From the end of July through just a couple of days ago, Google has had this weird error for some sites in Google Search Console. In short, Google Search Console was reporting the wrong canonical URL for some pages. Yesterday, September 4th, it seemed like Google fixed the issue.
The issue was first reported by Rafael Martin back on August 4th, eventually he wrote it up in detail on LinkedIn. I highly recommend you read his detailed write up.
But in short, Google Search Console was reporting the wrong canonical URL for some pages. The canonical URL is the URL Google says is the main URL for a specific page. So if you have a page like this and you add parameters to it, or you have a mobile version or an AMP version, all with different URLs, you can specify which page you want Google to consider the main URL, not the alternate URL – that is called the canonical URL.
This may have impacted e-commerce-related sites but not all, just some – it is not clear which sites were impacted by this.
Rafael Martin said on August 4th on Mastodon, ” In the GSC, the pages with the most links have radically changed. In my case, I have analyzed the first one with the most links (which, in principle, according to the structure of the site, should not have so many links). I check the pages that link to it, and most of them don’t have a link to it (as example one that is a pdf without any links to there). I don’t get it, it seems that google has mixed up some data and is missing out on search results.”
He shared these two screenshots documenting the issue:
He was right, John Mueller of Google actually confirmed the issue yesterday on X after I prodded a bit and he said, “I think there were some weird things for a small number of sites around canonicalization, but not enough to merit making a post. It sounds like things are settling down now.”
Rafael was not just the only person to notice. There was a complaint, at least one, in the Google Webmaster Help Forums and Shaun Anderson also noticed this:
Thanks for retweet. You have more detailed content, with images and graphs of the problem here for analize with your sites: https://t.co/BkY18O0AKV
— Rafa Martin 👽🖖 (@rafainatica) September 1, 2023
Yesterday, September 4th, Rafael wrote on Mastodon that it was fixed, he said, “Good news!!! I don’t have any G warnings, but by testing it seems that almost everything that affected this problem returns to normal. The videos appear in searches correctly again. The images too. We will wait for the recalculation of More Linked Pages.”
Google did not document the fix on the data anomalies Search Console page, so I asked John if this was on Google’s send. In which he replied, “I think there were some weird things for a small number of sites around canonicalization, but not enough to merit making a post. It sounds like things are settling down now.”
Shawn added, “Had me REALLY concerned last week. SC Audit data totally incorrect. I’ve now got audits and advice to completely redo.” Rafael also noted, ” I also understand the concern of affected SEOs and the explanations they have to give to their clients who expect results and that, as an SEO professional, not even they know what is happening. More than anything I think they are referring to this. Those of us who have been affected had a huge headache.”
So if you report on these types of elements to your clients, you may want to redo or annotate the issue that started towards the end of July and was fixed around September 4th.
Thanks for the clarification John. At this end I just did not want to be reporting incorrect data to my customers and also just trying to make a noise in case it was missed.
Phew! I got work to review.
— Shaun Anderson (@Hobo_Web) September 4, 2023
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