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I was looking today in my Google Webmaster tools for my website and see duplicate titles for the following pages on my website (small sample out of many on my site index):

/?title=3_Misconceptions_Regarding_Traumatic_Human_brain_Injury365
/?title=3_or_more_Misguided_beliefs_Pertaining_to_Disturbing_Head_Incidents2902384
/?title=A_Listing_Of_Successful_Web_Marketing_Tips_For_EveryoneHelpful_Online_Marketing_Methods_For_Easy_Success
/?title=Adhere_to_This_kind_of_Online_marketing_Guidance_To_develop_Your_Business

These are certainly not pages I have created!

I also had a look at my structured data which I have created on my site and I can see this (small sample out of many):

Structured Data > __sid=11 (Markup: kualalumpur.yalwa.my)
Structured Data > __sid=7 (Markup: www.locanto.cn)

None of this is the result of something I have done. It's obviously some sort of griefing or elaborate plan to steal pagerank.

Yesterday I installed php automated 301 redirects and canonicals on all my pages to try to firm this up (thanks to some wonderful help from stack overflow people). But I'd like to understand more about this and what their objective is.

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Even though you haven't made the page titles are these pages that something you have created? do you allow people to create pages on your site and so on? Tell us more about the site in question since at the moment its any ones guess. It could be malware, it could be your content management system giving multiple urls with different titles, it could be people trying to hurt your reputation (Doubtful mind). Please edit your question and give us a better idea of the site you run, with the keypoints I've mentioned, also a URL to the site in question goes a long way on such topics. –  bybe May 3 '13 at 17:42
    
These are not pages I have created. I noticed though that with my wiki that theres a page given to represent uncreated pages and no 404 error is served –  Amy Neville May 3 '13 at 20:45
    
The structured data stuff is totally weird though I just don't get where that can come from at all. –  Amy Neville May 3 '13 at 20:45
    
What I'd like to understand is why this stuff is happening. They get no backlinks because I haven't added them... –  Amy Neville May 3 '13 at 20:49
    
Hi Amy, think I gotcha and though some investigation work I think I have an answer for you, though you may not like it ;) –  bybe May 3 '13 at 23:12

1 Answer 1

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Some ways non-existent pages end up in Google's Index

There is 3 ways that non-existent pages can end up on Google's or any other search engine for that matter and these are:

  • Your pages are linking to these pages. (This can be in sitemap, a profile page, a blog comment or a href based a link...) I've seen some plugins from WordPress for example that contain such links because they have been developed on one site and then uploaded to the plugin library but the developer has a cache setup that has came across with the plugin.

  • A backlink is pointing to these pages.

  • I've seen Google index pages and strings that simply don't exist, though yours seems to have words that I don't see how Googlebot could come up with them.

Internal Links

Now it's most likely a internal link of some sort because I Google'd your title pages and all I found was 3 pages, Pro Webmaster, another site that images this site and yours. So it looks like someone has created this link, or a application/plugin/malware has.

Investigating

So to rule out that your users, yourself or an application has created these links what you need to do is login to the SQL (ideally PHPMyadmin) and search for the strings.. Ensure that the database is clean of these pages.. Then assuming you get no hits its time to search cache files, and php files for these pages. If you find nothing then its likely because someone linked it too you and now its not on Google because its been removed.

Redirecting the /? String can be harmful if someones out to get ya

Now I can see you have removed all /?title=strings and redirected them to home page, while this is a OK thing to do, it also can be harmful at the same time and I'll explain..

If someone is spamming your site with nasty backlinks the worst thing you can do is start redirecting them to the home page, as Google may see this as manipulate of pagerank. This is because 301 redirects the flow of juice from the external link, if that links happens be a Viagra site then your giving a false indication to Google on the redirect and this can come back and bite you.

Got to love the good old 404's

The right thing to do on pages that simply don't exist is to use a 404, these are perfectly normal and no way does it give Google the impression your site is broken. Any pages that don't exist will never end up in Google's index and anyone back linking to non-existent pages should not harm your site if a 404 returned, however as mentioned a 301 to home page 'MIGHT' because its retaining the juice.

1-2 Years ago I would say string redirection was the best method but since Google's Panda, and Penguin updates I've seen sites trying all sorts to try and damage the online reputation (Basically Panda, Penguin punishes sites for spam backlinks, paid links and generally non relevant links) Even though Google claim that it's impossible to damage the reputation of others online it raises the question if this is true why are so many currently spamming others and how do they know its not the webmaster trying to manipulate their own rankings? a debatable area but let's wrap this up... I believe a 404 will suit you best in this situation.

Editing the query should be straight foward, rather than redirecting to / have the string removed then 301 to /404/.

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won't let me vote up but thats a great answer thanks –  Amy Neville May 4 '13 at 0:33
    
No problem at all, now get Lucky Charms on all your billboards ;) –  bybe May 4 '13 at 11:18

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