Google has indexed the wrong version of the homepage for 3 different client websites in the last 3 months, it is my fault really because I should have taken care of things before it happened. In all 3 cases the clients homepage rankings on Google almost completely disappeared (scary stuff). Here is some information on how I handled each situation.
The 1st one was really easy, the clients regular homepage www.domain.com had been de-indexed and replaced by www.domain.com/home. I set up a 301 redirect using htaccess from www.domain.com/home to www.domain.com. Because this particular site had navigation to both versions of the homepage, Google recognized the redirect within a couple of days and the client re-gained their rankings.
The 2nd one took me about two weeks to sort out, again Google de-indexed the clients regular homepage www.domain.com and replaced it with a different version, this time it was www.domain.com/index.html, this particular site had no navigation to the other version and there were no external links to it either (how Google picked it up I don’t know). I set up a 301 redirect using htaccess just like I did last time thinking it would be sorted in a couple of days. It wasn’t sorted in a couple of days, in fact nearly two weeks had gone by and it still wasn’t fixed, the client was understandably starting to get a little anxious. I then realised that Google just wasn’t going to recognize the redirect unless I placed a link to the version that was redirecting. Fortunately I have a directory at my disposal that gets re-cached by Google every other day so I added a temporary entry linking to the version that was redirecting (www.domain.com/index.html), within less then 48 hours Google picked up the directory listing, recognized the redirect and once again the client got their rankings back. If I had been a bit more on the ball this one could have been sorted out a lot quicker.
The 3rd one was also a bit of a nightmare, this time Google had de-indexed www.domain.com and replaced it with domain.com without the www. I thought no problem I will just set up a redirect with htaccess like I had done the previous times, the client had Windows hosting and htaccess was not supported, I tried to set one up using the internet services manager but every time I went into the file properties to set it up it said (This server does not support file changing permissions), neither me or the client could work out how to fix it, the web hosting company was totally useless and changing web hosts would have been a big job. I registered the site with Google Webmaster Central, created an XML sitemap and set the preferred domain to www.domain.com, within a couple of days Google re-indexed the right version of the homepage and the client re-gained their rankings.
If this has happened or happens to you, get the 301 set up and if necessary build some links to the redirect so that Google recognizes it.
To prevent this happening in the 1st place, make sure that the versions of your homepage that you don’t want are 301’d to the one you want i.e. if you want www.domain.com 301 all non www. URLs to all www. ones and 301 www.domain.com/home to www.domain.com. If you have this set up you will have no problems. If you are having problems setting this up contact your web host, hopefully they will be more helpful then the one that I dealt with, if they are not consider getting a new host like my client has now done.
Here are some useful links:
WebConfs.com – How to create Redirects
Bob Mutch on Redirects
Google Webmaster Central (Get yourself registered)
Posted in SEO News By David Eaves a UK search engine optimisation specialist.