Google Adds 'Cross-domain URL' Notification to Webmaster Tools - How to Fix Incorrect Selections?

Google launched a new Webmaster Tools messages that will notify webmasters when Google's algorithms select an external URL instead of one from their website."There're many scenarios that can lead our algorithms to select URLs across domains. In most cases, our algorithms select a URL based on signals that the webmaster implemented to influence the decision," […]

Google launched a new Webmaster Tools messages that will notify webmasters when Google's algorithms select an external URL instead of one from their website.

"There're many scenarios that can lead our algorithms to select URLs across domains. In most cases, our algorithms select a URL based on signals that the webmaster implemented to influence the decision," said Pierre Far, Webmaster Trends Analyst.

"When your website is involved in a cross-domain selection, and you believe the selection is incorrect (i.e. not your intention), there're several strategies to improve the situation. Here're some of the common causes of unexpected cross-domain URL selections that we've seen, and how to fix them," noted Pierre.

Cross-domain URL

Per Google blog post:

  1. Duplicate content, including multi-regional websites: "For example, it's common to see a webmaster set up the same English language website on both example.com and example.net, or a German language website hosted on a.de, a.at, and a.ch," explains Pierre.

    Depending on your website and your users, you can use one of the currently-supported canonicalization techniques to signal to our algorithms which URLs you wish selected. See following articles on this topic:

  2. Configuration mistakes:
    1. "Incorrect canonicalization techniques pointing to URLs on an external website can lead our algorithms to select the external URLs to show in our search results," said Pierre. This happen when misconfigured content management systems (CMS) or CMS plugins installed by the webmaster.

      To fix this kind of situation, find how your website is incorrectly indicating the canonical URL preference (e.g. through incorrect usage of a rel="canonical" element or a 301 redirect) and fix that.

    2. Misconfigured servers: "Sometimes we see hosting misconfigurations where content from site a.com is returned for URLs on b.com. A similar case occurs when two unrelated web servers return identical soft 404 pages that we may fail to detect as error pages. In both situations we may assume the same content is being returned from two different sites and our algorithms may incorrectly select the a.com URL as the canonical of the b.com URL," revealed Pierre.

      You'll need to investigate which part of your website's serving infrastructure is misconfigured.

  3. "Malicious website attacks on websites introduce code that can cause undesired canonicalization. For example, the malicious code might cause the website to return an HTTP 301 redirect or insert a cross-domain rel="canonical" link element into the HTML <head> or HTTP header, usually pointing to an external URL hosting malicious content. In these cases our algorithms may select the malicious or spammy URL instead of the URL on the compromised website.

    In this situation, follow the guidance on cleaning your site and submit a reconsideration request when done. To identify cloaked attacks, you can use the Fetch as Googlebot function in Webmaster Tools to see your page's content as Googlebot sees it," explained Pierre.