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Dealing with Google Webmaster Tool errors

Google’s Webmaster Tools, or the Search Console as it’s also referred to,  is a great – if not one of the best – tools for finding problems with your site. If used correctly, GWT will allow you to address the complete health of your site, and will help you to implement numerous optimisation techniques for your blog.

Although it sounds like a great process, having 10,000 crawl errors staring back at you can make your hopes of solving them seem like an impossible task – however there’s quite a few misconceptions around the data and how to deal with it. The key is to know which ones need to be addressed and fixed asap, and which are just simply informing you and can wait.

To help you understand the errors a little further, we’ve covered a few of the key FAQs below…

Are these errors are harmful to my site?

A lot of people believe that errors appearing in webmaster tools are harmful to their website. Although it’s best to deal with errors that you find on your website the presence of these in webmaster tools is not intrinsically harmful.

Google states that “In some cases, crawl errors may come from a legitimate structural issue within your website or CMS. How you tell? Double-check the origin of the crawl error.

If there’s a broken link on your site, in your page’s static HTML, then that’s always worth fixing.”

In practice, we often find that Google Search Console brings back a lot of what we call false positives. For example, if a brand has three pages of products, Google will crawl each of these pages. However, as is common with eCommerce websites some of these products may sell out so you could end up with only two pages of products.

This means that Google will pick up the 3rd pages as an error as it no longer holds content. As pointed out in the quote above this is expected, particularly with large sites. We just need to make sure this page is no longer linked to. Most eCommerce platforms will remove any automatic links to this page. The Visualsoft system does this as well as adding a ‘noindex’ tag to empty pages to discourage search engines from reading them.

Do I need to do anything?

If a page no longer holds products or a brand or category is removed from the site the system would automatically remove any links from the navigation of the site.

The only time action would be required is when links have been added into page descriptions or blog posts to the pages which no longer exist. Basically anywhere the link has been manually added.

In some cases sites may have a static navigation menu which doesn’t update to remove links to empty categories, so in these cases the navigation menu would need to be updated.

Will Google remove these once fixed?

Google don’t actively remove errors once they’ve been reported in Google Search Console. They try to flag up everything which could possibly be an issue for the owner of the site to use their best judgment as to how to use that information. Due to this the errors do accumulate in this section.

You can use the ‘Mark As Fixed’ button to clear off errors as you determine what (if any) action is required and deal with them. This allows you to hide errors which have been fixed. However, this is purely to keep track of your progress there; it does not change anything in the web-search pipeline.

Want to know more?

If you want to find out more about the different kinds of errors and what they mean to your website, Google has a breakdown of each of them on this page: https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/35120

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