Mid last week, I was doing my usual SERP and rank checking for a particular keyword in Google and noticed a listing that was showing the IP address instead of their domain name:

Missing domain name

I stumble upon listings like these in the SERPs every now and then but usually for small businesses who have no idea how the internet works and have a poor web design/architecture. I was amazed that this would happen to Victoria Teachers Mutual Bank, a financial institution that provides financial services such as credit cards, home loans, personal loans and insurance. Surely they have big enough budgets to employ good web devs or SEOs to make sure that this does not happen.

Why is this an epic fail?

  • They probably spent years and years building a business and promoting the brand. Using the victeach.com.au domain name in marketing/advertising. Hmmm, I am pretty sure they want that to be visible when someone is searching for their products/services
  • It looks suspicious – is this result for real? Users will get turned off, questioning if that result is indeed the Victoria Teachers Mutual Bank website. I don’t know about you, if I see something like that I would immediately think that the site has been compromised
  • Because of the above points, they are probably losing potential traffic, sales and revenue
  • Duplicate content – having 2 versions is confusing the hell out of Google
  • There is plenty more where that came from, just see the screenshot below

More missing domains

How could this have happened?

Here are a few scenarios that I think may have caused this:

  • Non consistent internal linking – somewhere on the website there is a reference to the IP URL
  • An external website linking to the website using the IP URL
  • Content scrapers scraping the content of the website

I ran the website through Screaming Frog to confirm that there were no internal links going to the IP URL – there weren’t any. So, this is definitely happening externally. I then took a snippet of text content from the page and searched on Google:

You've been scraped

The above confirms my suspicion – It looks like their content have been scraped for use of evil, judging by the domains of websites that have scraped their content. I could have dug deeper to find the website that was referencing the IP URL but it was too risky, I clicked on the Russian website and that launched a tonne of pop ups that were out of control. So, I am not going to risk my machine getting infected by malware for the sake of this post.

How do you avoid this happening to your own website?

1. Use absolute URLs

Don’t be lazy, make sure your internal links are absolute URLs and not relative. Using absolute URLs will ensure that the link is consistently pointing to the same page/file. This generally solves http vs https duplicate content issues (which victeach.com.au also suffers from) and content scrapers. Example:

Absolute URL: <a href=”http://www.xyz.com/test.htm”>
Relative URL: <a href=”/test.htm”>

2. Use canonical tags

Once again, canonical tags save the day – this tag is extremely versatile. It is not only useful to solve duplicate content issues on-site but also beneficial in protecting you content. When a website is scraped, scrapers usually scrape the entire page code and republish that somewhere else. If your website is a victim of scraping, the canonical tag will inform search engines of the canonicalised version. I highly recommend that the canonical tag be implemented on every page, it is simple to implement, small piece of code that sits in the <head> section. Example:

<link rel=”canonical” href=”http://www.xyz.com/test.htm” />

3. Implement 301-redirects

Implement 301-redirects to ensure that the IP address version is redirected to the domain name version. This would be the best way to ensure that this does not happen to the website ever again. 301-redirects are a directive which search engines have to adhere to.

Put this in to action…

These are very simple solutions to implement on a website. Implementing absolute URLs on some CMS platforms can be a little tricky, get a web developer involved. Same goes to 301-redirects, speak to your web developer or the person in-charge of your hosting.

I hope you have found this post useful. Please feel free to leave any comments or feedback below.

P/S – If you are from Victoria Teachers Mutual Bank and you’re reading this, drop me an email.