When Google first debuted their search engine tool, the revolutionary technology behind it was powered by the concept of web crawlers. In essence, the company was operating a fleet of fast, automated servers that would travel across the web through a path of hyperlinks. When one of these servers landed on a webpage, it would scan all of the HTML content and add it to its indexing engine for users to be able to search. Then the web crawler would automatically follow any hyperlinks within the HTML and use those connections to expand its range on the internet.
These days, search engine optimization (SEO) is a key concept for anyone running a personal or professional website. By ensuring your web content meets certain standards, you can improve your site’s ranking on Google and other search engines. This also involves knowing when to tell Google to not index your content, which can be done by using the “noindex” HTML flag. Considering when to use this flag and implementing it on your web pages should be a part of your SEO audit.
Basics of Indexing
If your website is viewable on the public internet, that means it can be accessed by Google web crawlers and other search engine utilities. You can manually submit your site’s URL for indexing through Google’s webmaster tools, or else you can wait for the bot crawlers to navigate to your pages through hyperlink tracking. A good on-page SEO strategy should take care of ensuring that all pages are being indexed.
By default, search engine crawlers will capture all static HTML content that your web server hosts. This includes text, images, and page style and formatting. By adding this content to their indexing database, search engines can quickly run their algorithms across the data and find matches for search queries. In addition, companies like Google may host cached versions of your website, which will present all content from a specific point in time.
There are a few exceptions where search engines will not automatically index your web content. These include:
- Password Protection: If your website uses authentication methods which require users to manually log in to their account, then Google and other search engines will be unable to index all of your web content. The bot crawlers will only be able to access your main homepage and other public pages.
- Nofollow Flag: In specific instances, you as a webmaster may choose to hide certain pages or content from search engine crawlers. This can be manually done using the “nofollow” HTML flag. Read on to learn more about how it works and when it can benefit your site.
Adding the “Noindex” Flag
Once you have identified a webpage that you want to block from search engines, you can modify the HTML code and implement the “noindex” flag. The flag is used within a meta tag attribute.
To insert the “noindex” flag, add a new line to your HTML code and use the following code:
Meta name=”robots” content=”noindex”
Here are a few tips to keep in mind when adding the “noindex” flag:
- The code must be inserted into the “head” portion of your HTML content. Placing the meta tag elsewhere will not activate it.
- You can block Google indexing specifically by changing “robots” to “Googlebot” in the meta tag attribute. This will allow other search engines to still index your site.
- Consider consulting with an SEO agency if you are unsure of how to implement the “noindex” flag on your website or blog.
When to Use the “Noindex” Flag
In most cases, you want your website to get as much publicity as possible and therefore will want search engines to index your content on a regular basis. This will ensure that your site keeps a high ranking in search results and will appeal to visitors.
However, there are several scenarios where you may want to consider implementing the “noindex” flag in order to block search engines like Google from indexing your content. These reasons apply mainly to larger websites and blogs, as smaller sites do not have enough content to warrant the usage of the flag.
- Administrative Pages: You only want your primary text and image content to be indexed by search engines. Having a lot of background or utility content can damage your search rankings. So it may be best to add the “noindex” flag to any parts of your website that are administrative in nature, such as login and logout pages, site settings, or error and confirmation messages.
- Archive and Category Pages: Most blogging platforms include dedicated links for a site’s full archive of posts as well as filtered pages based on category tags. These features can be helpful for visitors browsing your content, but search engines like Google may consider them to be duplicate content. Consider adding the “noindex” flag to these pages so that only your primary posts are picked up by search engine crawlers.
- Custom Posts: Integrating with other web applications and platforms can add dynamic content to your own blog or site, but be wary of letting search engines index these types of custom pages. Add the “noindex” flag on any pages that will contain external data which may not be relevant to your site or could damage your search reputation.
- Search Results: If your website or blog contains an internal search tool to help visitors locate content, then be sure to use the “noindex” flag on any page that displays search results. These types of pages are difficult to track and do not provide extra value, as the search engines will have already indexed the original posts or pages.
Alternatives to the “Noindex” Flag
The “noindex” flag is not the only method for controlling how search engines like Google index your website’s data. When updating or publishing your site, consider the options below. Companies which offer SEO services may be able to offer advice on which solution is the best for you.
- Robots.txt: For more flexibility in regards to control over search engine indexing, webmasters can install a robots.txt file at the root of their site directory. This file uses a special command protocol for deciding which pages and types of content will be indexed by search engines. However, the rules added to robots.txt can be overwritten if a search engine accesses your site via an external hyperlink. In these cases, it is more secure to use the “noindex” flag instead.
- “Nofollow” Flag: The “robots” meta tag attribute which you use to enable the “noindex” flag also supports the second attribute. This option can be set to “follow” or “nofollow” and will determine how search engines manage hyperlinks on your website. The “follow” option will instruct the web crawler to follow all hyperlinks and index the results, while the “nofollow” option will prevent the crawler from advancing past the current page.