What Does a “NoIndex” Meta Tag Mean?

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Robots meta tags including noindex tags are pieces of code that tell Googlebots what pages and elements to crawl and index on your website. We’re going to explain what a noindex meta tag is, when to use it, the difference between “noindex” and “nofollow,” as well as how to change or add a noindex tag on your sitemap.

First, let’s jump into what a noindex meta tag is!

What Is a Noindex Meta Tag?

According to Google:

You can prevent a page from appearing in Google Search by including a noindex meta tag in the page’s HTML code, or by returning a noindex header in the HTTP response.

To simplify, this means that if you use a noindex meta tag, search engines won’t index that page and it will not appear in search results. However, it will still be accessible to users on your website through internal links or navigational menus. 

This prevents confusion on the user’s end while still allowing the page to exist. 

Noindex vs. Nofollow Tags

You may be wondering, “What’s the difference between a noindex vs. nofollow meta tag?”

A noindex meta tag tells a search engine like Google not to index a page. Google can still crawl the page but it will not add it to its index nor will it show up on a search engine results page (SERP).

A nofollow meta tag tells a search engine bot not to crawl any links on a page or pass along any link equity. The page is still able to be indexed and will show up on SERPs. 

When To Use a Noindex Meta Tag

So, why would you use a noindex meta tag? What purpose does it serve? And is it helpful or harmful for SEO? Below are several times when using a noindex tag is beneficial.

Guest Author Archives

To start, noindex tags are great for using when a page is necessary for your site but doesn’t need to be found by users on search results. For example, if you have a page with a list of the 100 guest post authors on your website, that page probably doesn’t matter to users. Most times sites will use noindex meta tags or canonical tags for this specific type of content.

Bottom line, these pages have no relevance to your niche or blog post strategy, so practically speaking these pages shouldn’t be indexed or come up in search results. These pages are more valuable for backend organization to you as the webmaster of your site than to users.

Paid Landing Pages

Another example of a time to use a noindex tag is on a paid landing page. Adding a noindex tag prevents search engines from bringing users to the page since it is supposed to be accessed only by your paid audience. You don’t want organic search data being conflated with your paid data. Paid landing pages have a certain target –– people who paid to see the content, and they are not meant to rank on Google.

Category Pages and Tag Pages

Another example of when to use a noindex tag is on blog category or tag pages. These pages separate different blog posts into certain predefined categories and list all the articles in that particular category. You can also put admin and login pages in this bucket as well.

These pages again are useful for backend organization but don’t need to be shown on a search engine results page.

Pages Being Tested or Redesigned

Sometimes you need to test or redesign a page on your website. This is a great example of when to use a noindex tag. You don’t want users on SERPs finding a page that isn’t complete or is in the process of being redesigned. Using a noindex tag will prevent the page from showing up on SERPs.

As you can see, there are some times when noindex tags come in handy!

How to De-index a Page Using a Noindex Meta Tag

If you see an unwanted noindex meta tag on your sitemap, you can easily change this. On the other hand, you can also add a noindex tag quickly. We will show you how!

To add or change a noindex tag, you will need to access your robots.txt file or your HTML. If you haven’t created a robots.txt file can do this by using a free robots.txt generator tool

Once you access your HTML source code of the page you don’t want to be indexed, you can copy and paste the desired tag into the <head> section (or delete it to remove).  

Or, you can update your robots.txt file if you are wanting to add or remove tags to multiple pages.

Benefits of Noindex Tags

Let’s look at some of the benefits of utilizing noindex meta tags on your website.

  • Prevents confusion. Using noindex tags on pages that aren’t valuable to users will prevent confusion to both users and search engines in search results. Pages that don’t need to be accessed by users and don’t provide much value shouldn’t be indexed.
  • Maintains organization. Noindex tags help you maintain the backend organization of your website with pages such as author archives, category pages, or thank you pages.
  • Strengthens your site’s SEO. In some cases, having fewer pages for search engine bots to index can help strengthen your site. It clearly articulates to Google your site hierarchy and conveys the importance of certain pages. If you have too many pages for search engines to crawl and index, bots’ crawl depth can get overwhelmed. 

Using noindex tags on your website can be beneficial to your site in many different situations.

Hopefully, this article helped you better understand noindex tags and their purpose. For more information about metadata, read our blog posts about meta descriptions and meta title tags

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