The Top 5 Search Indexing Problems – And How to Fix Them

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By Boris Dzhingarov

Almost everyone with an internet-ready device uses a search engine to gather information. It is therefore critical that website owners ensure their content is indexed by search engines and that it can be found when a user searches for the relevant keywords. However, indexing problems crop up from time to time. There are many reasons why these issues can appear in your analytics software, so we are going to look at what some of the common indexing errors are, why they happen, and what you can do to fix them.

Indexing Errors

Broadly speaking, these are errors that make it harder for a search engine to add your website or its content to an indexing database. Remember that for content to appear on search result pages, it needs to be crawled by search engine spiders, indexed and then ranked. When these errors happen, your content cannot be found when users enter the keywords you are targeting, which affects your rankings and reduces your organic traffic.

Because a majority of people try to rank on Google, we are going to focus on errors that show up in the Search Console. Additionally, if these errors show up on the Search Console, crawlers from other search engines are likely seeing the same errors.

URL Marked as Noindex

Although not strictly an error, a noindex tag is still a problem you should be aware of. A noindex tag just tells search engine crawlers not to index that particular page. Although you can use this tag to tell search engines not to index a page like a checkout page, there are two ways pages can be blocked using this tag. One is through the use of a meta tag. The next is a noindex request that is sent when the page is loaded.

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If you want this content to be indexed, you will need to remove the meta tag. As for a noindex being set as the page is requested, you will need to talk to a web developer to check that out for you and rectify it.

Misconfigured Robots.txt File

A robots.txt file is used to tell web crawlers what they should and should not crawl. Usually, it is used to block their access to a login page. A misconfigured robots.txt file might have a rule that blocks bots and spiders from crawling a particular page you want to appear on search results. If you want the page to be crawled and indexed, you need to edit your robots.txt file to remove the rule. Because your hosting provider might not have the ability to edit this file, it would be better to talk to your web developer to have the rule removed.

URL Has a Crawl Issue

Crawling a website is expensive for search engines, and when you consider the fact that they index billions of pages per day, you might begin to see why they may skip indexing content if there is a crawl issue. A common problem is too many broken links or resources like JavaScript and CSS files not downloading properly. The issue might also be a slow server connection that can make search engines abandon your website.

Using the search console, you can find out what the issue is. All you need to do is click “URL Inspection”. Once on this page, click “View Crawled Page” and “More Info” on the sidebar that opens on the right. In many cases, you will see that the issue is resolved but if not, you can click on “Test Live URL” to get a fresh report about the URL. After you know why the page had a crawl issue, you should click on “Request Indexing” so that Google can attempt the crawl again.

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URL Not Found (404) and Redirecting Issues

A 404 error is produced when a page you listed on your sitemap is not available at the provided URL. To fix this issue, you will need to go back to “URL inspection” and open a new tab to see if the page is available or not. If it is, you can request new indexing.

If it is not, you need to find out why and fix that issue or redirect the URL to a different page. However, if you do not need the page to be indexed, leaving it alone is the best thing to do because Google and other search engines will de-index it soon enough.

Redirect issues occur when you redirect a URL to a page that cannot be found. Fixing them is the same as fixing a URL that cannot be found. After you fix the URL or redirect it to an available page, you need to “Request Indexing” and “Validate Fix” inside your console to have the redirect indexed.

Entire Website Not Indexed or De-indexed

Sometimes, your whole website is not indexed, and this happens if you have not submitted a sitemap. Having a sitemap is the first thing you should do when you want your website indexed as it gives search engines a logical path to follow as they crawl your website. Not submitting one gives bots a hard time following your website and content and they may abandon it.

Fortunately, creating a sitemap is relatively easy. There are lots of tools to help you do that. If you use WordPress as many people do, there are plugins to help you with that.

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If your website is suddenly de-indexed, that may be due to a manual penalty. Manual penalties are somewhat rare, but they do happen. When they do, all your pages are removed from search result pages. To make things worse, your brand name is blocked too so you will not be able to find it even when you search for it.

There are several reasons why you may receive a manual penalty, with some of the most common causes including spammy backlinks from suspicious websites, spammy anchor text and duplicate content. A good way of removing a manual penalty is removing backlinks from suspicious domains, as well as rewriting your anchor texts and your content if that is the reason for the penalty. After that, you need to contact the specific search engine to reconsider indexing your pages.

Indexing issues are devastating and can lead to huge losses. It is therefore important that every website or business owner understands what these issues are, as well as how to identify and solve them.