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I have a website https://ottverse.com and I am hosting it on DigitalOcean.

I initially had it on a particular droplet (let's say X) for testing and X's IP-address got picked up by Google.

Then, I created a new Droplet (so, new IP), changed the A-records in GoDaddy, and ensured that when a person types the sitename/URL of an article, it goes to the correct IP address. I then submitted the sitemap to Google Search Console, and made sure all the URLs match. Everything looked fine till this point.

Now, if I go to Google Search and type in my site's name ottverse, then it shows the old IP address and clicking on it gives a security warning (because nothing really exists and the droplet has been destroyed).

How do I tell Google that it should index the site, show the homepage's description, and not show the old IP address?

I submitted a Clear cached URL request for the homepage on Google Search Console. Is this sufficient and will this help?

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    It is very unusual for Google to index a site by IP address rather than by domain name. That could indicate a bigger problem. Have you verified the site with Google Search Console? Are there any penalties or manual actions against your site there? Have you linked to your site by its IP address in the past? Do you use canonical tags? – Stephen Ostermiller Jul 29 at 11:12
  • No manual actions when I check in Google Search Console. The sitemap is parsed daily, and the reports all look fine. I rank within the top 10 for almost 40 keywords around a particular topic and that shows up fine on Search Console. The IP that Google Search lists is my old DigitalOcean droplet's IP. – ponderingfish2020 Jul 29 at 12:34
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When you click from the search results to the old IP address, you get an error page. Googlebot will see this and remove the page from the search index shortly (usually within a few days). Because it is already returning an error page, there is nothing additional that you need to do. Clearing the cache for your home page in GSC isn't going to help because the IP address page isn't under your domain and Google doesn't consider it part of your site.

To prevent this problem in the future, you should ensure that your website is only available to search engines with the domain name in the URL. Right now your server is configured to show your site at a URL of the IP address of your server. There are several ways you could go about it:

  1. (Preferred method) Configure your server to respond with a "404 Not Found" error when there is no host name for the request.
  2. Redirect requests for the IP address to your domain name.
  3. Use canonical tags in every page of your site so that search engines will prefer your domain name over IP address.
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  • Thank you for the response @Stephen Ostermiller. It is very weird because I have built several websites for friends/family/colleagues and this is the first time it has happened. Even when I set up the site, I configured Google Search with the site's URL and not IP address. I clicked on the search result 167.71.74.98 and it looks like the droplet that I destroyed has been assigned to someone else. I will wait for a few days to see whether Google refreshes the search results to something relevant. Any step that I might be missing? – ponderingfish2020 Jul 30 at 3:09
  • Google won't just refresh the search results and replace the listing with your domain name. It's likely that Google will just completely drop the IP address site and nothing will appear in the search results for a little while. Getting your site indexed on its domain name is a different problem. I suspect that there is something else going on in terms of something Google doesn't like about your site or domain name. But I'm not sure exactly what that is. – Stephen Ostermiller Jul 30 at 8:57
  • Thank you! Oddly, Bing does a better job. I'll hold on for a bit and knock on Google's forums if it doesn't resolve itself. – ponderingfish2020 Jul 30 at 11:32
  • Just make sure you get around to configuring your server not to show your site for the IP address of your new server – Stephen Ostermiller Jul 30 at 11:35
  • Thanks for the advice - I put in a rule in the .htaccess file to implement IP to Domain Name routing. – ponderingfish2020 Jul 30 at 16:22

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