Google Search Index Hiccup

Ever had your new [website] content show up great in Google's search results only to disappear a couple of days later? You may have tried resubmitting your sitemap repeatedly and making changes in how you publish your content, fearing the possibility your site isn't up to spec with Google's Webmaster Guidelines. A couple days later, you find your content has magically reappeared in Google's search results.

What causes this? In a nutshell, I don't really know. It's simply the pattern I've noticed in the short time I've been monitoring my new content ranking in Google searches. Initially I thought Google had blacklisted my newly published content for some reason, but that doesn't seem to be the case.

My research on this phenomenon hasn't turned up anything definitive as of yet. I read one person's speculation that this may be Google's way of trying to get webmasters to buy adwords in order to maintain a consistent place in the search results. Although there is a logic to that, I'm not sure I buy in to it. I can come up with several other logical theories as to why this happens but there's really no way to tell right now.

When my new content shows up in Yahoo, it seems to stick. In Google, it shows up well, then it disappears, then it's back again. When it returns to Google after being completely removed from their index for a couple of days, it seems to stick. It may take another day or two after that before it settles in to its (relatively) final search rank in the results.

I call this strange vanishing, reappearing act the Google Search Index Hiccup, or just Google Hiccup for short. This term has been in use by other webmasters for a while already - generally to describe how their search results move around in rank, rather than completely disappearing for a couple of days. If you're reading this, it has probably happened to your content too and you're seeking answers as to why.

I'm not going to spend much time talking about it anymore. This will (hopefully) be my last post about how my content temporarily disappears from Google's index. It's a bummer that it gets removed from Google's index just a couple days after publication, but oh well. After the G-machine is done doing whatever it does during its "hiccup", my content will return to the search results. The Google Hiccup will result in a greater degree of lost traffic when publishing content relevant to recent events or news, but at least I should get two good days of traffic from Google before disappearing for a bit. Guess that's just life on the net.

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Hey. I read your posts about Google flipping recently indexed pages, then reindexing them later. I think the reason why this happens has to do with the nature of blogs and RSS feeds.

When a new blog post is published, the post shows up very quickly in Google's search results, because most blogging software pings search engines and blog sites like Technorati that new content has been published. This is especially true is a blog site has an XML sitemap that pings Google.

Because of the ability to ping search engines, the content gets indexed before Google can apply the necessary algorithms to the page/content. It takes time, probably a couple days for Google to catch up to the new content that was prematurely indexed because there are many pages in queue. Once it does, Google takes the page down and evaluates it properly and then reindexes it.

I have no idea if this what happens, but it makes sense to me. Interesting articles. Thanks for writing them!

@Alex - Your take on things seems pretty logical. I've been pondering similar theories on what happens behind the scenes.

I ping Google and a few other sites when I publish new content. It gets me listed in Google's search usually within the hour. But a couple days later, it completely disappears for a few days until returning a few days after that.

It would be so much nicer if they could simply let the content remain in the search results, without disappearing, and then simply give it the correct (or final) search rank after Google's digital gastrointestinal track has fully digested the material.

I guess it's like real food if you think about it. You can see it to begin with. Then it disappears down the esophagus and heads for digestion. After "processing", what's left gets pooped out in to the great search-results-toilet of the big G. Or something like that. :-) think you're on to something. You do have to wade through a lot of crap to find the gold nuggets. Here's something I noticed as well.

Different computers have different search results in Google. Google dropped one of pages, like yours, on my computer, but it's still available on other computers when they search Google. I think I read somewhere that Google has many servers that aren't updated or have the same content all at once and they rotate out.

Or maybe it's IP address related. Who knows? But I agree with you, it would be smarter to let the pages remain where they are instead of removing them till later.

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This page contains a single entry by Todd published on August 13, 2008 8:03 PM.

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