What does this Google Search Console error message mean?

by Nate Hoffelder

After a decade of running The Digital Reader, Nate is a veteran web publisher with experience in design, maintenance, recovery, and troubleshooting. What little he doesn't know, he can learn.

April 22, 2024

Every so often I get an email from a client or a potential client with questions about Google Search Console.

This is a free service from Google which you can use to monitor how your website appears in Google’s search results. It will tell you things like the terms people were looking for when they clicked a link to visit your site, how many visitors you’re getting from Google, and how many of your pages have been indexed by Google (sometimes that number is zero).

Google Search Console will also email you error messages when it finds a problem, which brings us to this post.

So a lot of clients have asked me to explain the error message they just got from Google, and I am going to tell you what I almost always tell them.

I won’t know what that error message means until I investigate further, but you can probably ignore it.

Between my time as a blogger and years spent as a web designer, I have over a decade of experience with GSC. One thing I’ve learned over the years is that the emails sent out by GSC are almost always a waste of time.

Something like 98% of the error messages fall into one or more categories:

  • Google not being able to index a part of the site which never gets indexed (not on any website),
  • Google not being able to find parts of your site which never existed in the first place,
  • Google double counting pages, and reporting duplicate content which doesn’t actually exist,
  • Formatting issues which don’t actually exist,

While there are times that Google will report a real error to you, in my experience the valid messages are so rare that you can safely assume that whatever Google is complaining about is not a real problem and can be ignored.

While I do always investigate error messages forwarded to me, I wish I did not have to waste my time with them. Oh, and just to be clear, I am not upset with clients sending me the error messages; my frustration is with Google (they’re the ones who created a poorly-designed tool).

If you do get an error message from GSC, please do send it to me and I will take a look. But if you don’t have the time or energy to deal with it, you can just ignore it (this is what I do with my own website).

Hi, I'm Nate.

I build and fix websites for authors, and I am also a tech VA. I can build you a website that looks great and turns visitors into fans, and I can also fix your tech when it breaks. Let me fight with tech support so you don’t have to.

My blog has everything you need to know about websites and online services. Don’t see what you need. or want personalized help? Reach out.

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