How to Solve Google Content Deindexation Issues

Nate Nead
December 27, 2022

Google does not index every site on the internet. 

The year-over-year percentage of the web that is indexed continues to decline. 

With nearly 2 billion websites on the internet, it would prove excessively costly and make little business sense to index every possible page the internet has to offer. 

Especially when nearly 10% of internet sites are scams at worst and spammy at best. 

For the web's most competitive search terms, most users still don't scroll past the first page on Google. 

Would it even make sense to have more than 100 indexed little blue links for a single query? 

Not really, especially when 90% of clicks will go to the first few results above the fold. 

Hence, the latest trend in Google's arsenal is the deindexation of low-quality, low-discoverability content. 

Here's what that looks like in Google Search Console (GSC) under Indexing>> Pages:

Google search console page deindexation
Sites are experiencing steady deindexation issues across the web as single pages continue to fall out of favor and fall out of the index.

Why Are More Pages Getting Deindexed by Google?

In an effort to fight spam, search engines are cracking down on:

  • Low-quality content
  • Content created by artificial intelligence (AI) tools like and
  • Content that is difficult to discover
  • Repurposed domains used solely for link farming
  • Massive, low-quality content on sites with low domain authority

The latest trend to scale up content using AI (without much human intervention) reminds me of a brilliant statement made by Syndrome from The Incredibles:

syndrome Incredibles

The latest Helpful Content Update (or the Unhelpful Content Demotion as we like to call it) and SpamBrain update are the perfect combos to help fight what Google sees as a massive garbling of internet content devoid of true quality inputs to encourage active human consumption. 

In other words, they're fighting content created for search engines and not for humans. 

The ranking algorithm's new regime is especially deleterious to marketers who engage in heavy link building campaigns. 

As Google and other search engines continue to deindex pages they deem irrelevant or spammy, the link building efforts of even some high-profile sites are likely to see a negative downward pressure on some sites' rankings due to search results indexing issues and redirect errors.

Think about how it would look in practice: 

A site with hundreds of low-quality backlinks suddenly experiences a massive deindexation of a large percentage of its link graph, pushing its rankings down.

Adding insult to injury, pages in similar neighborhoods as other deindexed pages are more likely to also experience similar deindexation issues due to dynamic page requests, server errors, and bad or empty URLs, as their content is marked as irrelevant and bumped out of the index.

The good news is that Google is also kind enough to show you where your deficiencies lie so you can adapt accordingly.

Examples from GSC include:

  • Page with redirect
  • Excluded by 'noindex' tag
  • Not found (404)
  • Alternative page with proper canonical tag
  • Duplicate without user-selected canonical
  • Blocked due to other 4xx issue
  • Blocked due to access forbidden (403)
  • Crawled- currently not indexed
  • Discovered - currently not indexed
  • Server error (5xx)

Most of the issues listed above are simple fixes for a knowledgeable webmaster. 

The two bolded are a bit more nuanced and worth further discussion.

How to Solve Page Deindexation Issues

While the chart above might get your cortisol levels rising, there are solutions to both avoiding deindexation and reversing the tide of existing deindexation across your website.

Crawled - not indexed vs. Discovered - not indexed

When you submit a brand new sitemap to Google, the web crawlers may take some time before they crawl your sitemap.

When your sitemap is crawled, the search spiders will notice pages to be crawled, but they will likely only crawl a small portion of your overall sitemap with each subsequent pass. 

A site can have pages that are in a sitemap (which is a clear indication a webmaster would prefer to have them crawled and indexed in search), but that doesn't necessarily mean that:

  1. Search engine crawlers will crawl at all OR
  2. Search engines will be indexed once the page has been crawled

The following two graphs are from the same site listed above, just for continuity.

discovered not indexed
An increase in "Discovered - not indexed" pages indicates you are not giving greater reasons to have the pages get crawled.

Even when the search engines DO crawl, they may choose not to index your pages:

pages crawled, but not indexed by Google
When pages are crawled, but not indexed, it shows even greater deficiencies in your content, backlinks or both.

GSC will show you exactly which pages have been crawled but not indexed.

Upgrading the Quality of Your Content

Any solution always starts with the quality of your content assets. 

You may need a content quality audit which could use one or more of the following tools:

  • SEOToolLab (Cora Software)
  • SurferSEO
  • Originality.AI

While some tools are meant to be AI plagiarism checkers, others are better at finding what keywords may be missing in the body of your text that would make them comparable and uniquely created. 

Cora and Surfer do a great job of providing prompts for inputting the right LSI (latent semantic Indexing) and entity keywords that will be critical for a particular page to be statistically on par with other pages in top positions. 

Furthermore, these and other software tools can show you other ways in which your page may be deficient compared to higher-ranking competitors. 

We outline the most statistically significant factors here

But the most important on-site factors to consider are:

  • Comparable word count
  • LSI & entity terms in the body
  • Total H1 to H6 tags
  • Keywords in H1 to H6 tags
  • Overall keyword density
  • Partial keyword density
  • Page structure (e.g., paragraph elements, image elements, etc.)
  • Page load speed

If you have been using an AI tool to help generate pages, you will need to perform some human upgrades, but not necessarily a full rewrite of the content itself. 

Robots (and even people) can tell when content has been created using GPT-3 and other natural language processing or machine learning tools. 

Machine learning algorithms may not be able to discover the internet's ghostwriting problems, but they can discover AI-generated content. 

A good content editor or editing team can also be incredibly helpful in upgrading your content, making edits, and otherwise improving.

Rescan in Google Search Console

There is a fun manual scan tool in the Google Search Console.

When you are done upgrading and updating your content, be sure to show the precise URL as a prompt in GSC for Google to add to the priority crawl queue. 
While your sitemap will post any newly updated items to the top of the list when bots come to recrawl the site, this is more likely to speed up the time to get a recrawl and reassessment of the quality of your content.

Internal Backlinks

Your content needs to be discoverable to search engine crawlers.

If you're not giving them the right signals, you will continue to have pages that are not indexed or fall out of the index. Build more links using relevant anchor text to the most important pages of your site, particularly those you want to have discovered, crawled, indexed, and ranked. It's that simple.

Just because a page or post is in your sitemap doesn't mean search engines feel it's worth ranking. You need to show them what is important through the proper use of search words, redirect URLs, and an efficient indexing process.

When users search for a particular search word, you want your category pages to be prominent in the search results. Simply having a page listed in your sitemap doesn't guarantee its importance to search engines—you need to indicate clearly which pages matter most.

Promote Your Content

Get the word out to industry-specific influencers, writers, and promoters about the value of your content and your site. 

Notice this heading did not say, "Go out and build links.

"While link building can be helpful, it's also a double-edged sword when it comes to promotion, and the power of links continues to wane. 

Yes, link building is a subset of your promotion efforts, but you should remain very picky about where and how your inbound links are acquired.

Improve the Value of Content Assets

The question you ultimately need to ask is, "Is my content truly an asset, or is it a liability?"

In some cases, and depending on search intent, long-form skyscraper content is completely dead

Focus on answering a specific query, solving a real-life problem for someone's online search, and doing it better than your competitors, and you will win traffic. 

If you want to rank for competitive terms, you will need to work page by painstaking page.


Nate Nead

founder and CEO of Marketer

Nate Nead is the founder and CEO of Marketer, a distinguished digital marketing agency with a focus on enterprise digital consulting and strategy. For over 15 years, Nate and his team have helped service the digital marketing teams of some of the web's most well-recognized brands. As an industry veteran in all things digital, Nate has founded and grown more than a dozen local and national brands through his expertise in digital marketing. Nate and his team have worked with some of the most well-recognized brands on the Fortune 1000, scaling digital initiatives.