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I'm not sure how to word this. But basically when you search our company's name, some of our clients are coming up in the results. That alone is strange because we don't have any links outbound to them and only one or two inbound from their site to ours. Even stranger is that the links go to broken pages or show meta descriptions for pages that are not on their site.

For example, I search "dubose web" and one of the results is this :

Google SERPs

This result is even more skewed:

  1. The title and description is for our FAQ page which we don't even have on our current site (but did on an older version).
  2. the URL for the link is https when there is no SSL for the clients site.
  3. If you click the link it takes you to the typical warning page since no SSL exists and then if you proceed, it takes you to the main domain for this server (desainc.org is a parked domain) which is broken because it's not being used.
  4. desainc.com doesn't have a /faq page and the PHP file is from another site we manage which is not in the sites faq folder. So we have the root domain to one site, the FAQ title/description from another, and PHP file from a third.

What kind of pickle have we fallen in to? Is this because of parked domains (though some of the sites in results are not parked domains and have their own accounts)? Is there some setting on the server we need to set? Is there any way to trace how Google is picking up on these non-existent links?

  • I rather suspect it is a link issue more than anything. You can also have some weird redirects. Do a full audit of the site using ScreamingFrog or SEO PowerSuite without getting into the weeds too much beforehand. Let the tool do much of the discovery for you. You should be able to work through all of this fairly quickly. It is likely rather simple to fix. – closetnoc Dec 16 '15 at 23:41
  • thanks. I didn't initially find those links before with my link checkers but I'm downloading SEO PowerSuite now to try and see if it finds anything more. – Andy McCormick Dec 17 '15 at 4:24
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Using site:desainc.com in a Google search you can see all the links for this domain. It is only the https links that are the issue, which means that your server has a default SSL certificate pointing at the dubose.com site so any additional domains being hosted on this server and being accessed via https without a dedicated IP & SSL setup for the specific domain will default to the dubose.com site.

Google now tests http pages for the equivalent https link and if available it will index this instead. http://searchengineland.com/google-to-begin-to-index-https-pages-first-before-http-pages-when-possible-238811

And here is a very important read, a Google press release about their attitude toward https going forward, and one that dictates how we should proceed with the setup SSL if we care about future rankings. Note that they warn against blocking https using robot.txt and recommend that you setup every site to allow https access https://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com.au/2014/08/https-as-ranking-signal.html

So it is necessary to ensure that your site works correctly for both http and https. If you don't want it to serve over https, then you will need to ensure your setup reflects this.

To correct this you have 3 options:

  1. If no HTTPS needed: Simplest way you can implement in a couple of minutes...

Setup your htaccess file as follows (using the order that is shown here) and that will force all https requests to the equivalent http link. The additional benefit is that you don' need to spend the time telling Google to remove the existing https links from their index. It will auto redirect and give a 301 error causing Google to change those links to http over time.

Options +FollowSymlinks
RewriteEngine on
RewriteBase /

RewriteCond %{SERVER_PORT} ^443$ [OR]
RewriteCond %{HTTPS} =on
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://www.example.com/$1 [R=301,L]
  1. If HTTPS is required on one of the domains hosted on the server you will need to assign that site as the default domain for https.

If required on more than one site you'll need additional dedicated IPs and trusted certificates to setup each site separately.

  1. The other options is to setup your server with SNI for internal SSL routing using only one certificate.
  • Thanks. It seems that there is a perfect storm going on of server configuration and erroneous links somewhere. yes, searching for site:desainc.com amplifies what problem we are seeing as you can see that there are many results pointing to HTTPs which seems to pull titles/descriptions from several different sites that share the same ip. We do have several sites with SSLs on the server along with many that do not. I was under the impression that dedicated ip's are no longer a necessity, but I guess without them it leads to problems like this. – Andy McCormick Dec 17 '15 at 13:34
  • #AndyMcCormick dedicated IPs are no longer necessary as long as you have SNI setup on your server. However either that is not the case or it is not setup correctly on your server. But if you use SNI that means that only one trusted SSL certificate will be used for all of them - if you don't want that, and want each of them to display their own SSL certificate registered to the individual domain then you will still need to use a dedicated IP address and trusted SSL cert for each. – garth Dec 18 '15 at 2:00
  • Yes this is the cause of the issue. Well then as I have answered your question, please select it as the accepted answer to remove it from the unanswered questions list. Any further clarification I can provide in the comments. – garth Dec 18 '15 at 13:06
  • ok. Though it's not a complete answer as I still need to find where those https links are even coming from. I'll accept this as the answer since it helps with most of the question and touches on all of it. thanks. – Andy McCormick Dec 21 '15 at 3:57
  • @AndyMcCormick google now tests for https automatically. I'll add this to the answer. – garth Dec 21 '15 at 4:03
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A quick ahrefs check shows 55 outgoing links to said domain as well as some weird interlinking-profile going on between those domains. Based on that and a hunch that there is some weird server-misconfiguration I checked the below domains with mixed results:

Correct ones

Wrong ones

Basically, this all means that your server setup is somehow wrong and thus Google is picking up wrong content for the wrong domains and may (or may not) even penalize that via duplicate content.

  • thanks. That makes sense as the duboseweb.com is would be the default virtual host for port 443 on the server and desainc does not have a configuration using 443. I'm going to run the tools @closetnoc mentioned and see if I can find any links to the https version of the site. Google has to be finding those links somewhere, right? Do you think getting the 14 day trial of ahrefs would help me as well? – Andy McCormick Dec 17 '15 at 4:28

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