I’m not entirely sure what to think of this situation, but it seems to be yet another strong piece of evidence that the people behind W3schools don’t have our best interests in mind.
I clicked the W3schools.com result (I usually don’t, but I think I was just curious or something), then I quickly changed my mind and hit the back button. So I got the following screen:
I’ve seen this option before. It’s something Google added earlier this year to help you manually filter domains from search results with the option to undo or manage the sites you’ve blocked.
So I decided enough was enough. I always see W3schools.com results at the top of the results pages, so I hit the block link to block that domain. Later I did another search for something else. Here’s what I saw:
Wow, I must not have blocked them correctly, or else something bugged out when I clicked that “block” option. Why is W3Schools.com still showing up as the first result, even after I block them?
Look closely. Do you see what’s going on?
So yes, I absolutely did block www.w3schools.com, but somehow they’ve reached the top of search results for a number of subdomains. In this case, the subdomain resembles the usual “www”. If you aren’t paying attention, you wouldn’t even notice the difference, because who’s counting W’s anyhow?
But it gets worse. If you block that one too, then you’ll get similar results, but not as cloaked:
So evidently they’re (somehow) optimizing their SERPs to also display these subdomains, seemingly to battle the fact that many web developers are probably opting to block them in their personalized results. From what I can tell they’re using “www1”, “www3”, and “wwww” (4 W’s) while the “www2” subdomain seems to have limited results.
What Does This Mean?
I’m not an SEO super-expert, but my gut tells me this is not ethical behaviour. It’s obvious that the folks who run this site are trying to get to the top of results at all costs.
I don’t hate W3schools. They have an okay website with some average content that can come in handy for beginners looking for quick solutions. But their site often contains errors, omissions, and incomplete info. I also think it’s ridiculous that they are at the top of search results for, it seems, virtually every web development-related search term. They have as much power in web dev search results as Wikipedia has in regular search results. That is just wrong.
Am I overreacting here? If anyone has any insight into the ethics of this and how it relates to SEO, please chime in.
More Subdomains Found
After realizing that I was having the same problem on my own server (that is, random subdomains not redirecting to a canonical “www”), I thought that some of the comments might be correct in saying that it could be a result of people mistyping URLs along with wrong server configurations.
So just out of curiosity, I decided to use this domain/ip lookup tool to see what other domains are listed on the same IP as w3schools.com. Check it out for yourself by entering their domain.
I compiled the results in a JSBin you can find here. Each link sends you to Google results exclusively for the subdomains listed. Some of the subdomains (which could not possibly be user entered typos) include:
You can click through to all the individual subdomain search results on the JSBin page.
I don’t know what to say. It seems that it would be almost impossible to get high ranking results for any of these domains, but as demonstrated above, at least a few of them do show up — especially if you block the primary domain from your personalized results.
Again, I’m not an SEO expert, but it seems that this type of thing should penalize a site.