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How-to 6 min read September 5, 2019

How to specify the main mirror in the Google Search Console

If there are several versions of domains, only the main site mirror is displayed in the search. Therefore, it is important to tell the search engines which version is the main one. This is done using the webmaster panels and redirects.
Several resources with different domains but identical information are defined by bots as website mirrors. The main one can be only one mirror site, whose pages are displayed in the search.

Two versions of the same website with the www prefix and without it also belong to the category of mirrors.

If you do not specify the main version of the website to search bots, another domain may fall into the SERP. Over time, the pages of the main mirror supersede all minor versions from the search.

How site mirrors appear

Sometimes webmasters create minor versions of one website for a specific purpose. For example, if you need to move to a new domain or the same, but Cyrillic. This way, as much traffic as possible is collected, because someone is used to accessing via www, someone is without a prefix, and someone is more comfortable entering the domain in Russian letters.

According to SEO experts, search engines perceive sites as mirrors if their content matches more than 80%.

It happens that when checking the website is defined as glued to another resource. So the search engines noticed the coincidence of information on several sites and made one of them the main one. How to transfer a site to a new domain? Domains need to be "stuck" by changing the content or setting up a 301 redirect.

Options for the appearance of mirrors

  • Access to the site through a domain with the www prefix and without;
  • site availability via http and https;
  • the presence of identical content on different URLs;
  • the same site in different domain zones.

How to specify the main mirror in the Google Search Console

Suppose you want to specify the main mirror version of the website without the www prefix. Initially, confirm your rights to both versions of the site in any convenient way. Then go to the site's settings by clicking on the gear in the upper right corner and tick the appropriate line and click "Save":
The main domain and mirror using Google Search Console

Setting up call forwarding when manually creating a site's mirror

If you plan to create several versions of the site, you need to set up site mirrors and 301 redirects all pages of the minor version to the main one. This step will allow you to implement the transfer of the site to a new domain without losing positions and weight from external links. You need to set up a redirect in case you want to make the main version of the site with www.

Basically, webmasters, like search engines, choose the version without the www prefix as the main mirror. But if your domain is too short or you have already managed to advertise a site with a prefix offline, you can choose the main version from www. The way out is to configure a 301 redirect of pages through the server.

In order not to do this manually for each page, you need to make several entries in the .htaccess file. Download the file from the root folder of the site and open it in the editor, then enter the lines:
Site Mirror in .htaccess - 1
Instead of site.ru, insert your domain. Save the changes and upload the updated .htaccess file to the root of the site. If you want to configure a redirect from a domain with the www prefix to a version without it, do the same, swapping domains:
Site Mirror in .htaccess - 2
When moving to a new domain, specify the updated main version of the site in the robots.txt file. To do this, write the following line at the end:
Host: www.new-site.ru
After saving the information, check if the line has been added to the file. To do this, go to http://site.ru/robots.txt, where site.ru is the name of your site.

Now you need to configure the redirect of all pages to the new domain. To do this, add this code to the .htaccess file:
Site Mirror in .htaccess - 3
In this case, all users will be redirected from each page of the old version of site.ru to the corresponding pages of the new version of new-site.ru. And you do not have to create redirects for each of hundreds or thousands of pages.

Conclusion

The main mirror is the site that appears in the search. You can specify the version you need through the Google Search Console functionality.

If you plan to move the site to a new domain or create an additional version, you need to configure a 301-redirect of all pages to the main mirror.

This article is a part of Serpstat's Checklist tool
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