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We have recently moved our site to a new platform with a different structure. We placed the correct 301 redirects from old pages, but also, some pages include 302 redirects for language-specific content.

For example, if someone goes to site.com/de/library/slug-url they will be redirected with a 302 to site.com/de/bibliotek/slug-url.

For some reason on our latest webmaster tools HTML Suggestions report, we noticed many pages reported as Pages with duplicate meta descriptions. The report includes both versions: The real page and the page that generates the 302. In some cases a third version of the page appears, e.g. site.com/library/slug-url (which also generates a 302 to site.com/de/library/slug-url)

Shouldn't google detect the redirect correctly? Why does it report on duplicate meta descriptions?

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We're having the same difficulties with GWT, except that ours can sometimes be as simple of a duplicate as the page with or without a trailing slash. We use rel="canonical" and 301s instead of 302s, but still get reports of duplicates. It really does seem to be a flaw/waiting game. –  David Millar Jul 5 '13 at 17:03
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2 Answers 2

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I don't know why the redirects aren't being detected correctly if you are certain that they were implemented correctly, but in general I have seen Webmaster Tools take awhile to drop old URLs off of various reports, so I would wait a bit to see if the problem goes away. Check the cache dates in Google search results for some of those pages; it's possible that Google hasn't crawled the page since the update, and even when Google has crawled the new page, I've still seen old URLs existing in Webmaster Tools and even in search results for a few weeks or even months.

In the meantime I would specify canonical URLs for all of your new real pages if you haven't already, so that whether crawlers begin with site.com/de/library/slug-url or site.com/de/bibliotek/slug-url they will see a canonical URL of:

 site.com/de/bibliotek/slug-url

That should reduce any mistaken interpretations about duplicate content in the meantime and in the future, and may help the duplicate warnings in Webmaster Tools go away faster.

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Thanks Joshua. We are already using canonical, but going to extend it to all pages. The strange thing is that those "duplicate" pages didn't even exist on the old version of the site. They are really ghost pages that only produce 302 and nothing more... :-/ –  Yoav Aner May 3 '12 at 19:33
    
@YoavAner change the 302 to a 301, my guess is the temporary redirect is confusing Google. –  toomanyairmiles May 3 '12 at 19:53
    
@YoavAner interesting, in that case my advice may of limited use in your situation. –  joshuahedlund May 3 '12 at 20:09
    
I like your suggestion @toomanyairmiles, you should submit that as an answer. –  joshuahedlund May 3 '12 at 20:09
    
Thanks @joshuahedlund - ultimately the canonical is our only option currently, and we are going to make sure it appears on all pages. toomanyairmiles suggestion is also good to keep in mind though. We might consider re-structuring things slightly so we don't hurt usability but maybe play a bit easier with google... –  Yoav Aner May 5 '12 at 8:58
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Change the 302 to a 301, my guess is the temporary redirect is confusing Google and causing it to keep both page's data.

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Thanks! The problem with 301 is that it's a permanent redirect, and might not be suitable in all cases, because some of these redirects are language-specific. For example, going to /library/slug-url will redirect to /de/bibliotek/slug-url if your HTTP language headers are de and /en/library/slug-url otherwise... –  Yoav Aner May 4 '12 at 12:25
    
@YoavAner I appreciate it's tricky is your main concern usability or SEO? –  toomanyairmiles May 4 '12 at 12:49
    
Good question. Usability should come first in my opinion, but it's a shame google doesn't seem to recognise this. Thanks for your suggestion though. Good to keep in mind. Much appreciated. –  Yoav Aner May 5 '12 at 8:56
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