On Thursday, April 4th, Google experienced a technical problem and began de-indexing URLs. This issue was spotlighted by many in the SEO community when they realized that their websites were no longer showing up in the Google search results.
Google quickly responded to the problem and began work on a solution. But despite a Saturday announcement by Google’s Senior Webmaster Analyst, John Mueller, that the glitch had been repaired, many websites are still missing from the index.
More helpful reading: SEO Basics
What Is De-Indexing?
If you type your domain name into Google’s search box, but your site doesn’t come up, then you may have been de-indexed.
De-indexing occurs when Google removes a domain from its index, meaning that no matter what keywords you search for, your site will never appear in the search results — as far as Google is concerned, your domain doesn’t exist.
Normally, websites get de-indexed for abusing Google’s rules. A lot of these rules have to do with participating in black hat SEO practices, such as site cloaking, spammy structured markup, and keyword stuffing.
What’s happening right now is different though.
Fortunately for us, this sudden and mass de-indexing is not due to rule violations. Instead, it seems to be the result of a glitch over at Google
How Did This Glitch Happen?
All we know is what Google’s Search Liaison and John Mueller have told us on Twitter.
They’ve referred to the mass de-indexing as, “indexing issues” and “a technical issue.” And both have said to sit tight while they work on coming up with a solution.
Per John Mueller, “Our systems are making good progress here, but it’s taking longer than I initially expected.”
What You Can Do In The Meantime
In times like this, we are thankful for the Google Search Console.
This tool from Google will let you check the index status of specific URLs on your site. It will also tell you the last crawl date, serving information about the page, and any indexing or crawling errors for that page.
If there are specific pages of your site that were de-indexed, you can use the Search Console’s “Inspect URL and Submit to Index” features to get your pages back up and running.
Something to be aware of though, if you decide to use the Search Console, is that the Google glitch is causing de-indexed sites to still show up as “indexed” inside the Search Console.
To ensure that your site truly is in the index, you need to do a site operator search of “site:url.” With your domain URL replacing “url.” If you do this and don’t see pages from your site, then you have probably been de-indexed. If the operator search pulls up pages from your domain, no more work needs to be done! Your site is safe.
While you’re at it, use the Search Console to check for crawl errors. While not related to de-indexing, crawling errors can damage your site’s ranking in the search results.
How To Save Your Site From Getting De-Indexed
The last few days of de-indexing have helped remind business owners and website managers that getting de-indexed is a reality that could happen to you.
Yes, this time around the de-indexing was due to a technical glitch and all the lost sites will be reinstated soon, but it’s still a good reminder to keep your site clean of black hat SEO practices. Getting welcomed back by Google won’t be so easy if you’ve been de-indexed for rule violations.
Need help identifying black hat SEO?
When planning your SEO strategy, look out for these red flags:
- Unnatural links to your website. These are links coming from link farms, low-quality guest posts, or spam comments.
- Cloaking. This happens when you present Google and human searchers with different content. For example, showing HTML text to Google but showing images to users. It’s common for hackers to use cloaking to redirect visitors to spam sites. So if you get de-indexed for cloaking, run a scan on your site to make sure you haven’t been hacked.
- Auto-generated & spun content. If you are using computer software to create or spin content for your site, Google will detect it and de-index your site. To save your domain from de-indexing, make sure you are using human writers to create value-focused content for your site.
By avoiding black hat SEO and regularly checking the Google Search Console for error reports, you can protect your domain from undeserved de-indexing.
Updates Are Coming
Google will have its de-indexing glitch 100% resolved within the next few days. Once that happens, and once we have more details about what occurred, I will update you with the details.