What is Google Search Console?
It allows you to identify and fix potential errors that could cause problems with your website appearing correctly in Google search results. Less experienced users could confuse Google Search Console (GSC) with Google Analytics (GA), but these are two entirely different tools.
GSC helps you optimize and improve your website’s performance, while Analytics provides information on your visitors (where they’re coming from along with the browser and devices used).
Google Search Console notifications
GSC usually sends notifications related to three main groups of issues:
- Performance on mobile devices (phones)
Some notifications are general, so they might not be related to your site. For example, if the warning says the issue is related to a missing SSL certificate, but your website has one – feel free to ignore it.
Errors and fixes
These messages are usually sent when GSC doesn’t receive a proper response from the server (status code 200). There are various HTTP error status codes, and we’ll cover the most frequent below:
Submitted URL not found (404)
This error means that the URL that’s in your sitemap no longer exists. If you remove a page for any reason – it will create a 404 not found error. Sometimes you’ll have a valid reason for this, though (a product no longer exists, or a blog post doesn’t generate any traffic).
Fix: If you don’t need the page that no longer exists – ignore the error, and Google will stop looking for it after a while. If the page in question exists but was moved – create a 301 redirect to redirect it to the new location. If you have an online store and for example, a discontinued product is now replaced with a new product you sell – it would be smart to create a 301 redirect and redirect it to the new product’s product page.
Submitted URL seems to report soft 404 errors
This error means that the server that hosts the website didn’t report the 404 not found message, but the page doesn’t exist in that location (it can be blank, or not loading correctly).
Fix: If the page no longer exists or has a replacement, ensure that your website is configured to return a 404 (not found) or 410 (gone) response. If the page was moved or you have a suitable replacement, set up the 301 redirect to the new URL.
Server error (5xx)
This error means that the GoogleBot (a web crawler Google uses to simulate users on a website) couldn’t access the URL at the time of checking. This can happen for various reasons – your website is misconfigured, busy or the request timed out.
Fix: Check the server and website configuration to find potential problems, and ensure your website is not blocking GoogleBot.
Page indexed, but blocked by robots.txt file
This notice means that you have submitted the page for indexing, but it’s simultaneously blocked in robots.txt file. GoogleBot follows a list of rules declared in robots.txt file, and if a rule blocks a specific page – it won’t be indexed, and there’s a conflict since you’ve submitted the page for indexing.
Fix: Use the robots.txt tester tool to check the page and ensure there’s a problem. If so, check your robots.txt file and ensure there isn’t a broad rule blocking multiple pages. Adjust the rule to allow indexing, or change the page, so it’s not picked up by that rule.
Submitted URL has a crawl issue
This is an unspecified crawling error, and unfortunately, Google doesn’t provide any useful data to find the problem.
Fix: You can use the URL inspection tool in Google Search Console to try and debug this issue, but most likely, you’ll need to consult with your web developer to find the cause.
Submitted URL is marked no index
This usually happens when the page was submitted for indexing, but the page itself has a noindex parameter in an HTTP header or meta tag. This causes Google to receive two different directives and creates conflict.
Fix: Remove the noindex directive in the HTTP header or meta tag.
All of us use redirects when a page gets moved or removed, to tell the browser that content is located elsewhere. However, sometimes this can cause errors in GSC:
- Long redirect chain (3 redirects maximum)
- Redirect loop (link A points to link B that points to link A)
- Wrong or empty URL in the redirect chain
Fix: Analyze your redirects, and ensure you only have one redirect per page, if possible.
Performance on mobile devices
More users browse the web on mobile than desktop devices, and Google puts heavy emphasis on the correct display of websites on mobile devices. Your website must display properly on phones, so don’t ignore these warnings.
Here are some of the most frequent notices:
Content wider than screen
This notice means that the visitor is forced to use a horizontal scroll when browsing your website to see all content. Mobile users are used to vertical scrolling, and this issue usually occurs when website pages use absolute values in CSS, or images that have fixed desktop browser width.
Fix: Ensure your website is configured to use relative width and position values for CSS components.
Clickable elements too close to each other
This notice means that you have clickable elements (buttons, menus, navigational links) too close to each other and mobile users can’t easily tap the correct item without tapping the nearby element.
Fix: Make sure to design and space touch elements to be fitting for mobile and touch users. Google recommends a minimum of 48 pixels target size and 8 pixels spacing between elements.
Text too small to read
This notice identifies pages where text size is too small to read without zooming in on mobile devices. Keep in mind that a website that looks good on computers doesn’t necessarily look good on mobile devices.
Fix: Make sure your font sizes scale appropriately with the viewport and use relative values (em or rem) for font size rather than pixel numbers.
Viewport not set
Viewport property tells browsers how to scale the page’s dimensions to suit the screen size. If you receive this notice – it means that your page doesn’t define the viewport property correctly.
Fix: Your pages need to specify the viewport using the meta viewport tag. The default recommended setting is:
<meta name=”viewport” content=”width=device-width, initial-scale=1.0″>
Also, avoid using large elements with fixed size (images, for example) that can’t scale properly on all screen sizes.
Product warnings and errors are associated with the product-specific Structured Data Markup. You can use the Structured Data Markup Tool to see which elements are set up incorrectly or missing. This guide and schema.org website can help you understand how to fix the missing elements.
Value in property “ratingCount” must be positive
The ratingCount property must contain the total number of ratings on a product page, and it can’t be negative (it can be 0 though).
Missing field “price”
You need to use ##.## format for the price product field. For example, always use a “10.99” format in SDM (no dollar sign in this field).
Rating is missing required best and/or worst values
If you have product ratings/reviews, you need to define the range for bestRating (usually 5) and worstRating (usually 1) for each item.
Either “offers,” “review,” or “aggregateRating” should be specified
You need to include at least one of these elements in your product pages within the SDM and will receive this warning if you don’t.
To fix the issue, simply add at least one of these elements to your page or template HTML.
Offers are necessary data on product sales, reviews are evaluations, and aggregateRatings are product ratings.
If you need any further help, check the GSC Help Center and the Webmaster FAQ as it’s a great resource on this topic.