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Old 04-13-2006, 11:13 AM   #1
Steve Rindsberg
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Default Google SiteMap doesn't like custom 404 pages

When you sign up for Google SiteMap, they have you put a specially named file on your site (I suppose to verify that you've got rights to the site) then they have you click a Verify button, which presumably checks for the existence of the file.

It must check some other things, specifically looking for files that aren't there because I found that if I had a custom 404 page, Google would complain about it. It barked because it got a 200 ("everything's fine, file was found") message when it was looking for a 404.

I *think* it's reasonable that it would get a 200 whenever there's a custom error page. The web server is *supposed* to serve up a page rather than handing back a 404 and letting the browser deal with it.

If it handed back a 404 AND a custom error page, it wouldn't make sense, unless the browser's supposed to be smart enough to recognize such an odd situation.

Surely google's run across custom 404 pages before? It seems very odd that they can't cope.

IAC, the workaround's simple enough: open an ftp window on the site, rename .htaccess to something else temporarily, click the verify button on the google Sitemap page, it works, rename something else back to .htaccess and everybody's happy.

Renaming the custom error page instead *might* work but it can also trigger a bug in Apache:

Receive request for page
Look for page
Page isnt there
Check .htaccess
It says to display custom error page
Request custom error page, which takes us back to the beginning of the loop.

One or two browsers left open doing this dance can *really* run up your hit count at the ISP. ;-)

   
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Old 04-13-2006, 02:13 PM   #2
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I have a custom 404 on a site with a Google map and had no problem with the file verification. It did subsequently list a problem when I checked the staus a couple of weeks later.....No favicon

If that's all I don't have a problem. The site active pages gets spidered more frequently than before and the static pages are visited much less often., as far as I can tell.

   
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Old 04-13-2006, 06:09 PM   #3
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No favicon? Geez, they're getting pretty weird, aren't they? Since when was THAT a requirement?

I'll have to see what's in the headers with the custom page active.

Or not. This promises to be good for hours of chasing something I'm not all that interested in and in the end I have a feeling that either google or my isp will need to be convinced to change things to accommodate one another. Which will budge?

My money's on "neither". The weather's supposed to be nice tomorrow, I think I'll go tilt at windmills instead.

Still. It's annoying not to know. <g>

   
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Old 04-13-2006, 06:15 PM   #4
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More ...

So I point SamSpade at a non-existent file and get what I've pasted below.

If you're interested, point me at the domain where you've got the custom 404 and I'll try a bogus page there as well.

04/13/06 22:11:19 Browsing http://www.rdpslides.com/blaboing.htm
Fetching http://www.rdpslides.com/blaboing.htm ...
GET /blaboing.htm HTTP/1.1

Host: www.rdpslides.com
Connection: close
User-Agent: Sam Spade 1.14

HTTP/1.1 302 Found

Date: Fri, 14 Apr 2006 02:09:19 GMT
Server: IgServ/1.0.9 (Unix)
Location: http://www.rdpslides.com/error404.htm
Connection: close
Transfer-Encoding: chunked
Content-Type: text/html; charset=iso-8859-1
d9
<!DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC "-//IETF//DTD HTML 2.0//EN">
<HTML><HEAD>
<TITLE>302 Found</TITLE>
</HEAD><BODY>
<H1>Found</H1>
The document has moved <A HREF="http://www.rdpslides.com/error404.htm">here</A>.<P>
</BODY></HTML>

   
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Old 04-18-2006, 10:41 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve Rindsberg
If it handed back a 404 AND a custom error page, it wouldn't make sense, unless the browser's supposed to be smart enough to recognize such an odd situation.
A 404 "not found" header is not meant only for browsers operated by a human. It's for any kind of user agent to tell it the resource requested was not found. When you supply a custom error page, that's merely to present the same message to a human. While that custom error page will exist, the requested resource still doesn't so the header should still be 404, and not 200: the page is only meant to explain the "not found" situation to browsing humans.

Presenting a custom error page telling the human a resource was not found while telling everything else that it was found (by means of a 200 "found" return code) does not make any sense.

Google is quite right to complain!

   
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Old 04-18-2006, 09:02 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by iamback
A 404 "not found" header is not meant only for browsers operated by a human. It's for any kind of user agent to tell it the resource requested was not found. When you supply a custom error page, that's merely to present the same message to a human. While that custom error page will exist, the requested resource still doesn't so the header should still be 404, and not 200: the page is only meant to explain the "not found" situation to browsing humans.

Presenting a custom error page telling the human a resource was not found while telling everything else that it was found (by means of a 200 "found" return code) does not make any sense.

Google is quite right to complain!
This makes sense on one level but what puzzles me is that google's complaint was that it was a security risk of some sort ... that it might enable someone else to get at my stats (presumably the stats they compile and make available to the site owner only).

It's all just too twisted. <g>

   
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Old 04-19-2006, 12:27 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve Rindsberg
This makes sense on one level but what puzzles me is that google's complaint was that it was a security risk of some sort ... that it might enable someone else to get at my stats (presumably the stats they compile and make available to the site owner only).
That I don't understand at all... can you quote exact wording or point to a URL where they make a statement of this kind? I get the idea I may be missing a bit of context here....

   
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Old 04-19-2006, 04:02 PM   #8
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'missing context'

Probably so. I just spent most of the day helping my mother in law move; way way behind. But I'll post again the next time I visit the google page. And bring back exact quotes. Thanks.

   
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