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Google ranking and parked domain questions

     
9:24 am on Jan 21, 2015 (gmt 0)

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For over 10 years, a client's site sat at #1 on page 2 of google. Along came Penguin and the site was obliterated, nowhere to be found in the first 50 odd pages. So I did a major overhaul & got it back to page 11 then a steady climb to page 5 where it sat last week.
Upon checking stats etc. on Monday, the site didn't appear for any of it's major keywords, nor did the index page appear when searching directly for it's name. Some lower tiered pages did but not the top one.
After tweaking everything possible (to my knowledge at least & I'm only a beginner) I can't find any major issues that would make google behave this way.
I have noticed that a parked domain that's been parked for at least 5 years & runs to the same content as the main site is now appearing where the main site index URL normally would. I've deleted the parked domain but then had no google rank whatsoever for the site - can anyone help with suggestions as to what may have happened or how I can fix it?
Thank you in advance.
11:03 am on Jan 21, 2015 (gmt 0)

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First things first would be get a Google webmaster tools account and take a look at the site data.
11:20 am on Jan 21, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I have a GWT - data tells me there are no issues, no crawl errors, site is indexed etc. I've used fetch as google and it seems fine - is there something specific I should be testing/checking?
Thank you for the suggestion.
11:35 am on Jan 21, 2015 (gmt 0)

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So I did a major overhaul

What did you do?
Penguin is links, did you also worked on the sites incoming links?
7:46 pm on Jan 21, 2015 (gmt 0)

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parked domain that's been parked for at least 5 years & runs to the same content

Can you explain this? I'm not used to seeing "parked" and "content" in the same sentence.
9:22 pm on Jan 21, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I'm with Lucy, do you mean it's a doorway page/site?
10:14 pm on Jan 21, 2015 (gmt 0)

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hosting companies have a different meaning for "parked domain". It's a kind of alias or alternate domain name that provides another pathway to your site.
10:20 pm on Jan 21, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Sorry, I probably didn't explain very well - the client has a few different domain names one of which has become the main one & one other is considered necessary so is parked under it ie; if the lower level name is typed in you're redirected to the main site & it's content. Not ideal but I've only just taken over and not yet had time to redesign & change the parked domain to an addon & have it use it's own content.
What's happened in the last few days is the main domain has disappeared from organic results & also if you type directly into search and the parked domain name is appearing where I would expect the main one to be.
I have also tested with site:example.com.au - google finds the main domain correctly but when I click to see what's cached this is what it says "This is Google's cache of http://WWW.example.COM.AU/. It is a snapshot of the page as it appeared on 19 Jan 2015 04:05:19 GMT. The CURRENT PAGE could have changed in the meantime. LEARN MORE".
I've done all I can think of but being very green where SEO is concerned I would appreciate any thoughts or help.
11:16 pm on Jan 21, 2015 (gmt 0)

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if the lower level name is typed in you're redirected to the main site & it's content.


I am not sure exactly what you / they are trying to accomplish, but it should be a 301 redirect from the page that you DON'T want indexed to the page you DO want indexed.


I've done all I can think of but being very green where SEO is concerned I would appreciate any thoughts or help.


Have you told them this? They should really know what you are capable - and not capable - of achieving on your own.

Also, you mentioned Penguin. Did you go and delete all the backlinks from spammy sites and disavow them? How certain are you that it was Penguin?
3:20 am on Jan 22, 2015 (gmt 0)

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it should be a 301 redirect from the page that you DON'T want indexed to the page you DO want indexed.

Exactly, as Planet13 says above.

What you call "parked domain" probably has external links pointing to it and it has probably been redirecting to the what you call "main domain". I am not sure whether redirect is/was 302 (temporary) or 301 (permanent), or even meta refresh or rel=canonical but you can check this (see below) and let us know.

When you "deleted" this "parked domain", what you actually also did by this deletion was remove this redirect. The "main" site fell because some of its ranking power was coming from links that were pointing to the "parked domain" which was then redirected to the "main domain".

Why Google in some cases caches one domain under the name of other sometimes happens because they share IP address, or because the redirect is a temporary one, or because even if the redirect is a permanent one, Google decides that it should be a temporary one or sometimes it is a complete mistery why this happens. In fact we had one very strange caching issue described in this thread [webmasterworld.com...]

I would suggest the following:
  • Make sure that the "parked" domain redirects to the "main" domain using 301 redirect.
  • To check the redirect, you can use the following WebmasterWorld tool: Check HTTP Response Headers [freetools.webmasterworld.com]. The result should say "301 Moved Permanently". Let us know if it says anything else (other possibilities: "302 Found" if temporary redirect, or even "200 OK" in the case when a meta refresh is used to redirect the page or in the case if "parked domain" is not actually redirecting / maybe uses rel=canonical)
  • When analysing your links to see which ones to disavow, you will need to analyse links that are pointing to your "parked" domain too, because of this redirect.
  • Only when you are satisfied that everything is technically correct from your side, then I suggest you just wait for Google to sort itself out - give it at least a few weeks. Because you deleting the "parked" domain and then re-instating later on it could be the reason for the strange cache you are seeing.
9:39 am on Jan 22, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Thank you very much for taking the time to explain to me.
I actually inherited this job after issues with the IT company & I'm a designer so know very little about SEO albeit trying to learn. I did mention Penguin only because that's what I was told - I cannot vouch for this being correct.

I would be very surprised if the "parked domain" has links to it - it was never advertised anywhere to my knowledge.

I only deleted & reinstated the "parked domain" after this caching issue started.

Have checked the HTTP response headers - it came back as "200 OK" (on both domains) - could this be an issue?

I have to wonder why this has happened suddenly, this domain has been parked for at least 5 years with no problem.

Thank you all very much once again for your help.
10:50 am on Jan 22, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Have checked the HTTP response headers - it came back as "200 OK" (on both domains) - could this be an issue?

Yes, it is THE issue. If multiple URLs return the same content with a 200 OK header response, then you have duplicate content. It sounds like you have two different domains addressing your site... a "main" domain and then an additional domain.

The extra domain is probably not actually "parked". Often a hosting company or registrar "forwards" your extra domains to the main domain, but, thinking it is desired behavior, they set up all versions to return 200 OK responses. I've seen IT departments of major corporations return the same site under literally 100 different domains, thinking that this will give them "more chances" to rank. ;)

Google doesn't like to display duplicate content, though, and it ends up choosing which domain to display... but you have no control over which one that might be. Generally the domain with the most PageRank wins, and you end up splitting your link votes.

One strong link from a large enough site to your extra domain might cause it to display instead of your main domain. Or, if your main domain suffers an algorithmic penalty, then the dupe might rank in its place.

301 redirecting the extra domain to the domain you want displayed will consolidate your domains into one preferred "canonical" version. Done properly, redirecting would also take care of www vs non www issues, https vs http, and index.html vs "/"... and combine all of your inbound link juice into one stream. In Apache, mod_rewrite is the way to handle this.
3:22 pm on Jan 22, 2015 (gmt 0)

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"I did mention Penguin only because that's what I was told - I cannot vouch for this being correct."


If it were me, I would start looking through the google analytics reports ASAP for their sites (both of the domains).

Penguin (and Panda, and other google penalties) is pretty serious stuff, so before you might mention it to someone else in the organization, it would be best to confirm (or eliminate) whether the site was indeed hit by Penguin.

By looking at the traffic from google in GA, you can look for large drops in traffic, and see if those traffic drops fell on a date when there was a Penguin algorithm update.

I apologize in advance if I might come across as condescending: I have been battling the flu and for a week or so, and on top of that, cracked a tooth yesterday, so I am not one for etiquette right now.

But basically, you need to figure out what you are doing right away, because you could be making decisions that are costing that company some serious $$$.
6:44 pm on Jan 22, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Here is how one hosting company defines parked domains:
Parked domains are additional domains hosted on your account which display the same website as your primary domain and share web statistics as well; however, you can give the parked domain its own email boxes.

So apparently in the basic setup there is no redirect of any kind. Instead, the two domains display the same content, but each under its own name. So a visitor can access the content through either pathway, and in most cases wouldn't even be aware of the other domain name.
8:50 pm on Jan 22, 2015 (gmt 0)

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So it would more accurately be called an alias domain. And if the DNS for two or more domains points to the same physical files, the search engine would have no way of knowing which is the "real" one.
4:29 pm on Jan 23, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Parked domains are additional domains hosted on your account display the same website as your primary domain..

So they both point to the same webspace. Which is good as you can set up .htaccess (Apache) or web.config (in IIS) to redirect to the canonical domain.

So you can leave your domain "parked" and you need two lines in .htaccess/webconfig to redirect parked domain to your main domain.

Are you hosted on Apache or IIS?
8:51 pm on Jan 26, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I have also tested with site:example.com.au - google finds the main domain correctly but when I click to see what's cached this is what it says "This is Google's cache of http://WWW.example.COM.AU/. It is a snapshot of the page as it appeared on 19 Jan 2015 04:05:19 GMT. The CURRENT PAGE could have changed in the meantime. LEARN MORE".


Sounds like this might be a canonical issue more than anything else.
I'd probably go with whatever version(www or non-www) has the most(best) links to it and set up a redirect from the other. Then I'd want Google to crawl as much as possible and see what happens. After that, look at other potential issues.
10:27 am on Jan 30, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Robert Charlton, Planet13, aristotle, Lucy24, aakk9999 & Clay_More - thank you all so very much for your suggestions.
I will now study what you have said & try to figure out why this site is up the creek so to speak.
I'm sure I'll be back with further requests for assistance. Thank you all once again for your insight.
10:44 am on Jan 30, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Planet13 - I hope you've had that tooth fixed? -_-
 

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