Recently, people using Search Console services are constantly being informed about various “issues” relating to their websites. Even if you receive an email starting with “a new problem has been detected”, don’t get panicky! The “issue” doesn’t always have to mean the mistake, in many cases it may only be a suggestion helping you to check whether the website operates properly. In today’s entry we’ll share with you what the messages can be related to and where to look for help in solving any possible difficulties.
Where do Google Search Console messages come from?
Google’s been trying to implement a new version of Search Console for quite a while. First, the beta version was launched and with the passage of time it’s been supplemented with new features. In the meantime, the old version has slowly become obsolete and it’s gradually being withdrawn from the market. Along with the release of the tool and its new possibilities, users get a standard mailing related to the condition of their website (not necessarily concerning the state of indexing, although you may also be informed about such problems).
GSC messages – what do they refer to?
So far, Google’s been massively sending messages concerning three main groups of issues:
- the state of a website,
- the operation on mobile devices,
- the products.
TIP: Before you start looking for the cause of the problem, check which website it concerns. For instance, if the message refers to a site which doesn’t have an SSL certificate but yours has it, it’s very probable that you don’t need to worry about the notification at all. Similarly when there is no “www” in the address of your website but it’s in the message. Protocols are important for Google Search Console, thus a website under various protocols is viewed as a completely different page!
The state of a website and various problems connected with it
These problems most frequently refer to the server response (the correct one is 200). Some of the errors that may occur include:
- Server error (5xx) – it may be caused by different factors such as temporary server unavailability, overload, too long loading time or incorrect server configuration. A developer or a web hosting service should help you to solve the problem.
- Submitted URL not found (404) – it’s a good idea to go through the addresses that generate this error and consider whether they create traffic. If so, it’s worth changing page URLs with 301 redirects. If not, don’t bother yourself with them. Nonetheless, make sure that there are no links leading to any inactive URLs within your website.
- Submitted URL seems to report soft 404 errors – even though the server doesn’t report 404 error, the expected content hasn’t been loaded. As such addresses can be an obstacle for users to find a given page and they should report 404 errors, it’s worth changing the configuration of the website.
- Page indexed, but blocked by robots.txt file – this type of error occurs when the page was blocked in robots.txt file, but at the same time doesn’t have the “noindex” attribute. In such situation you should check which addresses have been blocked in the file and assess whether they should be indexed. Many systems don’t allow you to set URLs with the “noindex” attribute and then the robots.txt file is the only place where you can exclude specific sites, indexes or parameters.
- Submitted URL has crawl issue – it’s an unspecified crawling error. Try to identify the reasons and debug your website using the URL Inspection tool.
The operation on mobile devices
An increasing number of people browse the Internet using mobile devices, therefore Google puts special emphasis on proper display of websites on smartphones and tablets. If Google Search Console sent you a message regarding issues related to the operation of your website on mobile devices, you may count on the help of a developer or website administrator.
The most common issues related to mobile devices that Google Search Console informs you about include:
- Too small font that makes it difficult to read the text – a website that is transparent and legible on computers, doesn’t necessarily have to look equally good on mobile devices. A small font can get even smaller on a tiny screen. You can simplify navigation on your website by setting the appropriately big font size.
- Clickable elements too close to each other – while clicking using the computer can be extremely precise, with smartphones it’s sometimes difficult to tap the right small element. If the users struggle with selecting the correct link because clickable elements are too close to each other, they may quickly become irritated. Make sure that all items on your website are at the right distance and are easy to click on.
- Content wider than screen – the user is forced to inconvenient horizontal scrolling. Since users of mobile devices are accustomed to vertical scrolling, it’s worth designing the website in a way that will enable visitors its comfortable browsing.
The products and problems connected with them
Do you run an online store and have you received a message about “problems” with your products? We’ve both good and bad news for you and to be more precise, the “bad news” doesn’t necessarily have to be bad. The good news is that a schema standard, which defines structural data, has been implemented on your website. To put it simply, it helps Google to interpret the content of your website and to estimate which elements are the names of the products, which are the prices, the ratings, the photos and which inform users where the products can be found. The not-necessarily-bad information is that Google finds tags interpretation quite challenging. Why this bad news in fact isn’t so bad? The tool assessing the implementation of the schema standard in Search Console hasn’t been perfected yet, therefore, the data found there isn’t always the same as the data found in the tool for testing structured data.
See whether the structural data is entered properly. If there should be any errors, it’s a good idea to correct them because the elements indicated by the schema standard are sometimes displayed in the search results, which can be seen in the screenshot below.
Messages related to products and sent by SC usually refer to:
- missing elements “…” – tags suggested by Google weren’t introduced.
- incorrect price format – the price must be written in a predetermined way. It mustn’t have a thousands separator or a currency symbol.
- not defined “offers”, “review” or “aggregateRating” services – depending on the chosen data, select the suitable type of service. Offers are basic data on product sales, reviews are simply opinions and aggregateRatings are product ratings.
All the abovementioned elements should be implemented by a developer who properly marks the individual data in the code of a website. In case of any obstacles with entering the data you can use Google Data Highlighter tool, however, the tool is not yet available in the new version of Search Console. Remember that entering the tags in the code of the website still remains a more accurate and reliable way of marking structural data. What’s more, the elements marked in the schema standard are only suggestions which don’t necessarily have to be displayed in the search results. Properly implemented schema is also useful in terms of Google Ads (Product Listing Ads).
Don’t trust the messages unconditionally, as the problems reported by Google Search Console don’t always have to mean errors. The messages are sent based on automatic analysis and Google isn’t always right. Check the problem and search for its cause. However, bear in mind that it won’t be always feasible to find it because it’s possible that your website operates properly and any additional actions aren’t required.
For more information go to Google Support: https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/7440203?hl=pl