This is a summary of the most interesting questions and answers from the Google SEO Office Hours with John Mueller on January 8th, 2021. This was the first hangout of the year, and John started by wishing everyone a Happy New Year and thanking the audience for sticking around.
While a substantial part of the hangout was dedicated to link penalties and disavowing links, I was happy to see many questions revolved around indexing, which is something we’re very invested in here at Onely.
Indexing large websites
1:21 – The first question was about getting a website with 1 million products indexed. The website is 3-4 months old, and Google still didn’t index all of its product pages. What can be done to speed up the indexing process?
John said that Google tries to index as much content as possible, but there are some things you need to consider. With new websites, Google might be extra careful and start on the safe side when it comes to indexing.
“With a new website, we might be a little bit more conservative, hold back a little bit on the indexing speed, on the crawling speed, so that we don’t cause problems on the server. And over time, as we see this is a really good website (…) we’ll crawl a little bit more.”
John said that it’s normal that Google won’t index millions of new pages right away. You need to show Google that these pages are worthwhile – that they contain something that people are looking for.
One strategy John mentioned is to concentrate on a smaller number of pages in the beginning to show Google valuable pages, and “extend from there”. An example of that would be first making sure your category pages are indexed.
Declining index coverage
24:24 – How to react if the index coverage of your e-commerce website is declining?
John said something noteworthy here: “When it comes to indexing, we don’t guarantee that we will index all pages of the website. And especially for larger websites, it’s really normal that we don’t index everything. That can be the case that maybe we just index 1/10 of a website because it’s a really large website. We don’t really know if it’s worthwhile to index the rest”.
He suggested two solutions:
- Reduce the number of pages that you want to get indexed.
- Focus on the quality of your website overall.
Mobile-first indexing update
30:13 – Regarding the upcoming mobile-first indexing update, if there is content parity between mobile and desktop versions of your website and they’re both crawlable, but the website doesn’t take advantage of responsive web design, will this update negatively affect the website?
John said that it’s crucial that the two versions are linked properly. The site shouldn’t be penalized for not using responsive web design if there’s content parity. Mobile-first indexing comes down to the fact that only the content from the mobile version will be indexed. If a user looks for the site on a desktop, they may see the desktop URL in the search results.
A noindexed site and getting reindexed
49:09 – A noindex tag was accidentally added to every page on the website (sigh!). Nearly two weeks have passed since the website owner got rid of the noindex tags, but the website still wasn’t indexed. Why could that be?
John said that from his perspective, two weeks should be more than enough for Google to start indexing the site again. If that doesn’t happen, he would look for different reasons for why the site isn’t indexed, like a manual penalty.