SEO practitioners spend a great deal of time battling to achieve better indexation, and Google’s index coverage report is an invaluable tool for doing so.
Now, that report is even better: As of January 2021, it’s received a slew of new changes designed to make the lives of SEO practitioners that much easier. If you want to make the most of those changes going forward, find out how they’ll change your workflow now.
What Is the Index Coverage Report?
If you’re a frequent Search Console user, then you may already be familiar with Google’s index coverage report. In short, the report serves to quickly reveal which of a site’s pages have been successfully indexed and whether any site indexation issues have occurred.
Given that website indexation is a core aspect of Google’s algorithm, it’s easy to see how useful such a report can be. After all, if your pages aren’t indexed, then it’s simply impossible for them to appear on Google’s search engine results pages (or SERPs for short).
Watch Google Search Advocate Daniel Waisberg explain how it works in a quick YouTube video:
The index coverage report is divided into two main sections, the summary page and the details page. On the summary page, you’ll see:
- the primary crawler Google uses to crawl your site (i.e. whether it views your site from a mobile or desktop user’s perspective);
- each page’s status (an error status means the page isn’t indexed, a warning status means it’s indexed but has an issue you should know about, an excluded status means it was intentionally not indexed and a valid status means the page is indexed);
- the reason for each page’s status;
- the validation status for each issue presented; and
- a URL discovery dropdown filter which allows you to see how Google’s crawlers discovered each URL.
Click any row on the summary page to open the details page, where you’ll see:
- a graph displaying the number of affected pages over time;
- a table displaying an example list of affected URLs; and
- the type of crawler (smartphone or desktop) used to crawl each URL.
The bottom line? The index coverage report gives you a view of your site’s indexation status that’s as broad or as granular as you want so you can make more informed SEO decisions from there.
What’s New In the Index Coverage Report?
On January 11 of 2021, Google announced several major improvements to the index coverage report. Each of the four new modifications are based on suggestions and feedback from Search Console users:
- The generic crawl anomaly issue type is no more and will be replaced by more specific issues going forward.
- Pages that were submitted and indexed but blocked by the robots.txt file will now be described as “indexed but blocked” and given a warning-level status (before, they were described as “submitted but blocked” and given an error-level status).
- A new warning-level status called “indexed without content” has been added. This issue indicates that the page has been indexed by Google but its content couldn’t be read.
- The report’s analysis of soft 404 errors, which occur when a page doesn’t exist but is still returning a successful HTTP status code, is now more accurate.
Overall, Google’s goal with those improvements seems to be increased accuracy and specificity. For SEO practitioners who want to spend more time fixing their indexation issues and less time trying to figure out what those issues might be (in other words, all SEO practitioners), this comes as welcome news.
If any of your site’s pages are affected by the new changes (for example, if a previously healthy page is now being marked as “indexed without content”), you can take a closer look at individual URLs’ indexation information with the help of Google’s URL Inspection tool. There, you’ll even get a screenshot of how Google sees each page.
Big Progress In the Fight for Perfect Indexation
We think it’s safe to say that site indexation troubleshooting isn’t anyone’s favorite task. But given indexation’s staggering importance, it’s a chore we all have to do.
That’s why Google’s updates to the index coverage report are so fantastic: With more precise issue types and increasingly accurate reporting, you can spend less time trying to figure out why a page isn’t properly indexed and more time working toward truly flawless indexation.