Google’s John Mueller answered a question from an e-commerce publisher whose pages were not being indexed. Mueller suggested specific diagnostic tips then recommended the value in promotion for getting a site indexed. According to Mueller, Google sometimes needs encouragement to index an entire site.
Then the site publisher revealed an important detail about the site.
Website Inadequately Indexed
The person asking the question explained the situation of the site not being indexed. They noted how a site colon (site:) search showed only a few pages indexed.
Of interest, is that he was leaving out an important clue about the problem, which was only revealed after John had offered an extensive amount of advice.
John addressed this issue but somewhat dismissed it as an ongoing factor.
Here is the question asked (minus a super important detail):
“So there’s a website… that is taking… longer to index. And the current situation is, I have 170 valid pages in Search Console.
But when I check it through site colon (site:), it just says three, four, sometimes five pages.
So that has been happening for three to four months now.
I’m not sure what the correct way to go from now on.
It’s …an e-commerce website. And it has about less than 500 product pages.”
Google’s Mueller addressed the shortcomings of the site colon search, saying it’s not a diagnostic tool and explained why it’s not good for diagnosing site indexing issues.
Screenshot of John Mueller Offering Site Indexing Advice
“So, in general, I would not worry about the difference between a site/colon query shows and what Search Console shows.
In practice, the site/colon query is not meant to be used for diagnostic purposes.
So sometimes you do see quite different numbers.
And for some sites, you see much lower numbers. For other sites you see 100 times larger numbers.
And essentially, the numbers we show in the site query result are optimized for speed and to give (kind of) a sense of the website.
But they’re not optimized to be comprehensive.
So that’s where the Search Console numbers would come in.”
In this next part, Mueller explained the background information about what it takes to index a smaller site (not much but something) and offered encouraging site promotion advice.
But first he suggested specific diagnostic tests.
“I think in general, if you’re talking about a site that is about 500 pages or so and after a period of several months only like 100 are indexed, that seems like something where probably you could do a lot better with minimal extra effort.
So that could be something where, what I would first of all check is just the technical side of things to make sure that technically everything is okay, that the website can be crawled.
There are some website crawling tools available, I think they’re even free for very small websites, where you can check your site to see if it’s crawlable or not.”
Mueller is correct, many site auditing tools offer free versions for smaller sites and that’s something any site should take advantage of.
Google Sometimes Needs a Hint to Encourage Full Indexing
Next Mueller explained why site promotion was important for a smaller site that needs to be indexed, explaining that sometimes Google needs encouragement.
“And if it’s well crawlable then the next thing I would consider trying to figure out is what you can do to promote your website a little bit better.
And that could be something like encouraging users to come to visit, maybe by buying ads, maybe by working together with someone else for a while just to (kind of) get the ball rolling.
It could also be if you’re an e-commerce site or especially if you’re a small local business site, maybe there are local chambers of commerce that would be interested in linking to your website to give you a little bit of extra information.
So that when our systems look at your website, they say, oh this is actually a legitimate small business. We should try to index everything.
Because especially if you’re talking about a smaller website with a couple hundred pages, that feels like something where if we have a little bit of a hint then we’ll go off and get all of that.
If you’re talking about an e-commerce site that has 500,000 pages then obviously (like) if we get all of those pages or not, that’s a totally different story.
But with 500 pages it feels like something that with a little bit of extra incentive to say that we should at least check it out, we should be able to get a significant part of those indexed.”
The Important Detail that Was Left Out
Now we get to the part where the publisher asking the question does the “oh and one more thing” bit and drops a bombshell revelation that should have been mentioned at the very beginning.
The person asking the question next added that search console is reporting several hundred errors that are related to having previously noindexed the site in January.
He removed the noindex several months ago from the product pages and left it on what he called “unwanted pages” but that now it keeps failing validation in Google Search Console.
John Mueller said that he believes the transition from noindex to getting content indexed could by the reason for current issues the publisher was having in getting product pages adequately indexed.
He also noted that the validation tool did not reflect Google’s ability to index pages but rather it’s just a way to provide information to the publisher.
“So just because the validation fails for that and the other URLs are okay, I don’t think that would be holding your website’s indexing back.
It’s more, Search Console is a little bit confused because you said you fixed the issue but you didn’t really fix the issue.”
Mueller Recommends Site Promotion to Get the Site Indexed
Mueller said that switching the noindex to index could slow the indexing down but that it’s been a couple of months since the noindex was removed. So he returned to recommending that the publisher consider actively promoting the site, including leveraging their social media followers to promote the site.
He reiterated that it doesn’t take a lot to encourage Google to index a smaller website like that.
Site Promotion and Indexing
Google crawls websites through the links that connect one website to another website. And according to Mueller it doesn’t take much in the way of links to get Google to index more of the website.
Watch Mueller answer question at the 21:14 minute mark
How to Write For Google
Are you writing your SEO content based on the latest best practice tips?
I originally wrote this SEO copywriting checklist in 2012—my, how things have changed. Today, Google stresses quality content even more than before, conversational copy is critical, and there are revised SEO writing “rules.”
I’ve updated the list to reflect these changes and to provide additional information.
As a side note, I would argue that there’s no such thing as “writing for Google.” Yes, there are certain things you should do to make the Google gods happy. However, your most important goal should be writing clear, compelling, standout copy that tells a story.
I’m keeping the old headline in the hopes that I can convert some of the “write for Google” people to do things the right way.
Whether you’re an in-house SEO content writer, a DIY business owner, or a freelance SEO copywriter, this 27-point checklist will help you write engaging, Google-happy content—every time.
Items to review before you start your SEO writing project
– Do you have enough information about your target reader?
Your copy will pack a powerful one-two punch if your content is laser-focused on your target reader. Ask your client or supervisor for a customer/reader persona document outlining your target readers’ specific characteristics. If the client doesn’t have a customer persona document, be prepared to spend an hour or more asking detailed questions.
Here’s more information on customer personas.
– Writing a sales page? Did you interview the client?
It’s essential to interview new clients and to learn more about their company, USP, and competition. Don’t forget to ask about industry buzzwords that should appear in the content.
Not sure what questions to ask to get the copywriting ball rolling? Here’s a list of 56 questions you can start with today.
– Writing a blog post? Get topic ideas from smart sources
When you’re blogging, it’s tempting to write about whatever strikes your fancy. The challenge is, what interests you may not interest your readers. If you want to make sure you’re writing must-read content, sites like Quora, LinkedIn, Google Trends, and BuzzSumo can help spark some ideas.
– Did you use Google for competitive intelligence ideas?
Check out the sites positioning in the top-10 and look for common characteristics. How long are competing articles? Do the articles link out to authoritative sources? Are there videos or infographics? Do the articles include quotes from industry experts? Your job is to write an essay that’s better than what’s already appearing in the top-10 — so let the competition be your guide.
– Did you conduct keyphrase research?
Yes, keyphrase research (and content optimization) is still a crucial SEO step. If you don’t give Google some keyphrase “cues,” your page probably won’t position the way you want.
Use a keyphrase research tool and find possible keyphrases for your page or post. As a hint: if you are tightly focusing on a topic, long-tail keyphrases are your best bet. Here’s more information about why long-tail keyphrases are so important.
If you are researching B2B keyphrases, know that the “traditional” keyphrase research steps may not apply. Here’s more information about what to do if B2B keyphrase research doesn’t work.
– What is your per-page keyphrase focus?
Writers are no longer forced to include the exact-match keyphrase over and over again. (Hurray!) Today, we can focus on a keyphrase theme that matches the search intent and weave in multiple related keyphrases.
– Did you expand your keyphrase research to include synonyms and close variants?
Don’t be afraid to include keyphrase synonyms and close variants on your page. Doing so opens up your positioning opportunities, makes your copy better, and is much easier to write!
Are you wondering if you should include your keyphrases as you write the copy — or edit them in later? It’s up to you! Here are the pros and cons of both processes.
— Do your keyphrases match the search intent?
Remember that Google is “the decider” when it comes to search intent. If you’re writing a sales page — and your desired keyphrase pulls up informational blog posts in Google – your sales page probably won’t position.
— Writing a blog post? Does your Title/headline work for SEO, social, and your readers?
Yes, you want your headline to be compelling, but you also want it to be keyphrase rich. Always include your main page keyphrase (or a close variant) in your Title and work in other keyphrases if they “fit.”
– Did you include keyphrase-rich subheadlines?
Subheadlines are an excellent way to visually break up your text, making it easy for readers to quick-scan your benefits and information. Additionally, just like with the H1 headline, adding a keyphrase to your subheadlines can (slightly) help reinforce keyphrase relevancy.
As a hint, sometimes, you can write a question-oriented subheadline and slip the keyphrase in more easily. Here’s more information about why answering questions is a powerful SEO content play.
– Is your Title “clickable” and compelling?
Remember, the search engine results page is your first opportunity for conversion. Focusing too much on what you think Google “wants” may take away your Title’s conversion power.
Consider how you can create an enticing Title that “gets the click” over the other search result listings. You have about 59 characters (with spaces) to work with, so writing tight is essential.
– Does the meta description fit the intent of the page?
Yes, writers should create a meta description for every page. Why? Because they tell the reader what the landing page is about and help increase SERP conversions. Try experimenting with different calls-to-actions at the end, such as “learn more” or “apply now.” You never know what will entice your readers to click!
– Is your content written in a conversational style?
With voice search gaining prominence, copy that’s written in a conversational style is even more critical.
Read your copy out loud and hear how it sounds. Does it flow? Or does it sound too formal? If you’re writing for a regulated industry, such as finance, legal, or healthcare, you may not be able to push the conversational envelope too much. Otherwise, write like you talk.
Here’s how to explain why conversational content is so important.
–Is your copy laser-focused on your audience?
A big mistake some writers make is creating copy that appeals to “everyone” rather than their specific target reader. Writing sales and blog pages that are laser-focused on your audience will boost your conversions and keep readers checking out your copy longer. Here’s how one company does it.
Plus, you don’t receive special “Google points” for writing long content. Even short copy can position if it fully answers the searcher’s query. Your readers don’t want to wade through 1,500 words to find something that can be explained in 300 words.
Items to review after you’ve written the page
– Did you use too many keyphrases?
Remember, there is no such thing as keyword density. If your content sounds keyphrase-heavy and stilted, reduce the keyphrase usage and focus more on your readers’ experience. Your page doesn’t receive bonus points for exact-matching your keyphrase multiple times. If your page sounds keyphrase stuffed when you read it out loud, dial back your keyphrase usage.
– Did you edit your content?
Resist the urge to upload your content as soon as you write it. Put it away and come back to it after a few hours (or even the next day.) Discover why editing your Web writing is so very important. Also, don’t think that adding typos will help your page position. They won’t.
– Is the content interesting to read?
Yes, it’s OK if your copy has a little personality. Here’s more information about working with your page’s tone and feel and how to avoid the “yawn response.” Plus, know that even FAQ pages can help with conversions — and yes, even position.
– Are your sentences and paragraphs easy to read?
Vary your sentence structure so you have a combination of longer and shorter sentences. If you find your sentences creeping over 30 or so words, edit them down and make them punchier. Your writing will have more impact if you do.
Plus, long paragraphs without much white space are hard to read off a computer monitor – and even harder to read on a smartphone. Split up your long paragraphs into shorter ones. Please.
– Are you forcing your reader onto a “dead end” page?
“Dead-end” pages (pages that don’t link out to related pages) can stop your readers dead in their tracks and hurt your conversion goals.
Want to avoid this? Read more about “dead-end” Web pages.
– Does the content provide the reader with valuable information?
Google warns against sites with “thin,” low-quality content that’s poorly written. In fact, according to Google, spelling errors are a bigger boo-boo than broken HTML. Make sure your final draft is typo-free, written well, and thoroughly answers the searcher’s query.
Want to know what Google considers quality content — directly from Google? Here are Google’s Quality Raters guidelines for more information.
– Did you use bullet points where appropriate?
If you find yourself writing a list-like sentence, use bullet points instead. Your readers will thank you, and the items will be much easier to read.
Plus, you can write your bullet points in a way that makes your benefit statements pop, front and center. Here’s how Nike does it.
– Is the primary CTA (call-to-action) clear–and is it easy to take action?
What action do you want your readers to take? Do you want them to contact you? Buy something? Sign up for your newsletter? Make sure you’re telling your reader what you want them to do, and make taking action easy. If you force people to answer multiple questions just to fill out a “contact us” form, you run the risk of people bailing out.
Here’s a list of seven CTA techniques that work.
– Do you have a secondary CTA (such as a newsletter signup or downloading a white paper?)
Do you want readers to sign up for your newsletter or learn about related products? Don’t bury your “sign up for our newsletter” button in the footer text. Instead, test different CTA locations (for instance, try including a newsletter signup link at the bottom of every blog post) and see where you get the most conversions.
– Does the page include too many choices?
It’s important to keep your reader focused on your primary and secondary CTAs. If your page lists too many choices (for example, a large, scrolling page of products), consider eliminating all “unnecessary” options that don’t support your primary call-to-action. Too many choices may force your readers into not taking any action at all.
– Did you include benefit statements?
People make purchase decisions based on what’s in it for them (yes, even your B2B buyers.) Highly specific benefit statements will help your page convert like crazy. Don’t forget to include a benefit statement in your Title (whenever possible) like “free shipping” or “sale.” Seeing this on the search results page will catch your readers’ eyes, tempting them to click the link and check out your site.
– Do you have vertical-specific testimonials?
It’s incredible how many great sales pages are testimonial-free. Testimonials are a must for any site, as they offer third-party proof that your product or service is superior. Plus, your testimonials can help you write better, more benefit-driven sales pages and fantastic comparison-review pages.
Here’s a way to make your testimonials more powerful.
And finally — the most important question:
– Does your content stand out and genuinely deserve a top position?
SEO writing is more than shoving keyphrases into the content. If you want to be rewarded by Google (and your readers), your content must stand out — not be a carbon copy of the current top-10 results. Take a hard look at your content and compare it against what’s currently positioning. Have you fully answered the searcher’s query? Did you weave in other value-added resources, such as expert quotes, links to external and internal resources (such as FAQ pages), videos, and graphics?
If so, congratulations! You’ve done your job.
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