John Mueller, who’s a Search Advocate at Google, hosts a lot of Google’s current English-language Q&A-style sessions. These are where webmasters and SEO specialists can submit or ask questions pertaining to Google search, crawling, and indexing.
Toward the beginning of the October 8th, 2021 session, Mueller was given a scenario and asked a question pertaining to the use of noindex.
This video is queued to the ~39-second mark, which is where the question was asked.
The scenario, in part, was:
“We have exam websites [where] people add some exams and…label the exams, and Google indexes all the pages [and] all the label pages…”
The participant’s description of the scenario can be heard, at length, by watching the video above.
I don’t want to type it all out here, as it goes into more detail than we need to explore.
That said, I will describe his scenario in my own words:
The participant has a site with a lot of duplicate content.
All of this content (or a significant portion thereof) is indexed in Google.
The participant first canonicalized these duplicate pages, and then, put a noindex on them.
(A noindex in the code of a URL, in case you’re not sure, basically tells search engines not to index the URL.)
But, allegedly, these duplicate pages were still indexed.
Just Leave Them?
And hence, his question pertaining to what he should do next.
John’s response was:
“I would just leave them as no index and…what will happen is over time when we recrawl those pages, they will drop out…”
Okay, that’s good.
John went on to talk about how long this may take:
“…but that can happen maybe…I don’t know…[it might] take a couple of months.”
That’s for a site that’s said to have about 100,000 pages indexed. (But I wouldn’t use that number as an estimation for how soon or thoroughly Google might re-crawl any other site, as there are other factors involved.)
The Final Answer: Just Wait
If you have a page (or URL) that’s indexed, and then you later decide that you don’t want it indexed, you can put a noindex on that page.
But, let’s say that a few weeks goes by, and you check: it’s still indexed in Google.
Well, just wait. When Googlebot gets around to it, that page will eventually drop out of the index. And, it won’t be crawled as often.
(Because it won’t be crawled as often, if you did want it re-indexed, you may have to re-submit it using a URL submission process in Search Console.)
But…the Discussion Continued…
That said, the Q&A discussion around this particular scenario continued. The participant asked (and I’m paraphrasing here), “If I Have Duplicate Content That’s Indexed, But Canonicalized, Does It Negatively Affect My SEO?”
Do you have duplicate content? Is it canonicalized? (If you’re not sure, I give a brief explanation in the news item above.)
You may want to find out for sure.