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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Better don't run a web server under Windows

IIS defaults can produce serious troubles with search engines. That's a common problem and not even all .nhs.uk (UK Government National
Health Service) admins have spotted it. I've alerted the Whipps Cross University Hospital but can't email all NHS sites suffering from IIS and lazy or uninformed webmasters. So here's the fix:

Create a server without subdomain domain.nhs.uk, then go to the "Home Directory" tab and click the option "Redirection to a URL". As "Redirect to" enter the destination, for example "http://www.domain.nhs.uk$S$Q", without a slash after ".uk" because the path ($S placeholder) begins with a slash. The $Q placeholder represents the query string. Next check "Exact URL entered above" and "Permanent redirection for this resource", and submit. Test the redirection with a suitable tool.

Now when a user enters a URL without the "www" prefix s/he gets the requested page from the canonical server name. Also search engine crawlers following non-canonical links like http://whippsx.nhs.uk/ will transmit the link love to the desired URL, and will index more pages instead of deleting them in their search indexes after a while because the server is not reachable. I'm not joking. Under some circumstances all or many www-URLs of pages referenced by relative links resolving to the non-existent server will get deleted in the search index after a couple of unsuccessfull attempts to fetch them without the www-prefix.

Hat tip to Robbo
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