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When a 301 redirect generate issue of duplicate content

As many of you know, as the 301 is the anti-pain solution for a lot of the SEO issues, you will probably be asking the reason of this contradictory article’s title.

Fact is that quite recently I provided support to a user of the Google Webmaster Forum whose claiming the 301 to not work properly. More in details, he was complaining how it was possible the GWT to report a number of pages previously redirected to have duplicate meta tags title and description.

Before further carrying on with the article, a distinction needs to be done: not all the tools around the net are reporting information in the same way.

More in details, Google Webmaster tools reports on a URL basis, whereas Analytics for instance reports on a page basis.

Which is the difference? Simple! Not all the URLs have a corresponding page, but all the pages have at least one URL.

What was happening?

Despite the redirects, GWT was claiming duplicate tags for the redirected URLs / pages. How was this possible?

To completely understand the issue, details on the old web site – a forum – internal links’ structure is necessary.

There was a page A – with a user friendly URL which we can call it URL A. In each page, there was a link to URL B that was redirecting to URL A but with a named anchor at the end.

Therefore, just to be clearer, the situation was www.test.abc/page-with-URL-A was containing a link to www.test.abc/inexistent-page-with-URL-B which was 301 redirecting to www.test.abc/page-with-URL-A#somewhere-on-the-page

Named anchor are not treated from Search Engine, which they tend to ignore them at all.

Due to the 301 structure in place, by the time Google algorithm was crawling the page(s), the artificial loop created let the search engine assimilate the two URLs as two different pages with the same meta tags showing an error in the

In this way, the report may not 100% useful, but I don’t want to argue regarding this; on the contrary I appreciate the fact it is still indicating something is wrong on a site.

This link round-trip was negatively affecting the ranking of some pages, and despite it was a minor issue, it could have become a bigger problem sooner.

The solution has been found

The user did not reveal since how long the looping-link was in place, but by the time, this has been fixed and the round-trip removed, the situation has positively changed and some of the errors reported by the GWT disappeared.

GWT is quite slow on updating the information shown, but I’m confident the right solution has been given as the user didn’t come back to report more problems.

Therefore, my advice at the end of this story is always to pay attention to both your internal link strategy as well as to unnecessary 301 redirects, which I remember are not the solution to all your problems.

Technorati Tags: Google, Redirects


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