What is a Noindex Tag? Definition and Uses

A noindex tag is a meta tag used to communicate that you would not like that page to be indexed. You’re telling Google, “do not show this page in the search results.”

When the search engines come through and crawl your pages, they’ll encounter the noindex tag which is usually found in the header of your page, and they can still crawl it, but they’ll know not to list it in the search results. 

There are a handful of reasons why someone would want a webpage hidden, and in this guide, I want to help you understand these reasons and how to properly use noindex tags to improve your rankings and user experience. 

Types of Noindex Tags

There are three primary noindex tags I want to focus on. There are more out there but I think these are the four you’ll want to utilize on your website.

1. Meta Robots Tag

This is the most common noindex tag you’ll add to the header section of your webpage. 

  • <meta name=”robots” content=”noindex”>

This type of noindex tag is a versatile option and can be used for a wide range of scenarios, from preventing search engines from indexing thin content to managing staging pages. It’s a one-size-fits-all option. 

example of noindex tag

2. X-Robots Tag

You can noindex pages at the server level using HTTP . This provides a way to control multiple pages and non-HTML files. If you have many images or PDFs you don’t want indexed, this is the way to go. 

HTTP/1.2 200 OK

Date: Fri, 11 August 2023 12:32:17 GMT

(…)

X-Robots-Tag: noindex

You’ll need to access your site’s header .php or server configuration file to find where these noindex tags go. This is generally done through your website’s cpanel. 

3. Canonical Tag

You may have noticed that I haven’t talked much about duplicate content, and that’s because I don’t recommend using noindex tags for this. Canonical tags are the recommended method of addressing similar content on your website. 

  • <link rel=”canonical” href=”preferred-url”>

This typically happens when you’re testing multiple pages with similar content. Once you’ve determined which page performs better, you can use canonical tags to tell Google that you prefer one option over the other. 

noindex definition

How to Use a Noindex Tag

Here are some of the ways you’ll use a noindex tag on your site: 

Preventing Thin Content

We know that valuable content is becoming more and more important and Google is paying attention to the quality of the information you’re putting out there. 

That said, for many reasons, you might have pages on your website that are plain, basic, and simple. You might have sign-up or glossary-type pages with very little content on them that don’t provide much value.

They have a purpose, but you don’t really care if they ever rank because that’s not why you have them. 

These are pages that could benefit from a noindex tag. They can dilute the value of your authoritative content and prevent Google from focusing on the pages that contain your valuable content. 

Managing Pages That Aren’t Ready

While you’re building, developing, or testing pages, you might not want Google crawling them because they’re not ready for the public. Adding a noindex tag to the page will allow you to continue testing it without worrying about what Google thinks of the page. 

Reducing Crawling Time

This tip is a little uncertain, but I believe it matters. Why let Google waste time on pages that don’t matter? Most websites have a handful of pages that make up the majority of their traffic and revenue. Why not allow Google to focus on those pages instead of having to crawl your entire site? 

Think about it this way. 

If you have pages you do not intend to rank, why are you letting Google crawl them? Pages like terms of use, affiliate disclosures, contact us, about us, and so on are all pages you don’t need indexed. 

Add a noindex tag to them so Google can crawl your most important pages more frequently.

Why is a Noindex Tag Important?

Using noindex tags help you to focus Google’s attention on the pages you consider most valuable. Adding these tags will reduce the time wasted on low-quality or non-essential pages, so you can improve your overall search performance. 

In addition to Google, noindex tags also help with user experience. You’re ensuring that only your best pages are showing in the SERPs, which can reduce bounce rates and increase the amount of time spent on your site. 

Do Noindex Pages Pass PageRank?

When you noindex a page, you remove it from Google’s index. A lot of people say that using the “noindex, follow” tag will allow link juice to still pass through the page, but this has been debunked over time. 

That said, if the page previously had links and was indexed, it could still provide value to your site as a whole so I wouldn’t recommend removing links or ignoring broken ones. Conducting a site audit will help you determine if these pages are still valuable, and Link Whisper can help you do that! 

Final Thoughts

The noindex tag is something that every SEO professional should have in their arsenal. Understanding its purpose and how to use it properly will allow you to maximize your website’s potential in the SERPs. 

By integrating noindex tags judiciously, you shape a refined and effective online presence that aligns with your SEO objectives and user expectations.

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