Google Index Bloat – The REAL Reason Your Pages Aren’t Ranking

Google Index Bloat - The REAL Reason Your Pages Aren’t Ranking

This article was originally published as a part of the Smash Digital Inner Circle.

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On-Page Optimized but Pages Not Ranking?

I’m going to start off by apologizing for the clickbaity title but it’s actually true.

Today we’re going to look at a really common reason why your well-optimized pages with killer content might be stuck in the search results.

Time to learn: 5-10 minutes

Impact (1-10): 8

Tools required: None

Google Judges Your Website as a Whole

That’s a fact.

You may have the best on-page SEO for your service or product pages, perfectly optimized content, and a myriad of links but could still be stuck on page two or even worse – not ranking at all.

That’s because Google doesn’t just look at that one page – they evaluate your website as a whole.

You may have one amazing page but if the rest of your website is full of low-quality, thin content, duplicate pages or even malware – you’re not going to rank.

What’s the Solution?

The good news is there is an easy way to see what Google sees – using the “site:” parameter in Google.

Simply do a search for “site:yourdomain.com” in Google and you’ll see every page in the Google index for your website.

using the site search operator for index management

Now, this is an exercise I like to employ for all of our sites every 3-6 months and recommend all of our clients do the same.

Go through this list (which may be huge) and ask yourself these two questions:

1. Does the number of pages in the index add up with the amount of pages you have on your site?

There are two ways this could be an issue.

If the amount of pages in the index is a lot higher than the amount of content you have on your site, there’s a high chance you have technical SEO issues.

Here are some (bad) things that may be causing this:

  • Huge amount of category, tag, and archive pages indexed
  • URLs with parameters (e.g. /products/chair?color=blue, red, green, etc) that are missing canonical URLs
  • Having image pages indexed
  • Not using no-index on “secret” pages (e.g. thank-you pages, opt-in confirmations, etc)
  • Not using no-index on members-only content

The opposite could be an issue as well, where you have fewer pages in the index than your site actually has.

This could mean that Google has decided that your site or many pages on it are low quality and not worthy of being in the index at all.

This means it’s likely time to do a full website audit.

2. Would anyone ever want to Google anything to end up on this page?

Having low-quality or thin pages is more of a Google concern above anything else.

There are pages on your site that Google may find as low-quality, because they can’t understand it or see keywords within it. That doesn’t mean these are not necessary pages for your website or for your users.

A good example of this are portfolio pages for web design agencies – they’ll likely only include a few lines of text and an image of the website that was made – a thin page.

But for the user, these are immensely helpful in figuring out whether the agency does good work.

Using a noindex tag, you can tell Google to exclude this from their search results and thus, not evaluate your site based on that page.

You’ll want to do this for every single page that you find in the Google index and ask yourself – is there anything in the world people would want to Google for and end up on this page?

If not, you should noindex these pages.

A prime example of this are:

  • Archives
  • Category pages
  • Author categories
  • Tag pages
  • Etc.

There is nothing in the world people would want to Google to end up your blogs “Ecommerce Category Page 4” link.

Be brutal with this and the overall quality of your site will be higher. Google will spend less resources crawling your low-quality pages, and put more focus on your good stuff.

As a next step, it may be worth doing a content audit as well. 

More on that in future posts.

That’s all from me for this week.

Let me know if you have any questions about site speed optimization or topic suggestions for upcoming weeks.

I’ll see you next week with yet another actionable SEO strategy.

Meanwhile… Let’s Smash it!

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