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Index Page Duplication

Index File Duplication

Contents:

 

Duplicate Content & Canonicalization - Index File Duplication

Index file duplication occurs usually as a direct consequence of having to create an index file for all websites. The index file acts as the home page of the site, this problem is characterised by this file being accessible from more than a single URL and it not being dealt with properly by canonical tags.

This article is one of several that fall under the duplicate content and canonicalization series in the Raptor Knowledge Base. Please the below list for all other articles covering all of the different types of duplicate content and canonicalization issues that a website can experience below:

Index File Duplication

This is a very common mistake and is easily done, like all other canonical duplication problems; there is a URL (or multiple URLs) that are accessible from more than one URL. In the case of index file duplication, we often see index files accessible from URLS such as:

www.example.com.au/index/
www.example.com.au/index.php
www.example.com.au/index.html
www.example.com.au/index.asp 

All of the above can be duplicates of the below URL on many websites.

www.example.com.au

Impact of Issue

In this specific example, there is very little direct impact to your SEO performance, that said; this issue specifically and exclusively affects the home page, and the home page is the most valuable page on your site.

Duplicate Content

When a web page is accessible from more than one URL, Google may choose to serve either one in the search results unless you specify which to serve. Duplicate content can be devalued by Google and other search engines, which can result in a loss of rankings, ­­ and consequently traffic for terms targeted on those pages.

Hence if a webpage is accessible from both example.com/index and example.com, this could have a negative impact on your website’s content. It can also cause confusion and result in Google changing which of these URLs it shows.

Loss of Authority

Further problems can occur such as when people link to your site, they may end up linking to the non-preferred URL. Once this problem becomes resolved you can then experience a loss of authority or additional work to have back links updated to the correct page.

How to Resolve

There are a number of steps that can be taken to ensure that this does not become an issue on your site.
The first and most important fix, is to redirect the index file to the root domain, making the root domain the preferred URL for accessing the home page. How you go about implementing this will depend on the hosting technology that your website uses, we have detailed the two most common hosting solutions below:

Redirects (.htaccess)

Add the code shown below to the top of your .htaccess file, ensure to adjust the final row to reflect the page / file name of your index page… For example, if you have a html index page, replace the last line from index.php to index.html:

RewriteEngine on
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-d
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-f
RewriteRule . index.php [L]

This will redirect your example.com/index.php to example.com, making only the root domain accessible.

Redirects (Windows IIS)

For Windows servers using IIS, you will need to edit the web.config file with the code shown below:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<configuration>
  <system.webServer>
     <modules runAllManagedModulesForAllRequests="true" />
        <rewrite>
            <rules>
                <rule name="CanonicalHostNameRule1" stopProcessing="true">
                    <match url="index\.htm(?:l)?" />
                        <conditions>
                            <add input="{HTTP_HOST}" pattern="example\.com$" />
                        </conditions>
                        <action type="Redirect" url="http://www.example.com/" />
                </rule>
                <rule name="CanonicalHostNameRule2" stopProcessing="true">
                    <match url="(.*)" />
                    <conditions>
                        <add input="{HTTP_HOST}" pattern="^example\.com$" />
                    </conditions>
                    <action type="Redirect" url="http://www.example.com/{R:1}" />
                </rule>
            </rules>
        </rewrite>
  </system.webServer>
</configuration>

Ensure that you amend the details shown above such that the domain name is not example.com or you will encounter a range of unwanted problems!

Canonical Tags

This is recommended for all canonical problems and is general best practice… To have a canonical tag setup correctly on every page of your site.

This is a topic mentioned in greater detail in another article specific to canonical tags but for the purpose of this article; adding a canonical tag to every page of the site (following the guide above) will prevent most duplicate content issues on any site.

This solution will resolve the issue but will not allow the duplicate page to rank for the content posted on it. It will however pass on any authority that the page may have to the canonical page.
On the home page / index file, implement a canonical tag that links to the root domain, for example:

<link rel="canonical" href="https://example.com" />

Bear in mind that canonical tags need to be consistent and reflect the site structure, technology etc. So for example; if you use HTTPS, then you need to specify that in the canonical tags, if you have opted to use trailing slashes, then include them in canonical tags.

Benefit of Resolving

Prevent the home page of your site from being accessible from more than one URL.
Controlling the URL’s from which your site & pages can be accessed prevents the potential impact from duplicate content issues.

This is a minor problem and doesn’t have a huge or significant impact to your SEO but as with most SEO components; each of them in isolation may have a small impact but when all of them are implemented correctly there is a collective advantage to be had.

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