Ok so when I started this post I did not initially see it to be a massive failure but more of a minor issue but still saw it as a significant problem that such an oversight could be happening on the night of Fox’s most anticipated shows “Glee” is returning to TV. So as most people do I went to Google.com to do a search for Fox looking to find out if there was anyway I could watch “Glee” online but I did find it strange the such a large site would have index.html showing at their primary homepage. The more I dug into Fox.com the more issues I saw around a lack of understanding about SEO and well there is a lot of room for improvement as for consistency across just Fox.com not including the hundreds of other websites News Corp operates.
The Google search results show Fox.com/index.htm but when I clicked to visit the link it produces a 404 error page, this a both a major issue for Fox and a provides a very bad user experience for other fans using Google to get to Fox.com. I would expect a fair amount of traffic would flag a warning sign somewhere that a huge number of visitors were now viewing 404 error pages when coming from Google. The only upside is they have a nice simple 404 page that has a direct link back to Fox.com which works. There is Omniture tracking code on the Fox 404 error page so its fairly easy for their web analysts or web developers to notice the large spike in views of this page and that the source is a Google search referral, this would indicate failure by someone.
It’s not consistent
It seems that the use of index.html is not consistent across the site as you can see the 2nd result shown in the search results was the link to watch Fox full episodes on demand. It is indexed in Google as http://www.fox.com/fod/index.htm but unlike the homepage it doesn’t resolve to a 404 error, this would indicate a failure by someone not a site wide policy change or update. If you are going to run a website it’s always best practice to make a decision if you are going to use index.htm and stick with it. It causes problems for link builders, internal staff and other web developers within the Fox group who try to work out quickly which is the best URL to link to.
Meta refreshes signal failure in seo
Note: you need to test this to ensure that you don’t create an endless redirection circle as has happened in my past projects
Fox.com doesn’t use canonical URLs
This is part of the issue around why these variations of the home page are being indexed and shown in the search result, it is another good practice to where possible use canonical URLs to signal to search engines where the primary or original source of content and not counted as duplicate content should be found by using the tag Rel=”canonical”
An example for this article would be <link rel=”canonical” href=”http://lostpr.es/2010/09/22/fox-com-fails-seo-2455236″ />
Who is linking to Fox.com/index.htm?
Looking at the backlink profile of that particular page using SEOmoz Linkscape it seems that only part of the issue is within Fox’s control. The issue of index.htm showing in the search result is more an external link issue with only 8.5% of the backlinks are internal or coming from other Fox.com subdomains. So even if Fox.com fixes their internal linking policies it seems its only part of the problem the easiest solution is to look at consolidation of those inbound links via 301 redirects.
Fox.com is using 302s
While it seems part of the issue is the non-use of 301s, the continuing use of meta-refreshes it also seems that for subdomains Fox.com has chosen to use the less than useful 302 redirects.
So how can Fox.com fix it?
Ok so here is how if you were Fox.com you could fix the issue since they are running the server on Apache/2.2.8 (Unix) PHP/5.2.5 with Suhosin-Patch they will likely have 2 easy options to organise the 301 redirects.
- .htaccess file
- Use cPanel
So what is a .htaccess files and how can you use them? Apache has a free tutorial on .htaccess files and how to use them to create permanent redirections
So what is cPanel and how can it help your website with Apache & PHP Customisation? Once again there are a number of web hosting companies that have already enabled cPanel so it is ready to go but you can find out more about it here.
So what is a 301 and how can it help your website? A 301 is a request to advise that the old content now has a new home, SEOBook.com has a nice breakdown around 301 Redirects.
Please fix Fox.com
So there you have it even the biggest corporations sometimes forget to do the basics when it comes to seo we won’t even get started on indexing issues or how they could have used Google Webmaster Tools to identify the problem in any more detail. Most of the points and tips are something any good web developer or seo agency should have addresses long ago, so that is why this is being classed as a failure in SEO it should not have happened.