Heard of index, noindex, follow, nofollow….and wonder what the heck people are talking about? Check out this guide to learn more!
The noindex directive is an often used value in a meta tag that can be added to the HTML source code of a webpage to suggest to search engines (most notably Google) to not include that particular page in its list of search results.
By default, a webpage is set to “index.” You should add a
<meta name="robots" content="noindex" /> directive to a webpage in the <head> section of the HTML if you do not want search engines to crawl a given page and include it in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages).
What are examples of pages that should be set to “noindex”?
- Thank you pages – If you’re including lead capture forms on your website, such as “Contact Us” or “Schedule an Appointment” you likely direct users from your web forms to unique thank you pages once a user submits a form. Having unique thank you pages for each form is best practice for tracking goals and lead submissions on your website but you don’t want visitors to arrive on your thank you pages because they are included in Google’s index! A visitor should only arrive on your thank you pages after they complete your web form. Setting your thank you pages to “noindex” will help keep those pages from being included in SERPs.
- Members only pages – If you have a section of your website dedicated to your employees or organization members, but you do not want those web pages accessible to the general public, or search engines, the “noindex” directive will help keep those pages from being found in SERPs.
The nofollow directive is an often used value in a meta tag that can be added to the HTML source code of a webpage to suggest to search engines (most notably Google) not to pass link equity through any links on a given webpage.
Links are an important part of search engine optimization, although experts argue all the time how big of a role links play in overall ranking. We know that links from external, authoritative websites will help strengthen the credibility and ranking of our own website. Internal links are helpful too! They help users and Googlebot navigate through your website and link important ideas together.
By default, links are set to “follow.” You would set a link to “nofollow” in this way:
<a href="http://www.example.com/" rel="nofollow">Anchor Text</a> if you want to suggest to Google that the hyperlink should not pass any link equity/SEO value to the link target.
What are examples of links that should be set to “nofollow”?
- Links in blog comments – If you took the time writing a valuable blog post for your website, you do not want a competitor or link spammer to be able to add an unhelpful comment to your blog post with a link to his/her own website that says something like “Great blog. I also wrote a blog about this hot topic” and include a link back to his/her webpage so that s/he benefits from the link that person just added from your website to his/her own. If that link is set to “nofollow”, a link spammer can tell that ahead of time and may not bother adding a “Great blog” comment to your blog post knowing there is no SEO value to gain from doing so.
- Paid links – Another SEO tactic that gained popularity in the blackhat SEO community is the mass purchasing of links across the web. Website owners with a Sponsors page on their site, could choose to include logos and include links on their website of event sponsors, but use the “nofollow” meta tag for each link on the sponsor page to indicate to Google that they cannot vouch for each organization’s website that is being linked to. Keep in mind, while “nofollow” links are intended not to provide an SEO boost to the linked content, the links are still valuable for user experience and referring traffic.
Hopefully this guide gave you a better understanding of noindex vs. nofollow and when each can be helpful to use. As a reminder:
- “noindex” suggests to search engines (most notably Google) not to index a specific webpage.
- “nofollow” suggests to search engines (most notably Google) not to pass link equity through links on a webpage.
Be sure to consult a qualified digital marketing agency when applying noindex and nofollow directives to your website. If done improperly, these little tags can do big damage to your organic website traffic.