There are many businesses out there that are not sure whether they should keep content indexed, or whether they should no index their content for better SEO.
It is no secret that Google does not like one thing – content that isn’t useful to the user. Google’s primary goal for their search engine is to satisfy the searchers intent and needs. But what if your website doesn’t do that? If you fail to do this consistently you may be liable to a Google Panda penalty.

What Does Indexing and No-Indexing Mean?

Simply put; indexing content is allowing the page in question to be indexed in search engine results. In the modern age of the internet this will more than likely happen automatically unless you specify otherwise.

No indexing is the reverse of this. In order to no-index a page (or a website) you must use a code directive that says to search engine robots ‘please do not index this page’.

What does a Noindex Metatag Look Like?

If you want to noindex a page, the best way to do so is to implement a meta robots tag like this:

no index metatag
Example of a no index metatag

Why Should I No-Index My Content?

Surely you want all of your content to show up in search results, right? Wrong. Here are some example scenarios where you may want to noindex content:

  1. You have a private area of your website for members.
  2. The content is thin/ low quality.
  3. For conversion pages such as a thank you page.
  4. Tag pages if they contain irrelevant information (primarily for WordPress).
  5. Author page if you only have one author.

For the most part, all of the above points have a definitive yes/ no answer. However, the 2nd point can be somewhat of a grey area.

Deciding Whether or Not to Noindex a Page

When you have a scenario where you have lots of pages on your website but you are not sure what pages to noindex, it can be a tricky decision. Please bear in mind that we consider no-indexing content to be a short term solution and is not the perfect solution for a long term strategy.

We have created some general rules for making the decision whether or not to noindex content. There are some rare exceptions to this decision process, but more often than not, asking these questions is a good way to decide.

Is the Page Getting Traffic from Organic Search?

Assuming you have analytics set up on your website (every website should at least be using Google Analytics), you should be able to view the traffic of your web page. You can find the traffic to a single page by going to your GA reporting and follow the path:

Behaviour > Site Content > All Pages

Once here you can search for the page you are looking for:

Google Analytics Page Search
GA search display

Remember to select your date range here, and be sure to change your primary dimension to ‘landing page’, and your secondary dimension to ‘medium’ so you can see what traffic is coming from outside the website:

GA - Search parameters
Google Analytics Search Parameters

Once here you can isolate the pages which are not receiving much or any traffic. All pages that are receiving traffic may potentially be improved but for now they are not the priority.

Yes – Remain indexed, but always check content quality vs ranking to make sure you aren’t missing an opportunity.

No – Move on to the next question.

Is the Content in the Main Body of the Page Over 300 Words?

This is something that has been in debate for years in the SEO community. What text volume constitutes ‘thin content’? For me, it depends on whether 300 words is comprehensive for what you are talking about. We use 300 words as a benchmark but if you want to be really thorough, you can increase that benchmark to 400 or even 500 words.

If it is under 300 words and it is not getting traffic you may have a problem. Time to move on to the next question…

Yes – Review the content, search volume for target terms and the ranking, this may be an opportunity to improve.

No – Move on to the next question. Potentially improve the content.

Is the Content Original or Duplicated from a Manufacturer?

If you are not working with an eCommerce website, this will probably not apply to you, so feel free to move on to the next question.

Panda PenaltyIf you do in fact receive content from a manufacturer or supplier, then it is common for you to copy and paste the product description they give you straight into your product page. This is a bad idea. If you do this consistently across your whole website, you could be at risk of a Google Panda penalty, and at the very least you will not rank very well, and be getting minimal traffic.

Yes – Improve the content, Noindex page in the meantime.

No – Check the next question. Potentially improve the content.

Is the Page Ranking in the Top 3 for its Target Search Term(s)?

In some scenarios the page could be thin content, not much traffic, but it is still ranking in the top 3 for your target search terms.

If this is the case for you then it is probably not worth investing time in this page… right now at least. In the future the search volume may rise for the search terms of the page and could result in great traffic and sales. I’d recommend keeping an eye on the traffic and ranking to make sure you are proactive if the situation changes.

Yes – Remain indexed, monitor traffic and ranking going forward.

No – Improve content, Check the next question.

Is There a Lot of Internal Links Pointing to the Page?

There are a lot of SEOs out there that may have decided to noindex after that last point, but they could have been headed for a huge mistake.

It is important to make sure that you consider ‘link flow’ around your website when you are noindexing pages. For example, if you have just noindexed a page that has 1000 internal links pointing at it, and those links are coming from authoritative pages in your site, that link authority will be lost and wasted in your site.

In this case, you might not want to noindex at all, but you may want to prioritise improving the content of these pages.

Yes – Consider improving the content on the page or perhaps if the page is not relevant, 301 redirect it to a more suitable page.

No – If all of your questions to this point have been no, this page can be noindexed. Again we would only suggest this as a short term solution whilst you make the necessary improvements.

In summary, strategically no-indexing the correct pages on your website can give you a great bump in overall site quality and rankings, but as you can see from this article it is not a simple decision making process and you should exercise caution. It is always worth getting an SEO consultant/ agency to cast an experienced eye over it to make sure you are going in the right direction.

Is there any other metric that you use to decide whether to noindex your content? Or is there anything you disagree with in this process? Either way, I’d be interested to hear your opinion. Let me know in the comments or get in touch with me via out contact page.