How Google Communicates Issues It Finds With Your Site
Written by Digital Impact Solutions on September 26, 2015
To be honest upto 2012 Google’s Search Console (formerly called Google’s Webmaster Tools) was not a priority for me as an SEO. Now that might come of a shock to those in the SEO world, who saw it as a valuable tool to figuring out crawl errors, submitting sitemaps to help Google index better and just a get a gauge of the general health of a site but to be honest it just wasn’t. I would put it on a client’s site as a checkbox but rarely looked at it or even installed it.
That was before Google started using it as a way of communicating with you personally to do with issues surrounding your site. One of the main complaints with Google is if you have an issue nobody seems to tell you what’s wrong or even how to fix it!! Instead you have to trawl many forums and ask people all who seem to have different opinion on the issue and the remedy.
This why Search Console and especially its messaging systems is now a vital tool in discovering what Google has against your site. For instance you will often get mail alerts about all sorts of issues, problems with the crawling of your site, the number of pages that don’t work, any penalties you may be under and even if your site’s been hacked. This is why it’s vital when you sign up to Google’s Search Console and go through the verification process that you own the site that you give it an email you actually check.
Here I will outline five key messages Google may alert you to:-
This one can be quite serious as well as harming your rankings in Google, users who visit your site via a Google search will be prompted with a notice “This Site May Have Been Hacked”. You will often see the full extent of the message under “search traffic”, “manual actions”. You will need to remove the hacked pages and tighten up your security on your site, you may need to remove third party dodgy links that may have been built to the hacked pages of the site and then submit a reconsideration request to Google. In a recent update Google may be looking to automate this process. For more information see Google’s help files on dealing with a hacked site
Unnatural links to your site
As part of Google’s crack down on third party spammy links that were built to artificially rank a site, Google released both manual and automatic penalties. Manual penalties are where you will get a notification from Google to say they have found unnatural looking links from third party sites back to yours. Whether you, an SEO or a ruthless competitor built them makes no difference. You rankings will suffer and you will have to put in the work to remove these links and outline to Google why there were there, what you have done to remove them and what you have learnt from the whole experience (yes seriously Google makes you feel like a naughty school kid). See our recent post on link removal for help with this.
Google Can’t Access Your Robots.Txt File
Google and other search engines use a file called a robots.txt file to find out information about your site and any pages you want them to ignore, for instance login information or if your site is under development and you are not ready for people to find it. However, if Google can’t find your robots.txt file they may stop indexing the site altogether and you will no longer appear in Google’s search results. To identify and fix robots.txt issues see Google’s help file and crawler tool.
Googlebot Cannot Access Your CSS and JS Files
Without getting too technical here, Google sees (renders) your site just the same as a user would. CSS and JS files are usually separate scripts that are access separately to speed up the coding on a site. They may contain images, fonts, page layout information etc that is generic to the whole site. Blocking these folders from your robots.txt files can cause your site rankings and performance to suffer. Google have been warning site owners for years not to block these files but some Content Management Systems (such as Joomla) may automatically block these via plugins and modules. See SEO Round Tables article here.
Fix Mobile Usability Issues Found
As part of Google’s Mobilegeddon update, making sure your site is mobile friendly or responsive is vital if you want to rank for mobile searches. If your site fails the test then your rankings on mobile devices may suffer. See Google’s Mobile Test Tool to test your site. Google will send you the above message should your site fail to be mobile friendly. As always if you have questions or comments about the above article please feel free to submit them below.