Google Search Console Index Coverage Report – rectify errors on your websites

Google Search Console (GSC)

Google Search Console Index Coverage Report – rectify errors on your websites

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We have seen in the previous sections of this series, how Google bots crawl your webpages, and index them after discovering them through sitemaps, that you provide, or by following other links.

And of what we have learnt so far about the Google Search Console, the most vital of its various applications are its reports that give us information about our webpages’ organic search performance, and their insights on how to optimize them.

How your pages are crawled, and indexed directly affects the performance of your pages on Search. In fact, indexing helps decide whether, at all, your pages will be shown on the SERP. Also, only those pages that are indexed will be shown.

So clearly, it is essential to optimize the crawl, and the indexing of your pages in order to optimize your performance.

The Index Coverage Report on the console provides information about your website’s crawling, and indexing performance, feedback on where you are going wrong, and insights on how to resolve these issues.

To access the Index Coverage Report, click on “Coverage” under the Index section in the Navigation menu on the left side of the Google Search Console.

Google Sear Console - Home

It gives you an overview of all the pages that Google was able to index, and pages that Google tried to index, but failed for some reason.

On opening the Index Coverage Report, you are first shown the Summary Page.

On this page, you see the data on your webpages that are segregated into different sections depending on the status of their indexing, and also the date on which the report was last updated.

Index Coverage Report Sections

Index Coverage Report Sections

Errors

The pages under this section have errors that have prevented them from being indexed.

These pages will not show up on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP), and that would result in no organic traffic over these pages.

These errors are majorly due to 4xx errors or sometimes may be as a result of issues with the server. They could also be a result of the no-index directives that you might have used to avoid certain pages from being indexed.

Index Coverage Report

The “Details” section, below the chart will list the type of errors along with the number of pages, their validation status, and the trend.

Google Search Console Index Coverage Report Errors

Ensure that your site is as error-free as possible, especially all those pages that you submit via sitemaps.

Valid with Warnings

Google Search Console Index Coverage Report Valid with Warnings

These set of pages may or may not show up in the SERP, depending on Google’s analysis of these pages. Google would have found some pages that are indexable, but are blocked by any robots.txt directive. These pages will fall under this section, as Google might perceive this to be your intention.

Though some pages with the robots.txt directive under this overview, were probably indexed by Google as the bots were led to these pages through some other links. Further, there could be some pages that would have been indexed without content. There could be several reasons for this.

There could be a 403 (A 403 Forbidden Error occurs when you do not have the permission to access a web page or something else on a web server.), or some un-indexable format, or may be even cloaking.

Cloaking is a search engine optimization (SEO) technique in which the content presented to the search engine bot or spider is different from that presented to the user’s browser.

Use URL Inspection tool’s Live Test to view the screenshots of the indexed pages. Check where the issues lie and fix them. Request indexing again, once done.

Valid Pages

Google Search Console Index Coverage Report Valid Pages

The pages that have been indexed correctly, and according to Google, are good to be shown on the SERP, are considered as Valid Pages.

Excluded Pages

Google Search Console Index Coverage Report Excluded Pages

These are the pages that do not appear in Google Search. This may be because these are duplicate pages, and their already exits valid canonical pages for them, or the pages have a no-index directive, or the pages were not found, and returned a 404.

These pages are excluded either because Google realizes that they are a copy of other pages, that is your intention, or there are issues with these pages.

The Summary Page by default displays data on the Indexing Errors on your webpages, but you may still choose to view particular data by selecting or deselecting each section. The Impressions checkbox enables you to check over the chart, the number of impressions that you have received through Search.

The Index Coverage Report does not have any tools to fix any of these issues that it detects. Although it does give you detailed information on every page on your website along with their indexing status, and possible errors, and anomalies that you need to fix.

Let us look at the types of issues that the report flags, and what they may be. The list is as per decreasing order of severity, so you will find the most severe issues at the top of the list. Click on each listed problem to see details about the issue.

You will see all the pages that are affected in a similar manner, and a link that will help you learn more about the error in the Search Console Help Centre.

Index Coverage Report Messages and Problems they highlight

“Server error (5xx)”

You will see this message when Google bots could not index your pages because your pages did not load. This could be a server issue that needs to be fixed quickly.

“Submitted URL not found (404)”

The URL is returning a 404.

“Submitted URL has crawl issues”

This is shown when Google encounters unspecified issues while indexing these pages. Use the URL inspection tool to get a better insight about the problem.

“Submitted URL is a soft 404”

Google bots think these pages are empty. You might want to live test a URL in case those pages aren’t supposed to be empty.

Live test the URL, and ensure that your content is in a format that is readable by the search engines.

“Submitted URL returns unauthorized request (401)”

Unauthorized client error status response code (401) means that the page could not be crawled as this page requires valid authentication credentials for the target resource. These pages have limited access, and you should remove them from your sitemaps.

“Submitted URL blocked by robots.txt” or “Submitted URL marked ‘no-index’”

The URL might be blocked from being indexed by a robots.txt or a no-index directive.

“Indexed, though blocked by robots.txt”

Use meta robots instead of the no-index directives in robots.txt because Google has stopped supporting this strategy.

“Submitted and indexed”

These appear for valid pages, and these pages have been indexed with no warnings or errors. No action is required in these cases.

“Crawled – currently not indexed”

This means that Google bots have crawled these pages but have for some reason have not indexed them.

Test the URLs, and ensure there are no rendering issues, and request indexing.

“Discovered – currently not indexed”

Google knows that these pages exist, and there might have been an attempt at indexing them that failed, due to some transient server issue.

This is not a problem as Google bots will come back for the crawl again.

“Duplicate without user-selected canonical” and “Duplicate – Google chose different canonical than user”

In both the cases there are duplicates of the same page that have been indexed. In the first one, the user has not chosen the canonical (primary copy), so google is confused which one to show.

In the second message Google has chosen a different page as the canonical version, as according to its analysis, its choice is better than the one chosen by the user.

Google Search Console Index Coverage Report - Submitted URL seems to be a soft 404

Clicking a URL in the examples section will allow you to inspect the URL. Inspect both, the live URL, and the indexed version of it to get a clearer view of the problem.

The console also allows you to share the report with your developer, that would be beneficial in cases where programming code changes needs to be done on the website. You can get the share link by clicking on the “SHARE” button.

The console also allows you to revoke the access to the link any time, by disabling sharing. When the issues with the website are fixed, click on “VALIDATE FIX” to request Google to validate the fixes, and rank your pages accordingly.

Since Indexing is such an important aspect to your performance on search, Google notifies you via e-mail, each time it encounters an Index Coverage related issue on your website.

However, you still need to keep a tab on the Index Coverage Report in the Search Console as Google will not send notifications when there is a change in the status of the preexisting issues, such as in cases where they get worse. So ensure to keep a tab on the Index Coverage Report data.

Would you like our team to help you optimize your website’s performance?

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