When implemented tactically and properly, NoIndex tags can be a great boost for your site. But using them with a broad stroke on a massive scale can can create more problems than it solves. On today’s episode of Here’s Why, Mark and Eric explain why you must be disciplined with your NoIndex implementation.
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Mark: This is your website.
Eric: And this is your website with a rogue no-index tag.
Mark: In this episode of “Here’s Why with Mark and Eric”, Eric Enge will explain to you why no-index tags aren’t always the best quick fix for certain major site problems.
Mark: So Eric, what kind of sites might have a problem that would tempt them to use the no-index tag on a massive scale?
Eric: Well sometimes sites with huge page counts, we’re talking in the millions or hundreds of millions, run into big problems that place them in danger of getting a Google Penalty. Maybe they’re trying to maximize opportunities to rank for long-tail terms. Or they’re trying to add lots of refinements to improve the user experience.
Sometimes it’s the matter of a tagging system out of control or the site just has bugs that create lots of pages unintentionally. Here’s the problem: any of those can cause your site to have so many pages that are very similar to each other that put your site in danger of a Google Panda or manual penalty for thin content.
Mark: So couldn’t you just no-index all the pages that are virtually duplicates?
Eric: That might seem like the most direct solution, but it can cause more problems than it solves.
Mark: Well, how so?
Don’t get me wrong, those are an important part of your site’s structure, so having them there is a good thing. The problem starts when some of the links in the product list are pages that are not worthy of being indexed. You can solve the penalty related problems with the no-index tag, but you end up wasting some of that page rank. Here’s an example page to illustrate that problem. In this example, 20% of our topically relevant links to key money pages are pointing to a no-index page. This page rank is basically completely wasted.
Why? Let’s take a look at what happens on a no-index page. Some of the page rank is consumed by the no-index page itself, and even though the no-index page will pass the rest of that page rank to other pages via links, the great majority of those links are going to pages which are not your money pages, as shown in the previous example. Another problem is you may be passing your page rank into never-never land. Wasting the page ranks to key money pages is bad enough, but it’s not the only problem. On very large sites, you can have the situation where Google does NOT crawl your entire site as shown here.
As shown in this image, Google reaches a point where the crawling stops. It simply has decided that there are too many pages on it for it to go any further. Yet the pages at the bottom of the tree where the crawling stops are still passing page rank that go to other pages where Google has not and will not crawl. That page rank is effectively passed into never-never land and is wasted as well.
A third problem with just using the no-index tag to solve these problems is that it can chew up your crawl bandwidth. Google still crawls with pages with the no-index tag on the page. If you have a large percentage of pages on your site that are no-index, Google will spend time crawling those pages instead of crawling pages that it might actually rank for you.
Mark: So if the no-index tag is not the best solution for the types of site problems you listed, what should a web master in those situations do?
Eric: Well sometimes you just have to bite the bullet. You’re going to have to dig into your site architecture and clean up the mess by hand, but doing that work can bring you enormous benefits. A significant development effort will be necessary in order to fix the problems and straighten out the whole situation. However, my experience is that the rewards for doing this justify the effort.
Mark: Well, thanks Eric for your valuable advice. You want to know more about this topic? Check out the link below to Eric’s in depth article about rogue no-index tags, and also be sure to our videos using the link at the end of this episode. Join us again next time for another episode of “Here’s Why with Mark and Eric.”