What Is a Noindex Tag? A Guide to Search Engine Directives

Adam Steele
Nov 9, 2023

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Noindex tags are simple yet powerful directives determining which website pages are visible in search results.

To catch you up to speed with noindex tags, by the end of this guide, you’ll

  1. have the answer to the question, “What is a noindex tag?”
  2. understand its importance in search engine optimization (SEO),
  3. and have a firm grasp on noindex tag best practices.

What Is a Noindex Tag?

The noindex tag stands out for a unique reason—unlike other meta tags that tell search engines about the content of a page, the noindex tag does the opposite. It sends clear instructions to search engines saying, “Do not show this page in search results.”

Why would webmasters not want a web page to appear in search results? There are several reasons, which we’ll cover in more detail later, but for now, here are a few quick examples:

  1. to avoid duplicate content issues,
  2. to optimize crawl budget,
  3. and to tailor content to different audience demographics.

So, what does a noindex meta tag look like in practice? Let’s take a look.

Understanding the Noindex Tag and Its Relation to Other SEO Directives

The noindex tag is a specific directive placed in the <head> section of a webpage’s HTML source code. The meta tag looks like this:

<meta name=”robots” content=”noindex”>

If you wish to target a specific search engine bot, you can replace “robots” with the bot’s name, such as:

<meta name=”googlebot” content=”noindex”>

While the noindex directive prevents indexing, it doesn’t stop search engines from crawling the page. To prevent both actions, you can combine it with the nofollow directive:

<meta name=”robots” content=”noindex, nofollow”>

To verify if a webpage uses the noindex tag, view its source code (typically by right-clicking and selecting “View Page Source”) and search for the noindex directive within the <head> section.

Comparing Noindex with Other Directives

Noindex vs. Disallow in Robots.txt

While noindex prevents indexing at the page level through meta tags, the Disallow directive in robots.txt stops search engines from crawling specific pages or directories. For example:

User-agent: * Disallow: /private/

This code prevents all search engines from crawling pages under the “/private/” directory. However, disallowed pages can still be indexed if linked from other sites.

Noindex vs. Canonical Tags

Canonical tags address duplicate content issues by indicating the “preferred” version of a page to search engines. They help determine which page should be indexed when multiple pages have similar content. For instance:

<link rel=”canonical” href=”https://example.com/original-page/”>

This tag tells search engines that the current page is a duplicate and that the “original-page” is the primary version to be indexed.

Learn more: Interested in broadening your SEO knowledge even further? Check out our SEO glossary, where we’ve explained over 250+ terms.

Why Is a Noindex Tag Important?

What are the use cases for the noindex meta tag, and why are they important? By using it, you can:

Shield Sensitive Pages

Imagine prepping the launch of a new product page only to realize its draft, filled with placeholder text and prices, is publicly accessible. Enter the noindex tag. With it in place, such blunders are easily avoidable, protecting your brand’s image and credibility.

Tailor Visibility

Let’s say you own a pizza franchise that operates within several US cities, and you’re running a special promotion for only those customers who visit your New York store.

Without the noindex tag in place, the promotion will be discoverable to potential customers from other locations. And they probably won’t be too happy to discover that they could be getting their favorite meal cheaper at one of your other stores. The meta tag ensures precision in content delivery.

Optimize Crawl Budget

Search engine crawlers, like Googlebot, allocate a predetermined amount of resources to crawling and indexing for each website in the vast expanse of the internet. A resource that is known as “crawl budget.”

The noindex tag directs search engines to the most important and relevant web pages and ensures they don’t waste time in areas that don’t benefit your site’s visibility.

Learn more: how to index your website on Google.

Manage Content

In this fast-paced digital world, content quickly transitions from timely and relevant to outdated or obsolete. Without proper management, these outdated pages clutter your website, making it harder for visitors to find the information they seek.

This frustrates users and impacts their perception of your brand. They might question your expertise or the freshness of your content, leading to decreased trust and engagement.

Enter the noindex tag. It meticulously curates the content that should be displayed and what should be kept away from the public eye. So, by strategically using the noindex tag, you ensure that your website remains a hub of relevant, up-to-date information, reflecting your brand’s commitment to quality and user satisfaction.

Safeguard Reputation

Duplicate content can lead to penalties, pushing your site down in rankings. Imagine the lost traffic and trust. The noindex tag is your first line of defense, ensuring your site remains in good standing.

Indexability FAQ

Q1: What Is the Difference Between Noindex and Sitemap?

Answer: A noindex tag instructs search engines not to index a specific page, ensuring it doesn’t appear in search results. On the other hand, a sitemap is a file that provides search engines with a roadmap of all the pages on a website, helping them discover and index content more efficiently.

Q2: How Do I Know if My Website Has robots.txt?

Answer: To determine if your website has a robots.txt file, simply add /robots.txt to the end of your domain. For example, if your website is www.example.com, you’d go to www.example.com/robots.txt. This file provides directives to search engines about which parts of the site to crawl or not crawl.

Q3: What Is the Difference Between Noindex and Noarchive?

Answer: The noindex directive tells search engines not to index a page, ensuring it doesn’t appear in search results. In contrast, the noarchive directive instructs search engines not to store a cached version of the page, meaning users can’t access the cached version from the search results.

Conclusion and Next Steps

SEO is a multifaceted discipline, and while the noindex tag is a crucial tool in your arsenal, it’s just one of many. To truly elevate your online presence, you need a comprehensive approach that addresses all aspects of SEO.

At Loganix, we offer managed SEO services tailored to your needs, whether you’re a local business or running a large national campaign. Our decade-long experience in the field ensures that you get the best strategies and solutions for your specific goals.

🚀 Explore Loganix’s SEO services and see how our expertise will be the conduit for your digital success. 🚀

Hand off the toughest tasks in SEO, PPC, and content without compromising quality

Explore Services

Written by Adam Steele on November 9, 2023

COO and Product Director at Loganix. Recovering SEO, now focused on the understanding how Loganix can make the work-lives of SEO and agency folks more enjoyable, and profitable. Writing from beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia.