For those of you unfamiliar with the term ‘index bloat’, it occurs when Google – or another search engine – indexes pages from your website that should not be indexed. This can cause major issues if not monitored properly.
Index bloat is now an extremely common SEO problems and can affect all kinds of websites, ranging from small blogs using the WordPress platform to much larger eCommerce sites that run on the Hybris or Magento platform.
eCommerce sites tend to be the main culprit of indexation bloat. As a lot of these eCommerce sites feature special widgets that enable users to easily find products that meet their specifications. Using these filters can often create new indexed pages once a user has set their personal parameters. When you use Google to search for a website, it will typically follow all links and buttons on a webpage. This includes the specific filters applied by different users. Sometimes this will cause Google to index thousands of pages that offer no unique value.
Here, we’ll talk you through why index bloat is a huge SEO problem and how you can tackle it.
Why Is Indexation Bloat an SEO Problem?
Indexation bloat can become a serious SEO problem for your website. Firstly, it is extremely confusing for search engines, particularly when there could be thousands of variations for a specific product category. When Google, or another search engine, comes across a website suffering from index bloat, they often struggle to understand which pages are the most relevant. This means that many users will be given non-relevant results.
Index bloat is also an SEO concern as it can create duplicate content issues, as the indexed pages typically don’t have any unique content or meta information. Any duplicate content isn’t doing your site any favours. Plus, if Google focuses on the wrong pages, it could cause a major drop in traffic, rankings and conversions.
How to Tell If Your Website is Experiencing Indexation Bloat
If you suspect that index bloat is the cause of your recent loss in rankings, it’s super easy to find out. The main indication of index bloat is an excessive number of indexed pages. If your page index has gone through any fluctuations recently, you could have fallen victim to index bloat.
To check your index status, go to Google search console and click on ‘Index Status’ under ‘Google Index’. If you see a rapid increase in the number of indexed pages, this could point to indexation bloat.
Fixing Indexation Bloat
Once you have identified some problem pages which provide no unique content or meta information, you can fix your index bloat. You can easily prevent search engines from indexing these problem pages using a number of different methods. Sometimes you can use just one method. Larger websites may require you to use a combination of methods.
One of the best options is the meta robots tag. This can quickly cut down on your index bloat. This tag can be used to tell Google which pages they are and aren’t allowed to index.
You can also use your robots.txt file to tell search engines which areas of your website they are allowed to crawl.
Some of your index bloat can also come from old web pages that no longer exist on your site. These may cause 404 errors. Over time, Google will drop these pages. You can expedite the process by removing these pages from your index using a 301 redirect.
Is your website suffering from index bloat? Let us know in the comments below.