It also hit two of my sites which got me reading around about what might have caused the drops in traffic. After reading this article from Glenn Gabe I started looking for an issue that might have flagged my two sites as low quality.
Naturally I started digging for issues in GWT.
When I checked the index status there seemed something off. Here is how it looked on both sites:
The issue was caused by the YOAST plugin. In one of the updates, they have included a feature that creates separate pages for all your images. They look like this: yourdomain.com/your-article/image1
This has created a ton of thin pages with only one image indexed by Google.
Here is how the setting looked by default and you should check your site if you have Yoast for your SEO plugin.
And here is how it SHOULD be. This is the correct setting.
Then again this leaves us with all the indexed URLs that would take quite some time to get crawled by Google again. I decided to not wait it out but remove all the URLs from the search manually.
How can you do that?
First, go to the new search consol in GWT.
Then go to status > index coverage
Update to make it more clear:
Click on the Indexed, not submittted in sitemap(this is where those image URLs should be)
Then click on the button on the right to download it as CSV.
Now open that with Excel or Open office and make a list of all the bad URLs you want to remove.
Then head to Notepad++ (Download it here if you don’t already have it) and paste the column with the bad URLs here. Should be one URL per line. Save it.
Google Remove URLs tool only allows you to do it one at a time. And this takes a lot of time.
Here is a way to automate the URL removal from GWT
- Download this extension from GitHub.
- Unzip it
- Go to Chrome and in the browser type chrome://extensions/ and turn on Developer mode(on the right corner).
- Click on Load unpacked extension . . . and load the extension.
- Go to GWT Google index > Remove URLs and when you click temporary hide you should have the option to choose a file.
- Select the text file you already have and Google will start adding the URLs. Every 40-50 URLs you will have a notice that your quota is over so you need to refresh the page to continue.
After I made the correct setting in Yoast and removed the URLs from GWT I saw a fast recovery of the lost traffic. Here is a screen from analytics.
In my case, the quality issue was the thin image pages created by Yoast. Check your index and Yoast settings and if you have this issues as well, remove the URLs as soon as possible.
However, if this is not your case, look for overall quality issues with your site.
Check if you have canonicals and they are properly set.
Check you indexed status.
Make sure your site is not hacked and is not serving malware.
Check for duplicate content like author archives/dates/tags and so on.
Gid deeper and fix all your technical issues.
Good luck and wish you all a fast recovery.