Why Is Google Not Indexing My Site? Common Problems & Fixes

Site indexing issues have happened to us all at some point. It’s frustrating, we get it. After spending hours finessing the design and content of your website you may be wondering why Google isn’t taking any notice of it. If you want your site to show up in the search results, it needs to be indexed.

A page is indexed if it has been visited by a search engine crawler. The crawler gathers information from websites and adds it to the Google index, which is like a massive database of websites. This index is used to provide users with relevant results when they search for something.

You don’t want crawling to be a one-time event. If you’re constantly updating your website and adding new content you want Google to detect these changes.

So why is Google not indexing my site? In this blog post, we’ll discuss common indexing problems and offer solutions to make your website more noticeable to the search engine.

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Is My Website Indexed?

Before delving into common indexing issues, it’s important to check that your webpage has actually been crawled.

In order to do this, copy your web URL then add “site:” at the start of it in the search engine.

For instance, we conducted a test on one of our previous blog posts. By using the site prompt followed by the URL. We observed that our webpage is appearing on Google exactly as intended ready for users to discover.

A screenshot showing the":site" prompt in the Google search engine.

If your webpage hasn’t been indexed, however, you’ll get a result that looks more like this instead. When using the site prompt, you will encounter a “no match” result in the Search Engine Results Page (SERP).

Another screenshot of the":site" prompt, but showing a not found result.

If you do obtain this result when performing the “site:” query, then keep reading to explore some of the typical indexing errors that might be occurring.

Your Site Is New & Hasn’t Been Discovered Yet

One of the most common reasons Google hasn’t indexed a site is because it is new. Thankfully, this problem usually means there’s nothing wrong with your site.

Google indexes billions of web pages, and there is significant competition for indexing resources. If you’ve recently launched a website, you need to give it time to be discovered by Google.

Solution: Unfortunately, there is no fixed timeframe for indexing new sites. It can vary widely, taking anywhere from a few days to several weeks. To improve your chances of faster indexing in the future, focus on continuously adding valuable content to your site and building a strong reputation with your audience. A solid site reputation not only enhances SEO and user experience but can also potentially accelerate indexing in the long run.

Your Website Doesn’t Have A Sitemap

A sitemap is a file that contains information about the important pages on your website and how they link to each other. It helps Google crawlers easily find and understand your website’s structure, making it simpler for them to index your pages.

Here’s an example of what a sitemap for a construction website might look like.

A hierarchy diagram showing how an ideal sitemap looks

Sitemaps can come in a variety of formats, primarily HTML or XML. HTML sitemaps are designed to be user-friendly and easy to read for website visitors, while XML sitemaps are specifically created for search engines. Since we’re discussing search engine indexing, it is recommended to use an XML sitemap to increase the chances of your website getting indexed.

Once the sitemap is created, you can either submit it manually to Google Search Console or include it in the robots.txt file. If you’re not technically minded, there is a vast range of plugins that can help you with this.

Solution: Generating a sitemap in WordPress is made easy with SEO plugins such as Yoast and AIOSEO, as they offer built-in sitemap features. You don’t have to do anything, just make sure that “enable sitemap” is checked.

Instead, focus your efforts on creating quality content, as these plugins automatically update your sitemap for you.

Enabling the sitemap feature within the AIOSEO plugin

Alternatively, if you aren’t using an SEO plugin on your website the XML Sitemap Generator for Google plugin is a good choice.

An overview of the XML sitemap generator plugin for WordPress

WordPress Settings Discouraging Indexing

If you created your site on WordPress, you may be unaware that there is a feature within the settings that discourages search engines from indexing sites. This feature can be useful for developers, or if a site is undergoing a refurbishment or maintenance, but not for the everyday user who wants their site to be visible.

Solution: The fix for this problem is quite simple. Head over to your WordPress dashboard and go to Settings > Reading

A screenshot of the settings tab within WordPress

Once in this section of the settings, find the “Search Engine Visibility” section and ensure that the “Discourage search engines from indexing this site” option is left unchecked.

A screenshot of the"discourage search engines from indexing this site" feature within WordPress.

Remember to hit Save Changes once you have done this.

You Have Orphan Pages

An orphan page typically refers to a webpage that is not linked to by any other pages within a website. Orphan pages are isolated and not easily accessible through website navigation menus or other internal links.

Not only do search engines fail to locate orphan pages, but how in the world are users supposed to come across them?

A diagram showing what orphan pages look like

It’s easy to see why orphan pages don’t get indexed.

Solution: You may not have even realised you have orphan pages. In order to identify them, you can use the Screaming Frog SEO Spider tool. Alternatively in WordPress, a good SEO plugin tells you how many links each page has and whether they are inbound or outbound. Look for pages that have 0 links.

Once orphan pages have been identified, you then need to connect them to your website by providing them with internal links to another page on your website. Assuming the page already contains sufficient content, indexing should occur naturally shortly after taking this action.

Low-Quality Content

Google wants to show high-quality content to users who make a search query. To improve the chances of your content being indexed, it is important to avoid thin content (less than 100 words), excessive keyword stuffing, and content that fails to inform, educate, or entertain your audience.

If you haven’t performed competitor research prior to writing your content then you may be unaware of the high standards required to rank within the first 50 results on Google. Understanding the competitive landscape is crucial as it sets the bar for achieving good rankings.

Solution: Focus on adjusting your content strategy. While content length is not a direct ranking factor, it provides an opportunity to include essential information necessary for creating high-quality content. By having a greater length, you can delve deeper into the topic, offer more comprehensive insights, and provide valuable details to your audience.

Incorporate relevant images, create compelling titles, and pay close attention to spelling and grammar. By formatting your content thoughtfully, you enhance its visual appeal and readability. Additionally, when crafting your content, adopt the perspective of your audience. Consider what they would be interested in and what information they would like to discover. This approach helps you create content that resonates with your audience and meets their expectations.

Redirect Loops

Another common, yet very frustrating indexing issue. We know from experience. As a matter of fact, our Comprehension Digital suffered a redirect loop issue. The issue arose due to conflicting plugins, resulting in the site being inaccessible to users, let alone being indexed.

Solution: To check this issue, locate the .htaccess file within your website files or at your hosting provider. View this file to look for any 301 redirects and see if they are driving traffic from other pages. Remember, 301 redirects should be employed when a page permanently changes its URL, while 302 redirects should be used for temporary page relocations.

A screenshot of where to access the htaccess file within a hosting provider

If you don’t feel comfortable tampering with this file, most hosting providers can sort this issue for you. We are currently hosted with Ionos and reached out to their support to fix our redirect issue. Within 24 hours they managed to reset our .htaccess to a default script and remove the conflicting plugins. Our site was then able to get indexed again.

Site Isn’t Mobile Friendly

Currently, 55% of internet searches are made on a mobile device. This number will be set to increase in years to come with 5G networks growing worldwide. Google is aware of the increase in mobile usage. Therefore, they are going to prioritise mobile-friendly sites in the search results.

Simply put, if your site doesn’t work well on a smaller device Google isn’t going to index it.

Solution: To find out whether your site is mobile-friendly, open it on a mobile device and navigate through the pages. Place yourself in the shoes of the audience and consider: “Is my experience on this website satisfactory?”

Alternatively, open the Google search console and navigate to the “Mobile Usability” tab. You’ll be presented with 2 tabs. Usable and not usable. All of your pages should be under the usable tab. If not, look to see which pages aren’t and make suitable improvements.

The Google mobile usability results graph

If using WordPress, find a theme that is friendly on both mobile and desktop. Find one that is fast, isn’t cluttered with too much junk and has reasonable-sized tap targets that make it easy to use on smaller mobile devices.

We currently use the Blocksy theme and recommend this if you don’t know where to start. It is free to use and looks great on both desktop and mobile.

Received A Google Penalty

A Google means you are no longer listed on search results, meaning your audience can no longer see your website. Once you receive a penalty, it can be an absolute pain to get rid of one. Simply deleting bad content doesn’t make the problem go away.

There are several factors that can lead to a Google penalty. These include:

  • Unnatural or manipulative linking: Engaging in practices such as buying or exchanging links, participating in link schemes, or using spammy link-building tactics can result in a penalty.
  • Thin or low-quality content: Having shallow, poorly written, or duplicate content on your website can lead to a penalty. It’s important to provide valuable and unique content to users.
  • Keyword stuffing: Overloading your website’s content with excessive and irrelevant keywords in an attempt to manipulate search rankings
  • Spyware or Viruses: Providing harmful content or downloads that can affect a user’s device with malicious software.

To detect whether you have a penalty, head over to Search Console and look for issues in the “Security & Manual Actions” tab. Alternatively, look for messages received from Google in the Google Search Central.

Solution: Google penalties are not easy to fix. Firstly, find out what actions you were taking to receive the penalty and stop these immediately. Do your research and learn how to prevent further issues from happening. To increase your chances of recovering from a penalty, it is advisable to demonstrate proactive measures in addressing the issues and implementing preventive measures to avoid recurrence.

Manual Indexing Requests

If you’re still unsure why Google isn’t indexing your site after the solutions in this article, then perhaps try manual indexing requests in Google Search Console.

In order to do this head over to Search Console and go to the URL inspection tab.

The URL inspection tab within Google Search Console

Type in the URL of the page you want to index then hit enter on the keyboard.

You should be presented with the following message if your page hasn’t been indexed. Press the “request indexing” button to submit a manual index request. It’s important to note that this process may take a few days to complete, so be patient and check back later for updates.

Request indexing feature within Google search console for manual indexing

Try to avoid performing manual indexing too often. If every page of your website needs indexing manually this is a sign that your website needs significant work. Focus on improving the quality of your content and ensure you have a fully functional sitemap in place.

Even if Search Console indicates that your “URL is on Google“, there is no guarantee that your page will appear in the search results, particularly if it has issues such as duplicate content. You need to be aware that Search Console does not specifically test for things such as duplicate content and security issues.

Josh Halse
Josh Halse

Josh Halse is the owner of Comprehension Digital.

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