On Monday, a story went around about a jelly bean with Kate Middleton’s face on it. In itself, just another of the stories ‘wasting’ newsprint in the run up to the Royal Wedding.
But, it exposed a rather disastrous flaw in the Independent’s URL structure and system which renders outdated or incorrect URLs to the page with that story ID. As long as the story ID is left within the URL, you can change all of the rest of the URL to anything you choose. And people chose to do so, which led to an ever-increasing variety of URLs being posted to Twitter, and an apology from Martin King, editor of the Indie. (Interestingly, his post shows without a story ID as presumably this would also be changed in the ‘retelling’!)
What is perhaps more interesting though is that Google has decided to index as many as 70+ (and rising) of the duplicate URLs as you can see by running this search.
The vast majority of these URLs have appeared on twitter.
The moral of this story is check your URL structures and systems are not open to abuse, and use Twitter and social signals to get indexed rapidly on Google.