Live Update Google through the Indexing API in GitHub Actions

July 13, 2023 - 8 min read (1530 words)

In the previous post, I discussed the challenges and delays associated with waiting for crawlers to discover updated content and how to solve that issue for Microsoft Bing using IndexNow.

In this article, I discuss making live updates to Google Search via the Indexing API through GitHub Actions using a shell script to update the search engine upon each deployment of the site.

The evolving GitHub repository storing this blog and its implementation can be found here.

Table of Contents

Prerequisites for the Google Indexing API

Prior to using the Google Indexing API, a number of steps need to be performed to enable authorization to the API and establish ownership for the site you are submitting URLs on behalf of. Google provides a useful guide to these steps which was slightly out of date at the time of this writing.

Establishing Site Ownership in the Google Search Console

Before starting, you will need to establish ownership of your site through the Google Search Console. A number of mechanisms for this step are possible. As a user of Google Domains, I was able to add a property and establish ownership of my site through the use of an affiliated product.

Creating a Google Cloud Project

The first step in establishing access to the Indexing API is to create a project in the Google Cloud Console. Once a project has been created, you may create a service account.

Creating a Service Account with a JSON Key

On the Service Accounts page, create a new service account per the guide.

Google Cloud Console Screenshot

Once the service account has been created, select the highlighted menu beside the account and choose Manage Keys. On the next screen, choose Add Key and select the JSON option. The key file will be downloaded. Store this file securely as it contains a private key. You will need the contents of the file in later steps when running the easyindex-cli utility and when creating a GitHub repository secret.

Adding the Service Account as a Site Owner

Copy the email address of the service account you just created. It will be in the format of Navigate to the verification portal and select the property for which you have already verified ownership.

Google Search Console Owners Screenshot

Select Add User and enter the email of the service account. Select Owner under the permissions drop down and complete the dialog. The API will now be ready to use in the following steps.

The easyindex-cli Tool

Authored in Go by Yusuke Komatsu, the easyindex-cli utility provides a command line interface for interacting with the Google Indexing API. The easyindex-cli project is a command line wrapper around a library written by the same author.

The utility accepts a CSV file composed of URLs to pass to the API. Additionally, it performs a validation step to ensure the URLs are indexable. The library accesses each supplied URL to ensure it returns an HTTP 200 response. Responses in the 300 range, which indicate a redirect, are omitted from submission.

Both the command line utility and the supporting library are available on GitHub under the MIT license.

The GitHub Actions Workflow

A few steps are necessary to modify the GitHub workflow and prepare the repository for a workflow step that uses easyindex-cli to call the Google Indexing API with URLs from the updated and recently released site.

Save the JSON Key as a Repository Secret

Navigate to your GitHub repository, and select Settings > Secrets and Variables > Actions > New Repository Secret. On the next screen create a new secret with the name GOOGLE_CREDENTIALS_JSON and paste in the contents of your service account JSON key from the steps above which you stored in a secure place.

GitHub Secrets Screenshot

Add the Shell Script

The script below performs a series of steps on the GitHub Actions runner:

  • Downloads the easyindex-cli binary to the runner via curl
  • Builds an input CSV file containing site URLs
  • Executes the easyindex-cli to submit those URLs to the Google Indexing API

In this implementation, it is stored in the /.github/scripts/ folder.

Without arguments passed to the script, the Linux native binary will be downloaded. The easyindex-cli tool is compiled for several platforms in each release by its release workflow which leverages the goreleaser/goreleaser-action Github Action. As a native macOS user on an Intel CPU, I added a section of the script that allows a flag to be passed to cause the script to download the macOS native version of the binary for local testing purposes: ./ -o macos. On the GitHub Actions runner, this flag is omitted and the script defaults to the Linux binary.

The URL structure of a generated Gatsby site can be derived from the structure of the code that builds it. Therefore, a script that uses the structure of the repository as its source material can be created that builds the URLs of the pages that were generated is easy to create. The easyindex-cli tool accepts a CSV file as input so creating it in a shell script is possible with a series of echo commands directed to a local working file. Once the temporary working file containing the URLs is created, it is passed to the easyindex-cli utility.
#!/usr/bin/env bash

# Configurable variables used in IndexNow call and URL construction

BLOG_DIR=../../../content/blog/; # Location of /content/blog/ folder relative to tmp working dir

WORKING_DIR=$( pwd; );


# Look for a -o <value> flag to override the operating system
# selection from linux to macos
while getopts o: flag
  case "${flag}" in

if [[ $OPERATING_SYSTEM == "macos" ]]
    EASYINDEX_CLI_OS="darwin_amd64"; # Assumes a mac with an Intel CPU
    # Use linux as a default OS
echo "Using operating system: $OPERATING_SYSTEM";

# Create and enter the working directory if it does not exist
if [ ! -d $TMP_DIR ]
    echo "Creating temporary working directory.";
    mkdir $TMP_DIR;
cd $TMP_DIR;

# Look for an existing easyindex-cli binary
if [ ! -f $EASYINDEX_CLI ]
    # Construct the easyindex-cli download URL
    echo "Using easyindex_cli URL: $EASYINDEX_CLI_URL";

    echo "Fetching easyindex_cli binary.";
    curl -s -L $EASYINDEX_CLI_URL | tar xz;

# Look for a local credentials file
    echo "Using local service account credentials.";
    echo "No local service account credentials file found...";
    echo "Using the GOOGLE_CREDENTIALS_JSON environment variable...";

    if [ -z "${GOOGLE_CREDENTIALS_JSON}" ]
        echo "GOOGLE_CREDENTIALS_JSON is not set or is empty. Exiting.";
        exit 1;


echo "Building URL list from repository structure.";
if [ -f $URL_FILE ]
    # Clean up an existing URLs CSV file
    rm $URL_FILE;

# Begin URLs CSV file creation
touch $URL_FILE;
echo "\"notification_type\",\"url\"" >> $URL_FILE; # Headers line

echo "\"URL_UPDATED\",\"${BASE_URL}/\"" >> $URL_FILE; # Add root URL

# Iterate over folders in the /content/blog/ directory
# to create links to each individual generated blog page
BLOGS=($(ls $BLOG_DIR));
for BLOG in "${BLOGS[@]}"
  echo "\"URL_UPDATED\",\"${BASE_URL}/blog/${BLOG}/\"" >> $URL_FILE;
# URLs CSV file creation complete

echo "URLs CSV file contents:";
cat $URL_FILE;

echo "---";
echo "Updating Google through Indexing API...";
$EASYINDEX_CLI google -d -c $URL_FILE;
if [ $? -ne 0 ]
    echo "Error returned by easyindex-cli. Exiting.";
    exit 1;

echo "Done.";

The complete current version of this script is available at this location.

Add the Workflow Step

In the continuous integration workflow for this site, I added a step to the primary job following the step that builds and deploys the generated output of site to Azure. The step is configured to only run for pushes to the default branch to ensure that it only executes following production releases.

By default, GitHub Actions workflows run in a fairly restrictive user context. The script above performs a number of operations that require elevated permissions to perform in that space like creating a working directory and files within it. As a result, the script must run in sudo mode to work correctly. Per the GitHub Actions Documentation, a passwordless sudo mode is available in the workflow context which makes executing the script fairly painless.

Additionally, take note of the --preserve-env flag passed to the sudo command. By default, sudo will reset environment variables for the new command context. However, this script needs to accept the GOOGLE_CREDENTIALS_JSON variable for use within. To ensure that environment variable is available to the script, this flag is used. The configuration of sudo in the Github runners environment allows the use of this flag.

-E, —preserve-env

Indicates to the security policy that the user wishes to preserve their existing environment variables. The security policy may return an error if the user does not have permission to preserve the environment.

- name: Update Google via Indexing API
    GOOGLE_CREDENTIALS_JSON: ${{ secrets.GOOGLE_CREDENTIALS_JSON }}  if: github.event_name == 'push'
  working-directory: ".github/scripts"
  shell: bash
  run: sudo --preserve-env ./

The complete current version of this workflow can be found at this location.

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Written by J. Patrick Fulton.

gatsbyjs google search indexing api easyindex-cli github actions seo