Seeing your pages drop from Google’s index sounds like a story out of a horror film.
Not only does it affect organic visibility, but it directly impacts your bottom line.
It can cost you leads and sales and if not fixed in time, you can get replaced in the SERPs.
If you leave this issue unattended for too long, your competitors will take advantage and make it harder for your pages to return to their usual positions. This will potentially hurting your performance long-term.
To help you recover as fast as possible, let’s explore the most common reasons websites get de-indexed.
We will also discuss how you can recover from it.
|Why Did Google De-index My Website?|
Google can decide to de-index a website when they consider the site is breaking their guidelines or they are obligated by law (like detecting fraudulent activities). You’ll receive a notification inside Google Search Console under the “Security and Manual Actions” tab for any manual actions taken.
It will give you more details on why this is happening. Once you have identified a manual action, the following steps are to correct the issue and submit a reconsideration request.
Note: Here’s a list of Google’s manual actions.
However, Google can also de-index your pages because of code mistakes and server problems.
1. Perform a Link Audit
In Google’s spam policies, link spam is defined as “any links that are intended to manipulate rankings in Google Search results (…) This includes any behavior that manipulates links to your site or outgoing links from your site.” Because links are such an essential part of Google’s ranking algorithm, it’s easy to understand why they want to be strict about it. Unnatural links are a common reason for websites to get de-indexed, so ensuring you’re not infringing any linking policy is a crucial step toward recovery.
In many cases, link audits are performed to eliminate low-quality links. You can’t control what websites link to your resources, but manual actions are taken when there’s a pattern of misleading links.
For example, when a massive number of low-quality websites start linking to your site in a short period of time, it can be seen as you trying to manipulate the algorithm, even if you didn’t have anything to do with it. This could be a black hat attack from a competitor. Focus your link audit on these steps:
- Identify all low-quality, irrelevant, and spammy links
- Create a disavow list with these links
- Submit the disavow file through https://search.google.com/search-console/disavow-links
- File a reconsideration request
To avoid this issue in the future, check your backlinks at least once a month. Disavow anything that’s not useful.
For a more constant overview, you can use a tool like SEMrush, which assigns a toxicity score to every link, making it easy to spot potential threads. A healthy link profile will keep you out of trouble.
|Is Your Site Being Used as Part of a PBN?|
Besides backlinks, the links you create on your site can also cause de-indexation. If Google identifies your site as part of a private blog network (PBN) sending unnatural links to other sites, your website will get penalized, and returning its content to Google’s index will be very hard. If you’re getting involved in link exchanges or selling link spots on your content, you could be linking to spammy sites or getting involved with other PBNs, which will drag your site out of Google’s index with them.
Solution: audit your outbound links and ensure you only link to trusted sources. Replace or delete all spammy outbound links you find, file a reconsideration request, and submit a new sitemap to Search Console so Google can eventually start crawling your site and see you’ve taken action.
2. Eliminate Spammy, Duplicate Content From Your Site
Showing trustworthy, helpful content is at the core of Google’s priority, and all ranking factors are designed to put the best result possible at the top of the SERPs. But this also means your pages must meet Google’s quality standards to get indexed. (After all, Google has to allocate resources to crawl, render and index your pages, as well as keep a cache version stored and pick up on any updates).
With millions of new pages getting published daily, they can’t just waste resources on low-value pages or, worse, indexing dangerous/misleading content. When your site is filled with spammy content (like plagiarized pages), low-quality AI-generated content, or stuffed with keywords, Google will take action.
And by action, we mean take your site out of the index to avoid spending more resources crawling it.
The best course of action is to delete all the URLs that contain this type of content and follow SEO best practices to optimize and build quality pages. (Of course, if most of your site was created this way, you might want to consider rewriting the content before submitting it for reconsideration.)
|Fixing Duplicated Issues|
Sometimes, Google can flag your pages as duplicated content even if you’ve done everything manually and tried to write the best pages possible. This usually happens because of technical issues or conflicting SEO strategies. If that’s your case, we recommend you follow our duplicate content guide to identify the origin of the issue and fix it from the root. It will also teach you how to prevent this problem in the future. Once the issue is resolved, proceed to file the reconsideration request.
3. Fix Server Errors
Things are bound to break, and your servers are not the exception. If your site goes down without you realizing it, Google could take matters into its own hands and de-index your site.
Check your site’s health and contact your hosting provider as fast as possible to bring your site back online and request reconsideration once your pages return a 200-success status code.
Another – less common – technical difficulty with your hosting is when a general manual action is done to the service. As Google states: “if a significant fraction of the pages on a given web hosting service are spammy, we may take manual action on the whole service.”
If so, you must migrate your site to a different hosting service.
Still, the best way to prevent this is to use a reputable hosting provider and do your own research before committing to less-known services.
(Note: It can also be a problem with your domain, like it expiring without you knowing.
In this case, the URL is no longer available for Google to crawl, and thus your site gets de-indexed.)
4. Check Your Robots Directives
Code mistakes happen constantly, and it’s even more common during production times when your website is going under constant changes and updates.
A simple code mistake that can make your site drop out of Google’s index is changing robots directives into no-index, as this directive directly tells Google you don’t want specific pages, directories, or your entire site to be indexed.
When the tag is in place, URLs will be dropped from Google’s index gradually, but there won’t be any notifications or manual action warnings because it is following your instructions.
To check if that’s your case, look at the robots meta tag on a page level or the robots.txt file directives, which can affect entire directories or the site as a whole.
Once identified, delete the directive from the robots.txt file or set the rogue robots tag to index, follow.
If you don’t have experience configuring your site’s robots directive, read our guide on robots.txt file optimization. It will tell you how to configure your file to avoid index issues and ensure your pages are discovered by Google.
5. Fix Any Sneaky Redirects or Cloaking
If the content your users receive is different than the content Google receives when getting to your page, you’re using cloaking, and it is a direct violation of Google’s guidelines.
What Google is trying to prevent is ranking a page for a specific keyword and then having the page display a completely different thing for the end user. This is often used to deceive visitors, so it wouldn’t reflect well on your site, even if it were by mistake.
It’s important to mention that cloaking penalties can also occur because of poor implementations or unknowingly making a mistake.
For example, you could have content behind paywalls, preventing Google from accessing your main content. Because users won’t expect this non-content on your page, Google will assume you’re using deceptive tactics to attract visitors to a spam site.
Note: There are clear instructions to add structured data for paywalls and subscriptions and avoid penalties.
Another scenario is when an interstitial popup redirects users to another page. Again, this can be seen as a spam tactic.
However, a widespread occurrence is hackers using your site for cloaking. After getting access to your site, hackers would cloak specific pages – usually pages ranking somewhat high in search results – to funnel visitors to scams.
Because the hack affects only certain pages, it’s hard to notice until it is too late. So setting up security monitoring systems is advised.
Take care of every vulnerability, remove malware, fix any redirection that could be interpreted as cloaking, and then submit your reconsideration request to Google.
6. Can Google Render Your Content Properly?
As your site grows, it needs to integrate new systems and functionalities, becoming more dynamic to accommodate the demand from your customers.
This process can take anywhere from a couple of weeks to several months – sometimes up to 18 months – until your pages are fully rendered.
During this time, Google will compare your new pages to their cache version, which will indicate your content has been deleted or at least that the site’s quality has dropped significantly, causing your site to be de-indexed by the Googlebot as it is no longer relevant.
The most common reason for this issue is not setting up any system to handle the rendering process. If you’re using a framework like React, Vue, or Angular, these technologies default to client-side rendering, which makes your content invisible to search engines.
At this point, the best option would be to install a solution like Prerender to generate a static version of your pages to be delivered to search engines upon request.
As Google regains access to your content, your pages will be indexed again, but it will take time and effort to regain your old ranking positions.
Wrapping Up: Fix Deep Indexability Issues
Although you can recover from penalties and de-indexation issues, you will definitely lose rankings and revenue, so the best practice is to prevent the problem from happening.
Manual actions are rarely a sudden occurrence. In most cases, there will be a gradual drop in your indexation rate. Monitoring your index status every month will help you spot trends before they become a widespread issue.
Note: Prerender’s caching process will identify potential technical SEO issues and list them in your dashboard in order of priority.
To help you in your optimization journey, we compiled a list of indexing factors to keep in mind into a 10-step checklist to help Google index your website.
Ensuring fast crawling and flawless indexation is necessary to strengthen your online presence and avoid losing all your hard work because of mistakes or poor implementations.
Also, we encourage you to read Google’s guidelines and keep an eye on algorithm updates, as changes in their guidelines can impact your site if it’s now in violation.
Hope you find this quick guide helpful and you can return to the SERPs where you belong!