Fix ReplytoCom Links WordPress SEO

Fix ReplytoCom Links and Image Attachment Pages Issues in WordPress

Do not worry, there is no bad news waiting for you, if you are using WordPress, then you are using a very powerful CMS, but in this article I am going to share my personal experiences of some WordPress problems that almost took away my night’s sleep.

I personally own many WordPress blogs, and I have seen this problem happen to only 2 of my blog, and not the rest (I really do not know why). Basically it’s a replytocom links and image attachment pages issue in WordPress. I saw these pages getting indexed in Google for a few months, but it didn’t bother me much, before Panda started taking it seriously.

One day I was shocked to see a huge fall in my traffic stats in GA. It was just a day or two after Google launched its last Panda update. I was assured that I had lost my traffic due to the Panda update only and there was no other reason behind it.

But I was also disappointed with the fact that, even after maintaining very good quality content in my blog, how Panda can penalize my blog, all of a sudden!

After further research…

I found out the root cause of the problem to be two major Panda issues – Duplicate Content and Low-quality content.

I was 100% assured, that I didn’t create a single piece of duplicate content in my blog myself, and was also rest assured that I didn’t write a single low-quality content (nor accept any low-quality guest post).

The Problem of ?replytocom Links

This was one of the major reasons of getting my blog penalized by the Panda. I started doing some research and I found out that I was not the sole victim of this problem. There are many other popular bloggers who have also faced the same problem before.

To understand this problem, I need to tell you a bit about these replytocom links. WordPress generates a separate page for each and every new comment and that page contains exactly the parent post with just a new comment as extra.

Panda, for obvious reasons, didn’t like all these duplicate pages in my blog and got my blog penalized.

I do not understand that, even after implementing the rel=canonical tag in the posts, how Panda can consider these pages as duplicate pages. It should have ignored these pages, but unfortunately it didn’t.

Many of you may think, that you have never faced any such issue ever. You may be lucky, but I think you need to take this issue seriously and take actions regarding it.

I have seen, not only my own blog losing almost 60% of the total traffic within a day, but also the same thing happening to many of my friends blogs too.

Every problem has a solution

The good thing is that, this problem can be solved with ease.

– You can install the WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin, and select the “Remove ?replytocom variables” option to remove the parameter from the comment URLs permanently.

– You can also use the robots.txt to “Disallow: ?replytocom” variables, but personally I do not consider this solution to be very effective.

– You can also go to Google Webmaster Tools and visit URL Parameters and select “No URLs” for the “replytocom” parameter.

All these solutions are enough to either remove any previously indexed links or to prevent any links getting further indexed in Google.

Yet another Problem of Image Attachment Pages

This is another problem, that sought Panda’s close attention to my blog. What actually happens is that, whenever you upload an image, WordPress creates a separate page for that image (See: WordPress Image and File Attachments), which contains – the image title and the image, in the content area. That’s it, and nothing more.

Now, Panda considers these pages as extremely low-quality content. Suppose, you upload 5 images on average for each post and you have a total of 200 blog posts, then just do the math’s and see the figures. You will be having 1000 images and therefore 1000 image attachment pages.

Now, Panda has no reason to stop itself from penalizing you, as you are having only 200 good quality posts and 1000 low-quality posts (containing a single image, and no content at all). This is going to kill your blog seriously.

I really do not understand the necessity of generating these useless pages. At least, WordPress should put “noindex” tag in these pages, so that these pages do not get indexed in Google.

This problem too has a solution

But the only good thing is that, there are some ways to combat this problem. The best and the most efficient way to solve this problem are to install the WordPress SEO plugin, go to the Permalinks section and check the “Redirect Image Attachment URLs to Parent Post”.

What it actually does, is that, it 301 redirects the image attachment pages to the parent post. The good thing about 301 redirect is that, it not only redirects the visitors but also passes any link juice from those pages to the parent post. You do not even need to worry about the hundreds of pages that have already been indexed, as Google will slowly de-index them automatically as it finds 301 redirect implemented on these pages.

As the few last words, all I can say is, if you have not yet been affected by these two problems, then you are surely lucky and you may never see any such problem in the future. But it is still advisable to do a regular audit of your blog and check for anomalies. Prevention is better than cure.  And those who have been already affected by this problem, do not worry. Just follow the simple solutions I have mentioned here. I think it will be enough for you to solve these problems permanently.

If you have any queries, feel free to ask me in the comments section. I will get back to you as fast as I can.

+Aritra Roy is a professional blogger, who has years of experience in blogging and has co-founded a blog, daPazze. You can find him writing on Wordpress Security Tips, Blogging, SEO, Social Media, Technology and Designing topics on his own blog.


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{ 30 comments… add one }
  • Ahmad Raza March 19, 2013, 9:24 am

    Great info,, But in my case, i have a photoblog containing alot of images and all the attachment pages are indexed by google(more than 10k) and recently i am affected by Panda update.
    Now, obviously i dont want to redirect my attachment page to parent post becuase its a photo blog and also i want to deindex those attachment pages and donot wanna allow search engines to index my further uploaded images.
    and also using noindex tag will my images be removed from Google Images?,

  • Martin Cooney February 23, 2013, 9:01 pm

    OK, I just discovered the replytocom via SEO plugin was the wrong choice for my site since it disables the commenting flow that I want with threaded replies.
    So trying the Google WMTools approach. In selecting and editing the variable, I presume I select ‘Yes: Changes, reorders page content’ and then ‘Specifies’ and then ‘No URLs’ which may hide page content from Google.

    Is this what you mean, Aritra?

    • Aritra Roy February 24, 2013, 1:26 pm

      Disabling the replytocom parameter via SEO plugin is not going to stop threaded comments in your blog in any way. I too have implemented this many of my WP blogs, but haven’t faced any issue yet.

      It will just replace the ?replytocom URL parameter with #comments parameter, nothing else.

      Do let me know if you have any more queries? 🙂

  • Vivek February 19, 2013, 8:06 am

    Nice guide, I have been using yoast plugin for more than a year but didn’t knew about this. Thanks for this post.

    • Aritra Roy February 24, 2013, 1:23 pm

      You are most welcome Vivek. Glad that you found this guide helpful. 🙂

  • Ammar Ali February 17, 2013, 2:28 pm

    Yoast made is very easy to do! 😀

    We can fix this issue within few seconds. Cool!

    • Aritra Roy February 18, 2013, 3:19 pm

      Yes, Ammar. Yoast made a great work developing this awesome plugin. Complete SEO plugin for Wordpress. 🙂

    • Aritra Roy February 24, 2013, 1:17 pm

      Yes, Yoast is one of the best SEO plugins every Wordpress user must have.

  • Gautam February 16, 2013, 12:01 pm

    I First Read About Replytocom Links On Your Site DaPazze and Now Here But i Am Having A Problem.I have Used Both Of Your Methods To Remove Replytocom Links From Google But Still They Are Appearing On Google.How?

    • Aritra Roy February 16, 2013, 12:51 pm

      Did you use the Google URL Removal Tool to remove the URLs? If so, then are the removed links again re-appearing or they have not been removed at all? Whats the scenario?

  • Lahaul Seth February 16, 2013, 5:28 am

    The replytocom and image attachment pages settings are not “on” by default in the permalinks settings. You have to manually “on” them. I have seen lots of popular sites with image attachment pages but didn’t think there would be a problem like this. They still rank high in the search engines. Maybe the Panda isn’t as efficient as Google claims.

  • Sizwe February 15, 2013, 1:52 am

    Thanks for an informative post Aritra – actually hadn’t realised about the replytocom or the image page issue affecting SEO. Decided to go with the Yoast option to fix and it seems to be working from the indexing point of view but the ranking has already fallen quite a lot on Google… hopefully with the new changes it recovers soon!

    • Aritra Roy February 15, 2013, 11:00 pm

      Thanks a lot for appreciating my article. Glad I could help you even by a bit.

      The rankings will also improve very soon. It will take some time. You can go for a Google Reconsideration also. Or wait till the next major Panda update rolls out.

  • Aritra Roy February 15, 2013, 12:48 am

    Google has a very good habit of ignoring the robots.txt too. I had mentioned strict rule sin my robots.txt for ignoring the ?replytocom and utmsource links, but still Google happily indexed all of them.

  • Jhulian Robbins February 14, 2013, 10:38 am

    Thanks buddy, i used Wordpess SEO plugin and solved the problem, it was hurting SEO, hope to get good results after this change…

    • Aritra Roy February 15, 2013, 12:27 am

      Yes, it generally takes some time to get results back as Google re-crawls your blog.

  • myles February 14, 2013, 7:30 am

    Thansk man really , I had been searching for this from a bit of time, but found nothing . THumbs up to you 😀

    • Aritra Roy February 15, 2013, 12:31 am

      Glad that you found this article helpful to you. I am sure I could help you solve your problem. 🙂

  • Evan February 14, 2013, 3:13 am

    Oh Jeez, you are the second person who’s mentioned this problem with Wordpress. A friend of mine (serious blogger with about 10 WP sites) told me a similar scenario…I haven’t paid attention on my Wordpress so far. But thanks for the info and solvation tips. Will keep it in mind. Hope my blog will be good.

    • Aritra Roy February 15, 2013, 12:36 am

      Yes, it’s a very serious problem. Some are lucky that they have never seen this scenario with their blog, but some faces these problems. But the best part is that you get to learn a lot from solving these problems.

      The more obstacles and struggles you face, the better you become. I take it in all positive ways. But someday if I get a chance to talk to the Wordpress Team, I would inquire in detail about the reasons of these problems.

  • Astro Gremlin February 14, 2013, 1:05 am

    Thanks, Aritra. Just to let everyone know, the Yoast WordPress SEO settings are to be found under “Permalink Setting,” and the “Redirect attachment URL’s to parent post URL” and “Remove the ?replytocom variables” settings default to “on.” In other words, if you use WordPress SEO settings “as is” you should not have to do anything.

    • Aritra Roy February 15, 2013, 12:39 am

      First of all, thanks a lot for this advice. It will really help the readers.

      But as per as I know, these settings are not “on” by default. I have 3 Wordpress sites, and these settings are not “on” by default in any of them.

      Are you sure they are “on” by default? It would be helpful if you throw some more light on it.

      • Martin Cooney February 15, 2013, 9:08 pm

        Just to add to this, I found both options were disabled on my 3 Wordpress sites.
        Thankfully stumbled past your post here and made the changes. I just had a manual Google Penguin penalty lifted only 7 days ago so hopefully these tweaks will help in traffic restoration.

        Great tips, Arita and thanks

        • Aritra Roy February 15, 2013, 10:59 pm

          Thanks a lot for this important mention on this discussion.

          Glad that your Penguin Penalty got lifted. Btw, did you opt for Google Reconsideration and what was the reason for this penalty.

          It would be really very helpful to us, if you can let us know this.

          • Martin Cooney February 15, 2013, 11:12 pm

            I was a bad boy with spammy links as well as KeywordLuv anchor text that was a part of it.
            Click the CommentLuv for the full run down if you want to know more and the process I went through.

            • Aritra Roy February 16, 2013, 12:46 pm

              Thats not cool Martin. But I will surely have a look at all your links through CommentLuv.

            • Aritra Roy February 16, 2013, 12:50 pm

              And moreover, I also saw your article “Helping You Remove the Dreaded Google Penalty Slap”. I must say its a really very informative and well-written article.

  • rakesh February 14, 2013, 12:30 am

    We have fixed replytocom issue through WBT but didn’t know the solution about attached images. Thanks

    • Aritra Roy February 15, 2013, 12:40 am

      Yes, the problem of Image Attachment Pages is also a very big issue. Do take good care of it too. 🙂

  • Emory Rowland February 13, 2013, 10:05 pm

    This very same thing happened to me when I recently launched a redesign. I don’t know how I missed it in the code but later noticed that Google had indexed over 1000 of these URLs. I robots.txt’ed but it was too late. The bad thing is that those urls return a 200.

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