Missing page from Google Search Console coverage issue

A member of The Colony asked about a notification they received from Search Console. It seems like the page they sent doesn’t have any problems.

Every week, whether or not you receive a notification from Google Search Console, I recommend you look into your account and do a quick SEO audit. Sometimes you might find coverage issues (such as the “submitted, not found” error our member found). This time, however, something strange happened- the page clearly exists! What’s up, Google?

Video Transcript:

Alison: So I got an email from Google Search Console that there was a new coverage issue detected. So I sent it over to Stephie, and she had emailed me back that she’s not exactly sure what it is in reference to because it’s not specifying a URL. It’s saying that…she said, “The error you have suggests that you submitted a non-existing URL for indexing, but we can’t find the page it refers to so we don’t know how to fix it.”

David: Sorry.

Alison: So, yes. Or Google just messing with us?

David: Can you show us the error that you encountered, please?

Alison: Yes, sir. Okay, so this is the email.

David: Okay, it said what it is, okay.

Alison: Submitted URL not found.

David: Okay, okay.

Alison: Needless to say, I did not submit any URLs, so I’m not aware.

David: Okay, okay, well, this is a great question. So, first of all, good catch, and thankfully, Search Console has been very, very helpful lately where it is volunteering when it sees an error and sending us an email, which is another great way just to set it up and let Google tell us if there’s a problem. I recommend we check every week, but in case you don’t get to it, because sometimes we don’t, at least Google will do this. So let’s make sure we understand this problem. So it says, “Submitted URL not found.” And you said you did not submit any URLs.

Alison: No.

David: However, because you use a WordPress website and because you have Yoast SEO plugin installed, you have an XML sitemap created. What an XML sitemap is is a computer code list of all the pages on your site. It’s not really for humans to read. I mean, you can read it. It just is designed to tell Google, “Hey, Google, here, very simply, is a list of all the things on our site.” Because you have that, you are using that to submit pages to Google. So in other words, even though you didn’t manually submit a page to Google, but when sometimes a page gets created, it automatically gets submitted to Google through your XML sitemap. And so what that’s telling us is that a submitted URL, namely one probably through your XML sitemap, got a 404 error. So do you know what a 404 not found means?

Alison: It’s not there.

David: Right. So whenever a web page is viewed, whether by a web browser or a computer program like Google, it sends what’s called a header code. Now, a header code gives just a number value and the computer knows what to do with that number value. Normally, when you see a website successfully, you are receiving a 200 header code. Yay, everything’s okay. In this case, it’s a 404 header code. And so what that tells Google is, “Oh, that page isn’t there.” Now, when we, as humans, because we use WordPress mostly, see a page that’s not found, it usually is formatted nicely, it says page not found. What you don’t know behind the scenes is it’s also setting a header code with that that says this page is 404. That’s where that number comes from. It’s this invisible header code that gets sent behind the scenes. So in other words, what this is telling us is that there was a page submitted to Google probably via your XML sitemap that didn’t exist.

Alison: Okay.

David: And you notice I said past tense. Right? Because if you look at your little bar graph there, it maxed out at one page, and the last day was April 19th. So since then, it is gone.

Alison: Interesting.

David: Yeah, so I’d suggest, and we’ve kind of talked about this before, that Google will have hiccups now and then. And it looks like a hiccup, frankly. Okay, it thought the page didn’t exist for some reason. But it’s resolved it. So, nothing to worry about. There are no current pages. If this page was still…or if you’d logged in on Monday, April 19th, it would have told you which page it was.

Alison: Really?

David: Yes.

Alison: Huh.

David: But because it’s no longer a 404, it’s no longer sending the page doesn’t exist header code. Google said, “Okay.”

Alison: Right.

David: So either it got fixed in your XML sitemap or some other thing happened.

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