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What I've learned from Google Webmaster Tools

Search Engine Optimization hints for the non-professional

Many of our sites have been moved from Windows hosting to Linux hosting as technology has changed

Over a period of 9 years a personal site has been moved from .com to .info.  The site was originally on a Windows Server and then moved to Linux.  The windows site was a single hosted domain, the Linux version was an add on domain, but now has been moved to single site host.  I've had extensive issues managing my Google rankings and page indexing because of it.

Solving 404 errors and permanent redirects (301 redirects)

Case Sensitivity Warning

Windows hosting is NOT case sensitive, Linux hosting IS case sensitive

I've changed file names for sorting purpose and consistency, (or not following a absolute naming convention) while on the Windows platform.  Google finds the Windows names completely and adds them to the Google Search Index.  They are indexed and ranked without issue, even when the case changes. 

 Linux hosts will reject the file name when there is a file name case change

RULE!: Do not change file name case names.  Rule! Use lower case as an unbending convention when creating new files.

Google Search Index

BEWARE: Google uses other site links to your pages to rank searches.  Sites linked to you will not know of your case changes so redirects are necessary if you move from Windows to Linux! If you do not redirect you will lose rankings

BEWARE: Google seems to retain old case specific file names from Windows hosts for many many years.  Case changes are still reported as errors a decade later

We've had to redirect many file names as we have edited pages over decades

Site Map Errors

BEWARE: Site maps on our sites have been kept mostly current and up-to-date and resubmitted when changed; file names reflect any lower/upper case changes or folder location changes.  Google URL Errors report sitemap errors even though the current site map may be up-to-date.  I do not understand why

Google Search Index

Pages seem to stay in Google index (or in other site links to your pages or images) seemingly forever unless:

  1. BEST Way: You permanently redirect the page by htaccess (301 redirect)
  2. Alternative: You edit the page using a noindex met tag and redirect it to the new page.    meta name="robots" content="noindex" meta http-equiv="refresh" content="0;url=newpage_path.html"

NOTE: Some non-Google indexing bots may NOT respect the meta tag noindex command.  If you must keep the old page for archival or historical page reference you could do both.  I am not certain that this will not confuse Google indexing bots.

Google Index / Remove URLs / Temporary hide

The index removal tools for Google has evolved over time.  The removal is now TEMPORARY.  You must redirect incorrect pages permanently by htaccess or Google will give errors again after the temporary hide expires

Although this is an opinion, I am not certain how Temporary Hide manages upper case / lower case file name change issues. 

My observations lead me to believe the Remove URLs tool DOES NOT respect case differences - I removed several file names that were case specific (example: Map.html).   My rankings for the lower case correct file name (map.html) disappeared (for months) from Google indexing and rankings.  It over four months for the pages to reappear and be reranked.

Notes about using htaccess

Sites use htaccess redirects hierarchically.  That is: the first redirect is reviewed then the 2nd and on and on to the last redirect.

There are circumstances where I have many redirects for case changes.  For example, I might need to redirect, literally,  "Index.htm" and "index.htm" (case differences) to the new default.html.  I find the second redirect is not handled well by Google UNLESS the second redirect is preceded by a redirect not of the same name.  Confused? Example that works:

  1. First redirect (upper case): "Index.htm" to "default.html"
  2. Second redirect: "photos/Jan_trip.html" to "photos/jan_trip.html"
  3. Third redirect (lower case): "index.htm" to "default.html"

Redirects of any kind slow web page loading.  How many htaccess redirects can you have?

Redirects must be done if you are to retain your Google page rankings. 

A large htaccess file with many redirects may slow page response more than a one page redirect using meta tags.  However I have one site of over 10,000 pages with over 800 htaccess redirects and banned IP's and it works fine for me

Google Webmaster Tools for www. and not www

Two decades ago, the world wide web protocol initially required www and the sitename, domain extension address.  This is no longer true.

Be sure to add both www and not www to Google Webmaster tools. Google has different indexes for each (literally both "" and "" separately, for example). The number of pages indexed vary for both.

I create separate sitemaps for each in the Google Webmaster Tools dash board (one with www the other non-www)

I moved this site from Windows to Linux in April 2016.  Google shows 75 pages indexed for www and just 2 indexed for the non-www.  Crawls errors appear from time to time on both www. and non-www, the errors are not for the same pages.  Most of the errors are for file name upper case / lower case variations. 

I have created redirects as the errors are reported.  This site has existed for 18 years, since 1999, so case changes have been extensive.  As of this writing, Google has reported 28 upper case / lower case issues and 15 errors for pages that no longer exist.  These errors totals are only 10 days after moving the site to Linux

Google only recognizes the redirects as www specific and non-www specific when you test the redirects in Webmaster Tools

That is, www . prorganize . com / Default . html error had to be redirected to www . prorganize . com / default . html.  Omitting the www in the redirect fails in the www . prorganize . com webmaster tools dashboard

My sites have been hosted exclusively by Newtek, The Small Business Authority (formerly CrystalTech) and Godaddy since about 2005.  Newtek is best for their service (and Smartermail is included)

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