It sounds just like a horror film – a terrible bug starts to eat away at unsuspecting victims and making them drop off the face of planet Earth (or in this case, Google).
This is the same story that outlined the recent Google de-indexing bug that happened in early April, and which lasted for 5 days.
Here’s a summary of the timeline of events:
Friday, 5th April: Pages and sites worldwide were being taken off Google and disappearing on SERP, with multiple reports subsequently being made to the web giant in regard to ranking errors.
Saturday, 6th April: Google reports that the de-indexing bug was resolved and declared it as merely a “technical difficulty”.
On the same day, Google retracted its statement after receiving further complaints, saying that the issue will be further looked into and might take longer to fix.
Thursday, 11th April: After almost a week, Google again declares the de-indexing bug fixed.
After all this talk about de-indexing, what does it even mean?
Put simply, de-indexing is what happens when a page or site is completely removed from both the index and cache of Google search results. This means:
Index = search results. No index = no search results.
Having relevant pages indexed is important as it can help you gain exposure and tap into a pool of traffic that you will otherwise not be able to find anywhere else. And as we know it, more traffic often leads to more conversions – and thus sales.
Why Does This Matter to My Business?
While we won’t be able to provide an accurate measurement of the impact on each specific website – a study conducted by Moz revealed that an estimate of 4 percent of the Google index was affected by the bug. Even though the data set isn’t conclusive of the entire population (3.5 billion searches happen every day on Google) – it matters because it could mean that your site may have had a vital page taken out from the Google index, or even worse, multiple pages.
According to statistics, this can be alarming – seeing that having important pages de-indexed on Google could mean a whopping 50% drop in conversions and sales.
While your site should no longer be experiencing problems in regard to the de-indexing bug, here are some key takeaways that we can all learn from this episode – and what to do if it ever happens again, dare we say.
Key Takeaway #1: Google is susceptible to mistakes too.
As a Digital Marketing Agency, we work hard to drive traffic to our client’s websites, so it isn’t fun when bugs like this happen. It’s important to know that Google isn’t entirely immortal, and they too, are prone to mistakes from time to time. This makes it important for both businesses as well as their agencies to understand, so that they can restrain from being entirely dependent on the search engine, which brings us to our next lesson:
Key Takeaway #2: Diversify your traffic and leverage multiple channels.
We have said this before, and we will say it again: don’t put all your egg in one basket. It is wise to have a detailed plan on directing your traffic and spreading out your content to several different channels – whether it be a contingency plan or not. Did you know? Tweets actually show up in Google search results – allowing an extra avenue for users to find you should a bug like this strike again.
This might mean more work, but engaging a Digital Marketing Agency can help you make leaps and bounds in this aspect, especially since they are well-equipped to coordinate content in a variety of channels, whether it be social, email or even influencer marketing.
Key Takeaway #3: Regularly check for “technical issues”.
Never take for granted that an incident like this will never happen again. Especially since we are at the mercy of Google, the only control that we have is to keep our eyes peeled – routinely checking Google Search Console reports to spot problems as soon as they occur.
If you have no idea where to start monitoring, hiring an agency providing SEO services can ensure that you are always ahead of the game.
Key Takeaway #4: Google doesn’t index every page of your website.
Sounds shocking, but it’s true – Google’s John Mueller said so himself.
With Google’s mission statement being: “To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”, it isn’t hard to understand why not every page of your website will be indexed. This incident has brought to light that Google has, and never will index all of the web – especially if they don’t meet’s Google definition of “relevant and useful”, so there’s no need to panic if you realise that not all your pages are up on Google.
What You Can Do
If you noticed a drop in your key metrics recently, such as traffic and conversions – you might want to check if your site is currently indexed by Google.
The simplest way to check is to go to Google Search Console’s URL Inspection Tool and try submitting specific pages to Google to check for its status. The tool will show you information like the last crawl date, status of the last crawl and any crawling and indexing errors. Should you realise that a specific page is not up on Google index, use Google Search Console’s Inspect URL and Submit to Index feature, which will inform Google to get your page back up almost immediately.
What you want to do is to always check for your most important pages first, as there are limits to how many URL submissions you can make daily.
Best practices in SEO will always apply – and black hat SEO tactics should be avoided at all costs, such as keyword stuffing, having hidden links and spammy websites with tons of duplicated content.
Our best advice? Consistently create useful, relevant and high-quality content for your customers – this seems to be the constant antidote that will defend you and your business against even the nastiest of bugs.