April’s ongoing bug issue is now affecting Google Search Console reports

It’s not over ‘til it’s over. Google’s de-indexing bug is still frustrating webmasters, with new issues surfacing this week that impact the accuracy of reports in Google Search Console.

Google confirmed on Monday that its index coverage report and enhancement reports had not been updated, while URL Inspector may not be displaying the true live status of a page – apparent knock-on effects of the original de-indexing bug that have only just become known.

 

What happened?

Back on 4th April Google set off a minor panic when the search engine started delisting page URLs from its index. The company was notified of the issue when webmasters, site owners, SEO consultants and developers started reporting en masse that many of their web pages had stopped appearing in search results – with no explanation.

Site traffic was obviously affected as those de-indexed pages were no longer displaying in search results or alongside relevant queries. While Google declared the issue fixed a few days later, though they had to backtrack when more issues emerged.

Even today no one is sure just how widespread the problem was, however an analysis conducted by Moz suggests that between 4.0 and 4.4 per cent of the index was affected.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE DE-INDEXING BUG
  • Friday, 5th April: pages and sites all over the world report dropping off the face of Google.
  • Saturday, 6th April: Google reports the de-indexing bug ‘fixed’, declaring the cause a ‘technical issue’.
  • Saturday, 6th April:  Google retracts its statement on the back of further complaints, indicating the issue will take longer to fix.
  • Thursday, 11th April – almost a week later. Google again declares the de-indexing bug fixed.
  • Monday, 15th April: New issues arise that affect the accuracy of reports in Google Search Console.

It’s not clear whether pages were hit haphazardly, or if some categories or sectors took the brunt of the de-indexing. Moz says that understanding whether the bug acted randomly or in a systematic fashion is important.

Systematic would mean that the bug targeted, for example, certain industries, and could mean Google had been testing a future algorithm update. If the bug impacted sites at random – without respect to sector or size – it suggests the issue was likely an error.

What’s emerged this week?

It’s now being reported that data reflected in Google Search Console reports – the index coverage and enhancement reports specifically – may not be accurate. Over the weekend huge drops were being noted in coverage reports even after the de-indexing bug was said to be fixed. Enhancement reports in Search Console were similarly affected.

Adding to the confusion, Google’s URL Inspection tool may also have issues. Google said on Tuesday that the URL Inspector might not reflect live status – after advising SEO specialists to check the tool in order to see the true status of any page suspected of being de-indexed.

What should I do?

  1. For the moment, watch and wait. Google has to make the necessary repairs internally. Just be aware that there are issues in Google Search Console and communicate them appropriately to relevant stakeholders inside your organisation.
  2. Until Google confirms that these latest glitches are fixed, you might want to wait on sending client reports directly from Google Search Console. In the meantime share this tweet from Google Webmasters confirming that there is an issue and it is being addressed.
  3. If you want to check if a page is in Google’s index, use the ‘site:’ operator (Google’s suggestion) for confirmation, at least until Google provides another update. Some tips on using it here.
  4. Remember that Google has always maintained it doesn’t index every page on the web, so it may be normal that Google hasn’t fully indexed your website. If you do think there is an indexing issue, tell Google using Google help forums.
  5. More important – don’t hit the panic button. If something odd pops up in the index coverage report or enhancement reports its likely the bug’s fault. Google will confirm once things are resolved.

More updates as the story unfolds.

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