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While browsing the "Crawl Errors" section of Google Webmaster Tools, I discovered a set of very strange 500 errors in reference to my site:

Froggy URLs

I was able to track down what these characters are, and apparently they are the first two characters in the Unicode Private Use Area. My font just happened to map them to a frog wearing a tiny crown, and a symbol that resembles the numeral 7.

These symbols only appear on the addresses of non-HTML files; office documents, PDFs, etc. - but they do not just appear in the file name.

Where are these symbols coming from, and is there any way I can get rid of them so Google can properly crawl my site?

Some background information:

  • Using Web Server running WS2K3 with IIS6 and PHP 5.3.8
  • Site encoding is UTF-8
  • These symbols don't appear on the page, or in the source
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6  
Now there's something you don't see every day. –  John Conde Nov 21 '11 at 15:46
    
@John Conde: Tell me about it. This is not a Monday morning issue. :P –  Jacob Hume Nov 21 '11 at 15:53
    
do they appear on all non-html files or just some? –  froderik Nov 21 '11 at 21:30
    
@froderik Only a handful, and the affected documents have been posted by different developers to different areas of the web site. –  Jacob Hume Nov 21 '11 at 22:16

1 Answer 1

It's only a guess, but one possibility is that someone else is hotlinking to your files with some broken code. I know that whenever I've had dodgy requests to my sites I've always been able to track it down to someone else's borked link. (It's really irritating that spiders don't include Http-Referer headers to make it easier for us to identify the source of these URLs).

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1  
"... spiders don't include Http-Referer headers ..." - True, but Google Webmaster Tools does include reports which (usually) list which sites are linking to the content in question. –  danlefree Nov 22 '11 at 10:22
    
I ran through a quick checks of both the "Links to your site" and "Internal Links" section of Webmaster Tools, and didn't see any of the characters in the 1,000 links they displayed. Great idea, though! –  Jacob Hume Nov 22 '11 at 14:31

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