Google’s John Mueller answered a question in an Office Hours Hangout about whether the Request Indexing feature will return. It was supposed to return in a matter of weeks but it’s rapidly approaching a month. Mueller shared the background of Google’s thoughts on the future of the tool.
Request Indexing Feature
The request indexing feature, found in the Google Search Console (GSC), is a way for publishers to manually request indexing. It is typically used when a new web page is published or an existing page is updated.
It is also useful for signaling to Google that a site is back online after the site was taken offline for a period of time.
Request Indexing Tool Disabled
According to Google’s announcement about the request indexing feature, it was disabled a month ago to facilitate “infrastructure changes.”
The tool was supposed to be down for a matter of weeks. It’s now approaching a month that the tool was disabled.
We have disabled the "Request Indexing" feature of the URL Inspection Tool, in order to make some infrastructure changes. We expect it will return in the coming weeks. We continue to find & index content through our regular methods, as covered here: https://t.co/rMFVaLht6V
— Google Webmasters (@googlewmc) October 14, 2020
Is Google Taking Away the Request Indexing Tool?
The person asking the question referenced a survey asking why publishers needed the tool. The survey was posted by John Mueller on Twitter.
John Mueller revealed that the intent of the survey was to help Google understand how publishers were using the request indexing feature and to take those insights into consideration for deciding what to do next.
Google Not Taking Away the Tool?
John Mueller’s answer hinted that Google wasn’t planning on taking away the tool.
The question that was asked:
“What’s up with the request indexing thing? …Are you taking it away from us?”
Mueller chuckled and answered,
“I’m not planning on taking away anything.”
He continued, mentioning how valuable the tool is for Google:
“…I think this is one of those features where the various teams at Google really kind of love the data that they’re collecting there and love to get these things into the index as quickly as possible.”
Spammers Abuse the Tool
Mueller next brought up the issue of spammers abusing the tool, which is interesting because it suggests that the tool, from Google’s interaction with it, isn’t all rainbows and great data for Google.
“But unfortunately that sometimes also attracts attention from people who are using it to try to get spammy stuff indexed.”
Google Reviewing Use Cases
Mueller next suggested that they were studying the various reasons why publishers use the request indexing feature and to figure out if there was a way to automate the process in order to eliminate the need for manual indexing.
“So one of the things that we’ve been thinking about is… is there something that we could do to make sure that the functionality that people need or why they kind of use this tool is covered automatically, so that people don’t need to do anything manual.
And that’s something I kind of notice on Twitter where there are lots of people who come in with like reasonable reasons to use this tool.
And I feel like we should just be able to handle that automatically so that people don’t need to do things manually.”
No Plans to Take Away the Tool
Mueller next reaffirmed that there are no plans at the moment to make the current offline status of the tool permanent.
“There are no plans to kind of disable the tool or take that away or anything like that.”
Evolving the Tool for Exceptional Use Cases?
Mueller suggested that what’s going on is that they are looking for ways to improve Google Search Console and indexing so that the tool becomes something suitable for rare cases, not something that is used as part of the daily publisher workflow.
“But at the same time if we can handle more of these requests automatically then it just saves everyone more time and is a little bit more efficient.
So that’s kind of the direction I was going there, to figure out what do we need to be doing differently so that you don’t need to… use that manual tool unless there’s really an exceptional use case there.”
A use case is reference to why a publisher might use the request indexing feature.
So when John Mueller says that Google wants the tool to be something that is necessary only in an “exceptional use case” then he’s making the point that the tool should not be necessary under normal circumstances, only in exceptional ones.
In his follow up statement, he points out that the reason it shouldn’t be necessary could be as much or more an issue on Google’s side than something on the publisher side.
Here’s how Mueller explained it:
“And a lot of the things I saw in that were submitted in the forum were really kind of useful where it’s things like, oh, if I don’t do anything manual then it takes two weeks to get a new page indexed.
From my point of view, that seems like something that shouldn’t be taking so long from our side.
So we should really kind of take some of these examples and work to kind of improve our systems… at least from my point of view.
That was kind of the background there.”
Missing Request Indexing Tool Not Related to Recent Indexing Issues
Mueller helpfully noted that the recent indexing issues and the temporary removal of the request indexing feature are not related.
While the timing may suggest they are related, Mueller affirmed that there is no relation between the two events.
“And it’s not related to any of the indexing issues that we had in the past. It’s really just people are kind of working on this trying to figure out what the right approach is here.”
Google Not Taking Away Request Indexing Tool
The takeaway is that the request indexing feature is not going away. It appears that Google is evaluating the use cases and trying to understand what they can do in order to improve.
It appears that it’s not the tool that they want to remove, it’s the underlying need for the tool they want to address so that it’s no longer necessary except in “exceptional cases” where a publisher really needs something indexed with priority.