How to Fix Index Bloat?
The importance of reducing index bloat
When it comes to being discovered online by prospective customers, websites want to make sure that their sites have the best possible digital presence. This includes ranking highly on the SERPs for relevant queries.
Unfortunately, sometimes index bloat can disrupt SEO plans and make it harder for brands to create the user experience they wanted.
What is index bloat?
Index bloat occurs when Google accidently indexes pages they were not supposed to. Consider an ecommerce site that has filter options for people searching for a particular type of product. When you click on the option to sort by color, for example, you automatically generate a new webpage. This new webpage, however, does not actually contain any new content and you do not want to have it indexed separately by the search engine.
Index bloat can also come from situations such as poor site migrations from HTTP to HTTPS, expired content, or even poorly organized page archives.
Why is index bloat a problem?
Index bloat can cause a variety of problems for sites from an SEO perspective. To begin, it can drain crawl budget. Google decides how much and how often to crawl a particular site based on its popularity and perceived value. Draining the crawl budget can result in Google missing out on indexing pages of the site that have considerably more value for your target audience.
It can also confuse Google about the value of the content on the site, making it appear as though the site actually contains a lot of duplicate content. The search engine might also not always know which version of the very-similar pages it should rank for a particular query.
How do I monitor my site for index bloat?
You can monitor your site through Google Search Console and the Google search engine itself. On the search engine, make occasional searches using the site: operation, which will allow you to search only your domain. You can use this command as site:example.com to see how many pages Google claims to have indexed on your site. You can also monitor your indexing through Google Search Console.
Use these two tools to regularly watch for sudden increases in the number of pages indexed. Dramatic increases provide a good indication that something is likely amis with your indexing.
How do I fix index bloat?
Once you uncover a problem of index bloat, you want to work as quickly as possible to resolve the problem. There are a few different strategies to consider.
- Robots.txt and NOFOLLOW for links
- Meta Robots NoIndex tag
- URL removal
1. Robots.txt and NOFOLLOW for links. You can use a robots.txt file to disallow certain pages from the Google spider. This tells Google that you do not want these pages crawled. However, if the page is linked to from another page that does get crawled, you might end up with your page being indexed, despite the disallow order.
To prevent this problem, use a NOFOLLOW anywhere in your site where you link to a page that has been disallowed through robots.txt.
2. Meta Robots NoIndex tag. The ‘noindex’ robots meta tag provides search engines with very clear guidance about which pages should not be indexed. By using this tag, you prevent the indexing of the page and tell Google to deindex any page that had previously been indexed.
3. Pagination. If you have multiple pages that list products, for example, you will want to use pagination markup to make it clear to Google that these pages have a relationship. This tells Google that the pages are not duplicates of each other and encourages Google to reduce the indexing of the subsequent pages, which can help reduce bloat.
4. URL Removal. If you need to get a URL deindexed immediately, you can use the Google Remove URL tool. This will get the page deindexed quickly. However, you will still need to take action to make it clear that the page should not be indexed with one of the previous suggestions or it could end up getting indexed again in the future.
Preventing crawl bloat can help protect your SEO efforts and create an improved user experience for leads and customers. As you monitor your site, consider these strategies for ridding yourself of any unnecessary bloat moving forward.