De-Indexing Bug: Dropping Sites Out Of The SERPs

De-Indexing Bug 1

On April 5, 2019, Google announced that a de-indexing bug has been removing URLs and websites from the SERPs without cause. Webmasters also witnessed how their sites mysteriously dropped out from the results pages and, consequently, in the search index when they looked for their links in the Search Console Tool even when they didn’t tweak anything on their domain.

What’s It For

The de-indexing bug popped up in April and subsequently dropped websites from the SERPs without notice and with no apparent reason. Google has announced that they’d fixed the issue a few days after its effects were felt, but the team didn’t elaborate on what went wrong exactly.

What Were Its Effects

With the massive tremors felt in the SERPs, webmasters all over the world were in chaos at the time when the de-indexing bug rolled out. The slightest changes in traffic and rankings can lead to losses in revenue, sales, conversion, and other metrics.

Moz believes that the de-indexing bug may have affected a whopping four percent of the entire Google index. The publication assessed over 23,000 stable URLs in its data set, which is considerable in its own right but may not be a robust sample for the massive search engine URL directory.

What happened was that there was a four percent drop of links on April 5. Recovery then followed, probably when Google first announced that they’ve fixed the issue. However, a similar slump was witnessed on April 7. Afterward, the developers have successfully eliminated the bug.

At the time, Google suggested that webmasters use their Search Console Tool to monitor their URLs and check their status. There were reports, though, that the index coverage and enhancement reports didn’t provide accurate data, which didn’t really help site operators. The URL Inspection tool wasn’t very helpful as well.

Moreover, it was unclear whether the bug was a random or systematic issue. Knowing whether it’s one or the other is valuable for webmasters. A systematic technical problem may be a hint of future algorithmic changes since it could mean that Google was testing a feature or signal and may have impacted selected domains. Meanwhile, if it were an accidental error, it would imply that the issue affected most websites of all sizes and industries.

Google’s John Mueller took to Twitter his apology and admit that the bug was a technical error on their part. He also noted at the time that the affected URLs were reprocessed and that the bug has been resolved. Additionally, he lauded the Inspection tool for coming in handy during this issue.

What It Means for You

Ten days after they confirmed the issue, the company announced on Twitter that their Search Console tool was still recuperating from the de-indexing problem. According to them, this was the reason why the reports weren’t updated. Webmasters were encouraged to share on Google’s forums to discuss possible fixes.

Another way was to use the URL Inspector tool to resubmit their links for re-indexing. Here are the steps involved in this process:

  • Open Search Console Go to https://www.google.com/webmasters/ and, if you operate multiple websites, choose the domain that’s having the issue from the drop-down box at the top left-hand portion of the page. Once you’ve selected the site, click on the URL Inspection tab at the left-hand sidebar.
  • Paste Your Link You will see a search box in the uppermost section of the screen. This is where you type in your URL for inspection. If the status says that the link is not in Google’s index, you can click on the “Request Indexing” button below the search box.
  • Wait for Google’s Response After clicking on the request button, a pop-up message will tell you that Google is testing if the live URL can be indexed. If all goes well, your link will then be added to a priority crawl queue, and you’ll see an “Indexing Requested” confirmation. The re-indexing may be as quick as a few minutes or hours.
    It’s recommended to check the status of your request at least once a day. To do this, you can try pasting your URL into Google’s search box, perform a site: search on your website, or going back to the URL Inspection tool in the Search Console.
    Once your link has been re-indexed, typing the URL in the Inspection tool will bring back a positive response that says your page can appear in the SERPs. The method worked for several webmasters during the de-indexing bug fiasco.