There are countless resources explaining how to get a page crawled and indexed by Google, but what if you want to remove a page from Google’s index?
There are several different cases that exist in the SEO world for wanting to remove a page from Google’s index. Some examples include a low quality page, duplicate content, forum comments, thank you pages… the list goes on. Whatever your reason for not wanting a page to appear in the search results, the process for figuring out how to remove it stays the same.
First, you need to know the four stages of how a page is indexed. After you understand the process, you can identify what stage your page is in and take the appropriate steps to de-index the page. This is a critical piece to the puzzle because different stages require different actions.
The Four Stages of Getting A Page (De-)Indexed
You have to understand where your page is in the indexing process in order to figure out how to get the page removed from the search results. It’s important to note that each stage requires different action items to get it de-indexed. Once a page reaches a stage, you must address that stage first, then the previous stages. If you don’t address the current stage, you’ll run into issues getting the page removed.
Below we will address the different stages a URL goes through to get indexed, and de-indexed, by Google.
The Discovery phase is how Google finds your page. Google can find a page on your website if it’s linked via another page on your own website or other website. It can also find pages in your website’s XML sitemap.
If you have a page that you don’t want Google to discover, try the following:
- Remove all links to that page on your website.
- Remove the URL from your XML sitemap.
- Add nofollow attributes to any <a> tags linking to that page.
Google’s next step is to crawl the discovered page. When a search engine bot “crawls” your page, it is essentially reading the content on the page.
If your page has been crawled, but not indexed, and you want to prevent the page from becoming indexed, try the following:
- Block the page with Robots.txt.
- Put the page behind a login.
- 301 redirect the URL.
After Google’s bot crawls the page, it will determine if the page is valuable. If Google does think the page is unique and worth displaying to users in the search results, it will add the page to its index.
If your page has been crawled and indexed, and you want to remove the page from Google’s index, try the following:
- Add a meta robots “noindex” tag.
- Use the Google Search Console URL Removal tool. Note that this is a temporary fix. Adding a “noindex” tag is the best long-term solution.
Once a page is indexed, it is possible for the page to rank in the search results.
If your page has been crawled, indexed and is ranking in Google’s search results, and you want to remove it, try the following:
- Remove the page from your website.
- Optimize a different page on your website for the topic/keywords the page is ranking for. This is not a guaranteed fix, but an option to try if you don’t want to remove the page.
- If the page is a duplicate of another page on your website, add a Rel=”canonical” tag. This tells Google that you prefer a different page to be indexed. Note that this is only a suggestion, Google does not have to follow it.
Other Tips for Removing a Page from Google Search
When trying to remove a page from Google’s index, it’s very important to consider the order you make changes. For example, if a page is already ranking and you add both a noindex tag and block the URL with robots.txt, the robots.txt rule will prevent Google from seeing the noindex tag. This means, the page will continue to rank and appear in search results. This is why it’s necessary to identify which stage of indexing the page is currently in. The current stage needs to be addressed before moving on to addressing the previous stages, or you will likely be unsuccessful in de-indexing a page.