Last week the Yoast SEO Plugin for WordPress announced a bug. We learned that the update in March had changed the image attachment page redirection setting.
In the following article I’ll show you how to discover if you were affected by the Yoast SEO bug, how to fix the bug, and what you can expect along the way.
Explanation: Yoast SEO Bug
In the plugin, there is a setting to forward Attachment Pages to the parent post. In the latest upgrade, the setting changed to forward Attachment Pages to the attachment itself. A small change. So far so good?
When the SEO plugin updated last March 2018, they rolled out these changes. Unfortunately on some sites, the settings for this option changed to no forwarding. That means that the forwarding of the attachment pages were now not forwarded anywhere.
If your attachment pages are not forwarded anywhere, they are crawled and indexed by the search engines. The number of indexed pages will skyrocket. Over time, your graph will look like this:
To see if your site is affected, visit Google Search Console > Google Index > Index Status and around mid-March 2018 you’ll see a spike in indexed pages.
Indexed Pages. Isn’t that good?
No! Not these pages.
We do not want attachment pages indexed! They contain nothing except the page header, sidebar(in some cases) and the attachment (image, video, etc). In other words, the attachment pages are very empty. And we all know that empty pages are frowned upon by search engines.
Fix the Attachment Page Settings
A couple of weeks ago, Yoast released the fix for this and an update to the plugin. This is the full explanation if you’re so inclined: Yoasts article.
To fix the bug, just switch your setting to ‘yes’ again in the SEO > Search Appearance > Media tab like so:
The setting is switched to “YES” again. So those attachment URLS are not in the sitemap, and are not indexable.
Fix the Empty Indexed Pages
However, for some sites, the pages are already in Google’s index. If they are, and you view Google Index > Index Status, you’ll see a graph similar to the one above.
Yoast released a plugin to solve this problem. This plugin will deindex any attachment pages. This has been confirmed by Google team themselves (in conference with Yoast) as the best approach. Follow both steps below to de-index these pages.
De-index your Attachment Pages
Step 1: Download and run the Yoast SEO Deindex plugin. Leave it active for several days until most have been de-indexed.
This plugin will turn off the SEO > Search Appearance > Media options and you’ll see a message like this:
Step 2: Submit a new sitemap to Google Webmaster/ Search Console. And delete the old one.
If you’re using the Yoast SEO default sitemap, the address is yourdomain.com/sitemap_index.xml.
Note: While the plugin is active, it is likely you’ll receive a Crawl Error warning from Google.
What this means for you
Maybe nothing. Even if you have a lot of attachment page links indexed, your seo ranking could still be the same. It really depends on if Google noticed, and how badly it counted against your site’s ranking. Yoast estimates that very few were effected negatively in SEO.
Maybe something. If you have a graph with a spike in indexed pages, and your ranking took a dive a bit after that, it’s possible that this was the culprit. It’s also possible that your competition upped their game; you did something to lower your score or Google changed it’s algorithm. To understand exactly the cause of the dip in your ranking you need to investigate all possibilities to come up with an educated guess.
Don’t put this off. The longer you leave this, the greater chance Google will see the attachment pages as ’empty’ and lower the ranking scores for your website.
As always if you need a hand please let us know! We are here to help!
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