There is a rich profusion of ways to remove URLs from Google, but every approach is fit for a different purpose. You can’t rely on one way to fix all the issues. All depends on your circumstances.
It’s very important for you to understand what approach should be leveraged for removing a URL from Google search console. The wrong method can at times fail your effort to remove the index like you wanted. Moreover, it will also have a negative impact on SEO.
How To Know If a URL is Indexed?
What we generally see is that SEOs check if their content is indexed by using site: or they’d search it on Google. Although site: searches are beneficial for identifying pages or sections of a site, it can also be problematic if they start to show in search results. This is why you have to be careful since these aren’t normal queries and you won’t know if the page is indexed. You might see pages that are familiar for Google, but don’t mistake them for being eligible to show in normal search results without the site: operator.
Site: searches do at times show pages that redirect or may be canonicalized to another page. So, when you’re asking for a specific site, Google might pop up a page from that domain with the meta description, title, and content from another domain. For instance, there’s a site named moz.com which used to be seomoz.com. The regular queries from users leading to pages on moz.com will show moz.com in the search results, whereas site:moz.org will show seomoz.org will be seen differently. The domain name will be seen as www.seomoz.org, while the meta title will be of Moz.
Why are we explaining this difference in detail? Because this distinction often leads SEOs to make mistakes. More often than not, SEOs end up actively blocking or URLS from the index for the previous domain, which stops consolidation of signals like PageRank. There is a plethora of cases of domain migrations where people believe they committed a mistake while migrating because these pages still show for site:old-domain.com searches. This is when people make the mistake of actively harming their website despite trying to “fix” the problem.
To avoid such mistakes, the ideal way to check indexation is by using the Index Coverage report present in the Google Search Console, or you could also use the URL inspection tool if you need to check for an individual URL. These tools will provide you with all the necessary information about how Google is treating the particular page, and also inform you if the page is indexed. However, if you don’t have access to these tools, you can simply search Google for the complete URL of the page you’re looking for.
If you’re working on the SEO of your website, there’s a high probability that you use Ahrefs. In the Ahref tool, if you find the page in the “Top Pages” report, this basically means that Ahrefs saw the page ranking for normal search queries. This is a good sign for you, as it means the page was indexed.
That said, it must be noted that the pages might be indexed when Ahrefs saw them, but they might have changed. For that, you need to check the dates under the “update” column to learn when Ahrefs last saw the page for a query.
Let’s now discuss several methods you can use to remove URLs from Google Search:
1. No Index Meta Tag
There are several different methods to remove pages from Google search results. The most common method is to use the no index meta tag. This tag will prevent the URL from being indexed by Google. This method works only when you do not need to keep the URL. Once you’ve done this, the URL will not appear in any Google search results for the next 180 days. To permanently remove the URL, you must take action.
Once you’ve identified all of the URLs you want to remove from Google, you’ll want to upload them into Google’s webmaster console. This can be done manually, but it can also be bulk-added into your account to remove multiple URLs at once. Make sure you use this method only if you’re certain the URLs you want to remove will be permanent. It can be difficult to do this manually, but if you’re willing to spend some time, you can follow the steps outlined above.
3. Using Google Search Console Or Removal Tools
Using the removals tool in Google’s Search Console is a great way to remove URLs from the SERPs. The tool allows site owners to block a page from Google Search results. By using it, you can see a list of URLs that were reported to be containing adult content. By using the removals tool, you can also remove the content from sites that you don’t own.
There are several ways to remove a URL from Google. Fortunately, it’s relatively simple. You just need to sign into your Google Search Console account and make sure to delete the URL in question. You can also try to report a link to a website that has copied your content. You’ll need to know the URL to avoid penalties. It’s very important to be consistent when removing a website from Google.
If you’ve submitted a list of URLs that you’d like to remove from Google, you can try Webmaster Tools’ Bulk URL removal feature. This allows you to upload a list of URLs and remove them from search results. You can purchase this extension from the Chrome Web Store or download it from Github for free. However, you’ll have to repeat the process to remove URLs permanently.
Click here if you want to know how to submit URLs to Google in 1 minute or less?
4. Delete The URL
If the content is outdated and no longer useful, you can delete it. You can also choose to delete links on Google, if the URL is not a part of your website. Another option is to remove it entirely from Google’s index. You’ll receive a 410 HTTP status code when the content has been removed from the index. A noindex tag will also prevent the content from ever appearing again. This option will allow you to permanently remove the URLs from Google’s search engine.
5. Blocking URLs
Using Google Analytics, you can block the URL from appearing on the SERPs. Once you’ve removed the URL, you’ll need to implement 301 and 410 redirects for any URLs that still appear in Google’s search results. A 410 status code will ensure that the URL is quickly removed from Google’s cache. Once the URL is blocked, it won’t be visible to anyone else and will remain hidden on the internet.
If you have a lot of versions of a page and you’re looking to consolidate signals like links to single version, you’re basically performing canonicalization. This is done mostly to prevent duplicate content from going on the site while you consolidate multiple versions of a page to one indexed URL.
There are many canonicalization options available:
- Canonical Tag: This will mark another URL as the canonical version or the one that you wish to be shown. It won’t be a problem if the pages are duplicate or similar. However, if the pages are completely different, the canonical might get ignored since it’s not a directive.
- Redirects: Redirect is responsible for taking a user and the search bot from one page to another. The vast majority of SEOs use 301 redirect as it tells the search engine that you need the final URL to be displayed in the search results and also tells where the signals are consolidated. On the other hand, the 302 or temporary redirect informs the search engines that you want the original URL to remain indexed and the signals to be consolidated over there.
- URL parameter handling: Parameters are generally placed at the end of the URL and they include a question mark. For instance, ahrefs.com?this=parameter. This tool gives you the authority to tell Google how you want the URL to be treated with specific parameters. You can specify if it’s just there to track usage or to check if the parameter changes the page content.
If you have a lot of pages that have to be removed from Google’s index, you’ll have to prioritize them accordingly. Let’s define the priority levels:
Highest Priority: These pages are usually linked with confidential data or have security information. This may include content that has personal data (PII), proprietary information, or even data of customers.
Medium Priority: Pages falling under medium priority generally involve content made for a targeted group. These may include employee portals, company intranets, content meant for members only, or development environments.
Low Priority: Low priority pages are usually ones that have duplicate content. Prime example of this are pages served with several URLs, URLs that have parameters, test, staging, and even development environment.
Removal Mistakes You Should Know
Here we’ll discuss a few ways we usually see removals done in an incorrect manner and the consequences faced by people in each case to help people avoid such situations.
1. Noindex in robots.txt
There was a time when Google would (unofficially) support noindex in robots.txt. However, it must be noted that it was never an official standard and now, the search engine has completely removed support. All the sites doing this were only harming themselves and this was a wrong practice.
2. Blocking Crawling in Robots.txt
To make things clear, crawling and indexing are two separate things. Know that even if Google is blocked from crawling the page, if there are any external or internal links to a page, they can still be indexed. Google won’t be aware of what is on the page since it’s not crawled, but it would still know that the page exists and may as well write a title to show in search results. This will be shown based on signals like anchor text of links to the page.
A lot of people consider noindex and nofollow as same things. That’s a misconception that needs clearing. Same people would go on to use it at a page level and expect the page to be indexed. You must know that Nofollow is a hint, and it may have been stopping links on the page and links with nofollow attributes from being crawled in the past, this is not happening anymore. Google can crawl these links at any time if it wishes to. Previously, Nofollow was used on individual links with the purpose of stopping Google from crawling specific pages and even for PageRank sculpting. This is again not working anymore since nofollow is a mere hint. A few updates before, if the page had another link, Google would still discover from another crawl path.
Note that it does not really make sense to nofollow all links on a page, which is why the number of results should either be very little or none at all. Also, if you see matching results, you should ideally check if the nofollow directive was mistakenly added in place of noindex, and go on to choose the right method of removal.
Removing images is also one of the most searched and talked about concept. To remove images from Google, the most convenient approach is with robots.txt. Since the unofficial support from Google for removing pages was removed from robots.txt, the most appropriate way to just disallow the crawl of images.
All said and done, how you choose to remove URL is completely situational. We’ve covered plenty of options, but if you still feel you need direction, you can always get connected with Seohub.pk. Here we have the best SEO specialists, web developers and complete 360 degree marketers, ever ready to serve your digital needs. Get in touch, get free quotes and consultation, and ensure that your website reaches high ranks on search engines!