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Duplicate questions that use different words to describe the same problem are important for people to find the content via search engines. But I doubt that search engines add redirecting pages to their index. So such duplicate questions are not searchable. Anonymous users can't even reach them.

OK, pages with duplicate questions can be served to Web crawlers without redirects. I could imagine this being problematic with search engines, as we would be displaying different content than what the search engines see. It is called cloaking and violates Google's terms.

I vote against this anti-feature.

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    This partly plagiarises the 2012 post, e.g., near "I could imagine this being problematic". Please don't do that. May 14 at 10:12
  • Can you add an example of such redirects? May 14 at 10:14
  • @This_is_NOT_a_forum, Template example in C++ - this link was provided in this answer as an example of a searchable duplicate question (but it's not).
    – anton_rh
    May 14 at 10:23
  • @Justin, They are searchable. Sometimes you use different wording when searching your problem in search engine. Your wording may match some duplicate question, not the original one. You will get such duplicate question in search results and then you will follow the link to the original question which has answers.
    – anton_rh
    May 14 at 10:36
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    No, Stack Exchange is not engaging in cloaking; Google simply crawled the question back when it was open, then it was closed at some point later. If you click the cached link in Google, it will show the question as open and not yet closed. May 14 at 15:55
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    That said, I agree that it's confusing when you're directed to a question that doesn't contain any content that Google shows the question as containing. I still think the redirect is beneficial, as it only happens on questions with no answers and directs the reader to an answer to the question. I think the best way to resolve the situation is to implement a toast notification that one's been redirected along with a link to the duplicate question. May 14 at 15:59
  • @SonictheSaveUkraine-hog, who is going to be redirected if such questions are not listed by search engines? How does anonymous user get the link to such questions?
    – anton_rh
    May 14 at 16:07

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I disagree with removing the redirecting feature. I do see where you're coming from, however, and have an alternate idea that should resolve the concerns you presented.

First of all, to clarify, the whole point of the redirection feature is so that users who are looking for answers are redirected to an answer rather than to a question with no answers and no clear direction (to a new user) as to where an answer is:

They have to notice the duplicate link and understand that the answer they are looking for is likely behind that link. I don't think this is all that obvious to someone without experience with an SE site.

It appears your primary complaint is about how when you search Google for questions, you're directed to a question that doesn't contain any of the content that the Google search showed that it contains. I think this is a valid concern. However, your assertion that Stack Exchange is engaging in cloaking in violation of Google policy is incorrect. Stack Exchange does not have control over the time Google crawls its pages. The reason why you see the duplicate question in the Google search results but the target question when you follow the link is because the question was not yet closed at the time Google crawled it, and then it was later closed. At the time of the crawl, anyone following the link would see the same content as Google sees, making this not a violation. You can verify this by accessing the cached copy the next time this happens to you.

Also, yes, search engines do indeed add redirecting targets to their search results. I've often noticed that once a certain time has passed, Google will show the target in its results rather than the closed duplicate when using keywords for the latter - once it has had a chance to crawl the page a second time. One obvious example where you see this is for redirect pages on Wikipedia: the link shown will be that of the redirect page, but the title and description will be of the target, after some point once the redirect is in place.

To summarize, I do agree with your problem statement that the redirecting feature creates confusion with Google search results and more recently closed duplicates. However, I disagree with your solution to remove the redirecting, primarily because we want new and anonymous users to find answers on our site rather than being shown pages with no answers (they don't know their answer is behind another link). A better solution is to implement a message box when such a redirect takes place, which resolves both concerns, and it can contain a link back to the closed duplicate with ?noredirect=1 to stop the redirect so users can see the question that matches their Google results.

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