Google - where did my pages go?

About a year ago, most of my web pages disappeared from Google's index. (OK, I realise that to some people it may be no bad thing, but let me finish.) The page titles were present, but no content. Naturally, the number of visitors to the site dropped to a trickle.

I couldn't figure out if anything had changed. Maybe Google had implemented a new tedium filter. The only thing I could think to do was submit my site name to Google numerous times. And, after about two weeks, the GoogleBot was visiting and my pages were back in the index. Did the name submissions help or not? It's impossible to tell.

Recently (at the end of November), the same effect occurred again. This time only half of the pages fell out of the index, but they had been dropped completely; not even a title existed. As before, I started submitting the site to Google. I also noticed Google Sitemaps. Hmm, maybe this would help Google re-find me faster. I followed the instructions and uploaded the sitemaps file to Google. A week later, still no change.

I started browsing the Google Sitemaps newsgroup, in which many people lamented the lack of assistance the Sitemaps programme gave to their site's page ranks, indexing etc. There were a number of concrete suggestions, one of which appeared to be applicable to me. Google will see a site addressed by and, which point to the same content, as being two sites with duplicate content. This apparent duplication is punished by Google.

To inform Google that I only had one site,that is, I added the following lines to the Apache configuration file. You can also put this in an .htaccess file, but that takes more processing time.

 <IfModule mod_rewrite.c>
     RewriteEngine On
     RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^hydrus\.org\.uk [nc]
     RewriteRule ^/(.*)$1 [R=301,L]

 # uncomment for rewrite logging
 #RewriteLog /var/log/rewrite.log
 #RewriteLogLevel 3

Once this was in place, I did see evidence in the rewriting log that my site was referenced without the www prefix. However, I saw no change in Google until a couple of weeks later (the 25th December) when I started getting hits on the site via Google again. Yep, all my pages were back. Obviously, timed as a present from Google.

Still, as before, I have no idea whether anything I did affected Google one way or the other...