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Google Indexing Issue Causes Widespread Chaos in Search Results

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8th April 2019 in

An indexing issue from Google has caused widespread chaos in search results as seemingly random pages are removed from Google’s index.

The issue appears to have surfaced on the 5th of April. Google has acknowledged the problem and says that there is nothing webmasters need to do to fix the issue, rather their crawler just needs to re-index any impacted pages.

We have seen this impact several campaigns, with keyword rankings moving to different internal URLs as previously ranked pages are removed from the index.

Below is an example of what we have seen so far:

  1. Google previously ranks our target page in 5th position
  2. Target page is removed from Google’s index due to indexing bug
  3. Google’s crawler finds a different internal URL to rank for this query
  4. Rankings drop as this page is not optimised for the query

Others have reported frustrations with search results, with the homepage being removed for some businesses.

At the time of posting, there has been no further update from Google confirming if the issue has been resolved or not. Google’s Public Search Liaison, Danny Sullivan, has posted that he doesn’t have a timeframe on the fix and hasn’t commented on what percentage of sites were impacted. Note: Google has now provided an update on this, see below.

From the data we’re seeing this looks like it’s a major incident that has impacted a lot of websites. We’ve seen a large spike in our internal SERP tracker (which monitors ranking fluctuations across 50,000 keywords) and across third-party tools like SEMRush.

Update 7:25am AWST, April 8th 2019: The issue is still ongoing and Google has posted an update on the issue below:

We’re now at four days and counting since the issue began and it still may be another 24 hours before it’s fully resolved.

Based on the data we’ve seen, this remains a very serious issue that has potentially impacted (hundreds of) thousands of websites.

One of the major issues continues to be homepage de-indexing. We’re still seeing examples of internal pages being de-indexed, but when homepages are removed, businesses lose branded traffic which in some cases represents a huge percentage of their overall visitors.

The screenshot below is a live example of a business losing the #1 organic position for their brand as a result of this issue. This query alone represents thousands of monthly searches for this business.

The good news is we have also seen some recoveries from yesterday which we’re hoping will continue to roll out over the course of today.

We will continue to update this post with more information as it comes to hand.

Update 11:34am AWST, April 11th 2019: The issue has been fixed and Google has posted their response on Twitter:

Although Google’s response doesn’t provide any insight into what exactly caused the issue, it’s a good reminder to webmasters and businesses to stay vigilant.

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