Contrary to what some might think, there are several ways in removing URLs from Google and other search engines. However, there isn’t a single method that will fit every circumstance. Taking the wrong approach won’t just keep you from achieving the intended outcome, but it could potentially affect your SEO negatively. With that said, we have compiled a few tips that should help you remove the undesired web addresses. Keep on reading to learn more.
- Content deletion
The first approach in removing a URL is to delete the content. If the page is taken down and ends up with a 404 status code, then it will be removed shortly from the search engine’s index once it has been recrawled. However, until then, it may still appear in the SERPs or search engine results pages. And even then, there is still a chance for the temporary availability of the cached copy. This method is the simplest, but it can still take a while. As such, it is best used if URL removal is not a priority.
Another way to remove a URL from search results is through no index tag for meta robots or an x-robots response header. What they do is tell the search engines that a page needs to be removed from their indexes. The previously mentioned meta robots for the actual pages while x-robots does the same but supports additional types of files like PDFs. To ensure that these tags are visible, Google needs to crawl them. It is for this reason that you must ensure that they remain unblocked in the robots.txt file.
It is also well worth noting that the removal of the pages through this approach may lead to the separation of links and other types of signals. So you may have to consolidate everything again once the process is completed.
- Access restriction
If you are looking to keep the page itself accessible to specific users without having it appear on search engines, then you will need to consider opting for one of the following options:
- Utilize a login system.
- Use HTTP authentication wherein users need a password to access the content.
- Whitelisting IPs, a process where you’ll only allow certain IP addresses to get into the pages.
This setup is commonly used for internal networks, development sites, member and staging, or tests. It presents a specified user group, but Google and other search engines will not have access to them and thus will be unable to index and crawl them.
- Removing URLs from Google via a removal tool
The name of this Google tool is a little misleading, and the reason for it is that it merely hides the content instead of taking it out. The page will remain visible to the search engine and can still be crawled by it. However, it will not appear to users in the search results. The effect will last only for half a year for Google, but it still beats Bing’s tool which gives the page only three months of temporary invisibility.
This technique should only be utilized in extreme situations like data breaches, security concerns, etc. If you are looking for a much longer timeframe, you will need to pair this strategy with other methods such as content deletion or access restriction.
When there are various versions of the same page and you are looking to consolidate all signals into a single source, you’ll want to use the strategy of canonicalization. This method exists primarily to help you avoid any duplication of content while unifying everything into one indexed URL. Here are a few options you can choose from:
- Canonical tags. This option specifies a web address as the genuine or canonical version. If all the URLs are similar, it will appear. However, if there are too many differences, the canonical page may not be considered.
- Redirecting. This leads users and search bots from one web address to another. SEO services commonly use 301 for redirection, and it lets search engines know the URL to appear in the search results and the location where all the signals have been consolidated.
- Parameter handling. Parameters are usually appended at a URL’s end and includes a question mark on it. What this does is tell search engines how they should be treated. In this case, you can specify any changes in the content, track usage, and other actions through the utilization of the right parameters.
Whether it’s to prevent data loss or test a page, there are many reasons why you’ll want to keep Google from letting a URL appear in its search results. However, you must do it correctly if you want to get the desired results. With the abovementioned tips, you’ll be able to remove the web address that you want from the search engine.