Google Search Advocate, John Mueller, recently addressed the concept of “index bloat” on the ‘Search Off The Record’ podcast, and he refutes the idea that excessive indexing of unnecessary pages can have a negative impact on search engine rankings. The term “index bloat” is used when search crawlers index pages that are not ideally suited for search results, including filtered product pages, internal search results, printer-friendly versions of pages, and more. Fans of the index bloat theory maintain that these pages make it harder for search engines to understand websites, negatively impacting search rankings. However, Google’s response has been clear: the concept of index bloat is non-existent.
The Theory Behind Index Bloat
The idea of index bloat describes a situation where search crawlers index pages that aren’t suited for search results. This leads to inefficiency in Google’s crawl budget, which is the number of URLs that a search bot will crawl during each visit. Proponents of the index bloat theory believe that these irrelevant pages make it more difficult for search engines to understand websites and negatively impact search ranking.
Google’s Response to the Index Bloat Theory
John Mueller debunks the index bloat theory, stating that there is no such concept as index bloat at Google. The systems at Google do not limit the number of pages indexed per site artificially. Instead, Mueller suggests that time is better spent publishing helpful content, rather than worrying about omitting pages from Google’s index.
The “Causes” Of Index Bloat
The index bloat theory attributes its causes to issues like accidental page duplication, incorrect robots.txt files, and poorly performing or thin content. However, Google suggests that webmasters and SEO professionals should pay attention to these issues as general SEO practices, and they are not the cause of a non-existent “index bloat.”
“Detecting” Index Bloat
Proponents of the index bloat theory have suggested using Google Search Console to detect index bloat by comparing the number of indexed pages to what is expected. However, Google’s standpoint implies that this comparison doesn’t indicate a problem and is part of regular website management and monitoring.
The Final Word
Google’s official stance is clear: the concept of index bloat is non-existent, and the focus should be on ensuring that relevant pages are provided for indexing. Therefore, webmasters and SEO professionals should concentrate on producing valuable and relevant content for users.
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