Call the Landlord When the Faucet Leaks – A Word to Hosting Companies

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I recently discovered that a new client has a great number of domains registered and hosted on an IP separate from his main, commercial site. My client’s not actively doing anything with these domains, just keeping them warm in the virtual back pocket, so to speak. Some of the domains are simple misspellings of his main site, in case someone stumbles across their keyboard while typing his URL. Adding them all up, I count somewhere in the realm of 75 to 100 of these tadpole sites, just waiting for a chance to make some noise in the e-commerce pond, if called upon.

The trouble, we discover, is that each domain is a perfect mirror of his active site by means of a rudimentary frameset. If you’re not familiar with this term, think of a frameset as one of those $100 flat-screen TVs you see at your favorite big-box retail store. Sure, it has a clear picture and all the buttons on the remote work, but you know it’s going to give out in about 6 months, tops. And it has this brand name that’s vaguely familiar, like South American geography. A frameset creates a cheap version of a valid website by displaying the real site’s content under its own name (URL).

I told my client to remove the framesets on those domains and setup redirects, for both users and search engines to follow, which point to his main site. Therefore, the engines won’t penalize him for having duplicate content under various domains, and everyone can still find what they’re looking for. Everything’s hunky dory, right? Wrong.

While exploring his hosting company’s basic user interface, we discover that the only non-frameset redirect option we have is rather hostile (a 303 “See Other”, which isn’t cache-able by the engines). Sure, it will get the user there, but for a search engine spider it’s the equivalent of driving up to an international border crossing with a bag of fruit on the passenger seat. No one wants to argue their case for traveling abroad with oranges, not even a search engine spider, which will turn around and head back the way it came.

My advice to the client? Contact the host and ask nicely for a valid redirect method. They’re cashing your checks, and therefore should answer your call. If they have no idea what you’re talking about, find a new host that does.

My advice to hosting companies? Do your homework or you’re going to miss the after-school trip to Dairy Queen. Search engine friendly solutions should (and soon will) be an absolute requirement of any business with a website. If you don’t give your customers what they need, we all know what happens to you. No Oreo Flurry with sprinkles on top at the end of the day.

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