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When we work with clients on improving their website’s health in Google (aka one piece of what’s known as SEO), one of the first things we do is check to see if there are pages on their sites that should be hidden from search engines.
Clients are often surprised by this—isn’t more content better? Well, not really!
Which pages to no index, then?
While this is very much a judgement call, there are pages I almost always “no index,” which means telling Google, “Hey there, friend! Please don’t scan this page and show it to people in your search engine!”
Blog tag/category pages. These often are duplicated content, or are used for internal organization. While you can do some sophisticated things in WordPress to create amazing landing pages for these pages, in most cases, this is unnecessary and they should be no indexed. I would say that for Squarespace users, you almost always want to no index these pages.
Thank you pages. These are a great way to turn your website into your own little virtual assistant but Google most certainly does not need to be indexing them. In fact, if you have freebies, discount codes and the like hidden in these pages, it can be quite annoying if they get picked up by Google. (There are actually bots that scan for this kind of content and aggregate it—yuck!)
Form submission pages. I have a ton of these on my site, since I basically have a form for each kind of inquiry. I like to keep forms off of my main content pages since they all come from a third party CRM service, Dubsado, which can slow down pages. Furthermore, again, this would only serve to confuse people who found this without the context of the prior page. An obvious exception would be your general contact page. (You’d be shocked at how often we find permutations of “how to I content [COMPANY]” as a common keyword for site discovery.)
Landing pages for ad campaigns. I’ve seen this even on the savviest of marketers sites. If you’ve built a nice sales page that a paid ad campaign is directed to, you’ll want to no-index this. Again, it’s all about context. The page won’t make sense without the ad that brought the visitor to it. These can also be largely duplicative of content you already have, so again, that’s problematic.
Generally thin content pages. This is where we really get into judgement call territory. But, if you have pages that are light on content, you may want to consider if they’re adding to the overall context of your site or if they can be hidden from search engines and serve the simple role of informational page. I see this a lot on sites with staff profiles, vendor info, that sort of thing.
How to no index a page:
Squarespace Users – This is finally baked into your website! You simply go to the SEO panel in your individual pages and select “hide from search engines.” The official guide is here.
WordPress Users – We use and recommend SEOPress for this, but Yoast and several other tools allow you to do this as well. In SEOPress, simply select “no index” in each page you want to hide. Easy peasy. Look in the documentation for your SEO plugin for guidance.
If you’re using another platform, you may need to include a simple line of code in your page, as described here.
I’ve no indexed, now what?
Once you’ve done all that, some pages will continue to show up in Google for awhile. You can nudge the search engine if you’re comfortable using Google Search Console, but for my own site, I often take the lazy route and just want until Google crawls my site again and takes note of the no index notice. Since I update my content regularly (and you should too), I know this will likely happen sooner rather than later and don’t stress about it.