Regardless of how many Facebook likes your business page has and the number of Twitter followers, a strong Google presence is worth its weight in gold and is arguably the single most important factor in your online success. While the search engine continues to hold its exact ranking signals close to its chest, it has loosened up a little in recent times. As part of this new era of transparency, Google has introduced index status to Google Webmaster Tools.
Called Index Status, the latest addition to Webmaster Tools, shows exactly how many pages from the site have been included in the Google search index. Index status is located under the ‘health’ tab in Webmaster Tools.
The first image greeting webmasters logging in to the health section is a graph depicting the number of pages indexed, with data going back over the last 12 month period. In the best case scenario, the graph should show a steadily increasing line, representing an increasing number of pages being indexed as new pages are added to the domain. A line with a consistent incline means that all is well – health check complete. A line with peaks and troughs or sudden dips in the graph could be an indication of indexing issues with the site. It suggests that the number of pages being indexed by Google is falling, meaning either you have removed pages from your site or that pages that Google was indexing have been dropped. If it’s a case of the latter, you’ll need to do some digging to get to the root of the problem and fix it before more pages drop off the search engine’s radar.
Where the number of pages indexed has fallen, the Advanced tab within Search Index may hold the answer. In this section, you will see total number of indexed pages, number of pages crawled, the number of pages not crawled due to robots.txt blocks and the number of pages that Google crawled but decided not to index.
The numbers provided are useful in identifying and troubleshooting problems, particularly where your site has experienced a recent drop in traffic or has shown a sudden slide down the search engine results pages.
This data set can also be useful when you make changes to your site as it can alert you to errors that may otherwise be overlooked. For example, if you move pages to new URLs within the domain or decide to change your URL structure to be more search engine friendly, it is worth checking in with Search Index the day after or a few days after to check that the number of pages being indexed and crawled hasn’t suddenly fallen.
A drop after changes can indicate that the correct redirect has not been applied or that meta no index parameters have not been removed after the testing phase. Seeing this depiction on a graph lets you know that you need to debug the site to find the cause of the indexing problem. When the fix has been applied, don’t forget to check back again to be sure that the graph shows an ascent following your work to confirm that the solution has been successful.
Index Status has been rolled out as part of Google’s pledge to be more transparent in its indexing function and has already been well received by webmasters. One tool which isn’t yet available is the ability to export the data displayed. Despite this, Index Status can be a powerful weapon when used in conjunction with other Webmaster Tool functions such as its site alerts. While it isn’t necessary to check this tool daily, a weekly or bi-monthly glance is a pro-active way to nip potential problems in the bud as they appear.
Image: Index by Shutterstock