have the canonical tags on all pages and I don't believe it hurts me. I don't have much in the way of images, but I do have some pretty severely spiky traffic (serving up 750k pageviews over about 12 hours, one day a year, on each of six sites) and for the past two years, server load has not been an issue - and I know this because my hosting company watches it like a hawk (having been surprised when I first moved my sites over to them, ork ork)

All of which is to say, you might not need the h parameters, and might want to consider transitioning out of it. It'll make your life a lot easier when dealing with search engines.
12:28 am on Feb 4, 2014 (gmt 0)

Senior Member from GB 

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joined:Apr 30, 2008
votes: 191

I have the canonical tags on all pages and I don't believe it hurts me.

I second that - I use rel=canonical on pages that have the same URL as an insurance and I have seen no problems.

It also seems you should be OK specifying canonical without ?h= parameter even though you are not linking to such URL on your site - the fact that the page will be returned when Google requests the URL specified as canonical seem to be enough (bold emphasis mine):

5 common mistakes with rel=canonical
April 08, 2013
http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/5-common-mistakes-with-relcanonical.html [googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.co.uk]

We recommend the following best practices for using rel=canonical:

  • A large portion of the duplicate page’s content should be present on the canonical version (...)
  • Double-check that your rel=canonical target exists (it’s not an error or “soft 404”)
  • Verify the rel=canonical target doesn’t contain a noindex robots meta tag
  • Make sure you’d prefer the rel=canonical URL to be displayed in search results (rather than the duplicate URL)
  • Include the rel=canonical link in either the <head> of the page or the HTTP header
  • Specify no more than one rel=canonical for a page. When more than one is specified, all rel=canonicals will be ignored.
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