Blogger ccTLD Redirects Break Adsense URL Channels

Google Blogger recently started redirecting visitors to the ccTLD version of Blogger appropriate for the reader’s location. Unfortunately, this has broken URL Channels in Google Adsense.

Editorial Note
As of 3 February 2012, it appears that this is only occuring for visitors in Australia.

A Google search for “site:blogspot.com.*” shows 15,100 results, all of which appear to be .blogspot.com.au sites. A search for “site:blogspot.com.* -site:blogspot.com.au” shows 0 results.

For some reason, a search for “site:blogspot.com.au” only shows 382 results, which doesn’t match the 15,100 from the previous search, but the ‘results found’ numbers have never added up.

So, I guess Australia is the guinea pig for this one!

Edit: it seems there are blogspot.co.nz domains as well.

How The Blogger ccTLD Redirection Works

Say you have a website at sitename.blogspot.com, then:

  • a visitor from Australia will be redirected to sitename.blogspot.com.au
  • a visitor from Germany will be redirected to sitename.blogspot.com.de
  • a visitor from US will go to the main sitename.blogspot.com.au

The content will be the same on each site – unless there are legal reasons that the content can’t be displayed in a particular country (is that caving in to censorship?) – but the user will technically be on a different website.

Impacts Of This Change On SEO And Analytics

In the Blogger Help page discussing this (linked to above), Google explain that they are working to minimise any Search Engine Optimisation issues arising from the duplicate content this will create. They say:

A: After this change, crawlers will find Blogspot content on many different domains. Hosting duplicate content on different domains can affect search results, but we are making every effort to minimize any negative consequences of hosting Blogspot content on multiple domains.

The majority of content hosted on different domains will be unaffected by content removals, and therefore identical. For all such content, we will specify the blogspot.com version as the canonical version using rel=canonical. This will let crawlers know that although the URLs are different, the content is the same. When a post or blog in a country is affected by a content removal, the canonical URL will be set to that country’s ccTLD instead of the .com version. This will ensure that we aren’t marking different content with the same canonical tag.

I’m nervous about the “we’re making every effort” part. I’d rather they were saying “we’ve got it sorted, there will be no impact”. But at least they’re working on it.

As far as Google Analytics goes, there appears to have been no impact. Traffic levels are showing as steady, no drops or hiccups from the fact that visitors are now going to different sites.

But there’s something that Google missed: URL Channels in Adsense.

The Effect On URL Channels In Adsense

I only noticed the ccTLDs redirects after a couple of days of troubleshooting a problem with Adsense on one of my sites. For some reason Page Views in the Adsense report had dropped from several hundred to almost none.

The reason?

Most of the visitors to that site are from Australia. They now get redirected to the blogspot.com.au version of the site, and although Adsense ads appear on the site, that doesn’t show up in the URL Channel for the blogspot.com version.

This means that URL Channels in Adsense are now broken for all sites on Blogger. You will only see US traffic under the URL Channel.

Work Arounds

Because most of my traffic was from Australia, I tried adding a new URL Channel for sitename.blogspot.com.au. This wouldn’t actually fix the problem, and you couldn’t scale that across all the potential ccTLDs Blogger will use, but it would have been better than what I have now. However, that gives me the following message: “URL cannot contain a google host.”

You could also set up Custom Channels specifically for that site (if you’re not already using one) and recreate the Adsense code . That’s not the long term solution, but could get you by in the short term.

Editorial Note

wasaweb suggested using the Sites report (under the Performance reports tab). My response was as follows:

Thanks for the tip of using Sites under Performance report – I’ve always used the URL Channel dimension instead. However:

a) if they give us a URL dimension, then it really should work properly and

b) the Sites section will quickly become bogged down with all the ccTLDs – I’m seeing blogspot.com, blogspot.com.au, blogspot.co.nz in there at the moment and it will become worse as they roll out globally. And if I want to know how the ‘site’ is going, I’ll have to manually add up all those individual sites (although I assume there’s a report I could do this in).

The Solution

The solution is pretty obvious. The Adsense team need to quickly modify their system so that blogspot.com URL Channels automatically include all the blogspot.com.* domains (ie all of the ccTLDs they have set up).

Either that or the Blogger team need to roll back the ccTLD redirections until they’ve discussed it with other teams in Google and done some testing!

I’m not convinced by this move, either from a technical point of view or a political one (the reasoning for the change seems to be so they can censor information for people in certain countries). I haven’t seen this reported anywhere or announced by Google, beyond their Help page.

Anyway, I’ll be trying to raise this issue with them – although it’s not easy to raise things with Google!

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