Google is having a torrid few days with two different indexing bugs causing significant volatility in the Search Result Pages. The bugs prevent new content from appearing in the search index.
Indexing of new content matters a lot to websites that rely on getting their content in Google promptly.
This bug is particularly hard-hitting for news-based websites or those sites that rely on fresh content to drive traffic.
New Content Indexing bug - 22nd May
On the 22nd of May, Google confirmed an issue with indexing new content:
We're currently experiencing indexing issues that may cause stale search results in some cases. We'll update this thread when we can provide more information.— Google Webmasters (@googlewmc) May 22, 2019
Google confirmed that the issue was resolved on the 23rd of May 2019:
The indexing issues from earlier today have been resolved. Thank you for your patience.— Google Webmasters (@googlewmc) May 23, 2019
Gary Illyes, a webmaster trends analyst at Google, said that he did not expect any data loss in the search console as a result. He implies that there would not be any data to lose because the page was not in Google.
If they were not indexed, how could we lose their data?— Gary "鯨理" Illyes (@methode) May 23, 2019
New Content Indexing bug - 24th May
On the 24th of May, Google had another new indexing issue:
We're looking into a new indexing issue that started escalating 6 hours ago. The issue is unrelated to yesterday's outage and we're working hard to resolve it. We'll update this thread when we can provide more information.— Google Webmasters (@googlewmc) May 24, 2019
Google confirmed that the issue was resolved some two and a half days later:
This issue has been resolved -- thanks for your patience!— Google Webmasters (@googlewmc) May 26, 2019
Wishing you all a great week.
Danny Sullivan clarified that the fix usually happens much earlier than they post:
To be clearer, we’ve tended to update those things when we have an issue fully resolved. But we often get the issues clearing up before then. You can do some searches directly yourself and see there’s lots of fresh content back in as usual. But we want to be 100% when we post.
The SERP Trackers
All the SERP trackers show significant volatility during the bug.
I am assuming that this is solely down to the indexing issues. I have read nothing around the web to suggest otherwise.
Rank Risk Index:
Advanced Web Ranking:
What does the SEO community say?
There has been a mixed response from other publishers about whether the indexing bug could have caused so much volatility, as it only affected new pages.
One comment in the Webmaster World forum reinforces my view that the volatility was caused by a bug:
Yeah, the change only lasted for 24hrs. They might just be testing something or are going to roll out whatever they did very soon.
The traffic increase seen by one webmaster was positive and lasted for the period of the bug.
Many of the other comments were positive:
Seems like there was a big algo change last night, started ranking for a lot of net new keywords
i noticed some big spikes last night for a few hours also and the previous 2 days have seen me have a bit better traffic than since the last update (that google says didnt happen but I don’t believe!). So something might be happening but no idea what
If this was truly an update I would have expected more comments complaining about falls in traffic.
Jonathan Griffin Editor, SEO Consultant, & Developer.
Jonathan Griffin is The Webmaster's Editor & CEO, managing day-to-day editorial operations across all our publications. Jonathan writes about Development, Hosting, and SEO topics for The Webmaster and The Search Review with more than nine years of experience. Jonathan also manages his own SEO consultancy, offering SEO developer services. He is an expert on site-structure, strategy, Schema, AMP, and technical SEO. You can find Jonathan on Twitter as @thewebmastercom.