Why Your Site Isn’t Indexed by Google – 8 Most Common Reasons
A popular SEO joke states that the best place to hide a dead body is on the second page of Google results. Sure, not ranking high enough is a common problem among websites owners. But you might also encounter an even more serious issue: what if your site doesn’t appear in search results at all?
Just imagine: you’ve worked for weeks or months on a new site, and you really like the result. It’s informative and well-designed, so you expect a good amount of traffic once you launch. And yet that traffic doesn’t materialize.
You try not to panic and run some searches that should lead to your site. Once again, it’s not there – not on the first page, not on the second, not even on the fifth.
What happened? Does Google hate you? Is your site somehow invisible? Have you done something wrong when coding?
- Reason 1: your site is too new
- Reason 2: You don’t have a sitemap
- Reason 3: “noindex” tags
- Reason 4: Canonicalization errors
- Reason 5: A recent switch to HTTPS
- Reason 6: Your site is too big for your Crawl budget
- Reason 7: Orphaned pages
- Reason 8: Hosting issues
But first, let’s go over some indexing basics.
Crawling vs indexing vs ranking: understanding the difference
In order to index a site, Google first needs to find it. The search giant uses special programs (called spiders) to crawl the web. A spider starts from a site it already knows. If it contains any links – external or internal – the bot crawls them, too. If they, in turn, contain links to other sites, the spider looks at those, and so on. This goes on 24/7, on billions of pages every day.
Whenever Google discovers a new page, it tries to understand what it’s about. It “reads” the title, headings, meta descriptions, content, pictures, videos, and so on. This information is added to the index – the complete list of web pages used by Google search.
Thus, when a user runs a search, Google doesn’t look for results on the web – it analyzes the index. It ranks all the relevant results in accordance with a complex (and secret) formula – and voila, your get your SERP (search engine results page). If you’d like to learn more about how Google Search works, watch this video.
Is your site really not indexed?
It can happen that your page is indexed but doesn’t appear in the first few result pages. To see which is your problem, run a simple test:
type site:your-site’s-address in Google’s search bar.
Don’t forget to insert your website’s URL, obviously.
Note the number of indexed pages. If it looks right to you, then your site is properly indexed. Keep in mind that not all pages of a site must be indexed, however.
If your page is indexed by Google but you still get little or no traffic, the problem could indeed lie in your SEO.
But if you discover that some or all of your pages don’t appear in the search, something must be wrong with the indexing. Read on to find out the possible reason. Don’t worry: whatever went wrong, it’s probably easy to fix.
Reason 1: your site is too new
How long should it take for Google to index a new site? For most sites, the waiting period ranges from 4 days to 1 month. Some people report getting indexed faster, but there is also anecdotal evidence of indexing taking months.
If your site is only a few days old, wait for a week or so, then run the test again. If you are still not indexed, try to ask Google to do it for you.
Solution: Fetch & Render
Google Search Console has a great tool called URL Inspection.
Source: Google Help
There, you enter the address of any page on your site or your whole domain, see their current index status, and request indexing. Google will send its bot to crawl and index your site, but it’s not an instant or guaranteed fix. It can easily take days, but since it’s so easy and free, why not try it?
Reason 2: You don’t have a sitemap
A sitemap is a document in the XML format that helps Google crawl and index your website. A sitemap contains detailed information about all the pages, when they were updated, what they contain, etc.
In theory, Google should be able to index your pages even without it. But if your pages aren’t well linked to each other – or if there aren’t many external links to your site – the normal crawling algorithm might not work so well. This is especially true for new sites. So I do recommend that you make a sitemap and supply it to Google.
Solution: Sitemap generators
Reason 3: “noindex” tags
The way your page is coded could be blocking Google from crawling it. It’s known as “noindex” tags, and they are often added while a page is still under construction. It makes sense: if your website is still not ready, you wouldn’t want anyone to stumble upon it, right?
You’ll know that your page is made invisible to crawlers if its section contains something like this:
– this second tag means that Google won’t be able to crawl your site, but other search engines (such as Bing) will.
Solution: check your pages’ sections and remove any “noindex” bits you find. You can read more about this issue here.
Reason 4: Canonicalization errors
The verbs “to canonicalize” or even “to canonical” can seem clumsy – and they are. But these are verbs that you need to know. A canonical version of a page is the one that Google treats as the main one or preferential if it encounters duplicate content. Perhaps you’re thinking, “but there’s no duplicate content on my site!”. Well, think again. Is there just one way to reach your homepage? For the site you are now reading, for example, there are several:
… and others. Any of these will work and look exactly the same – but for Google, they are four different pages with duplicate content! And if your site is translated into other languages, the problem iexacerbated – you’ll have even more “identical” pages.
A canonical tag is found in the section of a page and looks like this:
Solution: run the Google URL Inspection tool. It will tell you if there’s anything wrong with the canonical tags on any of your pages. In case of a problem, you’ll see something like this: