Meta tagging is a core part of ensuring your website runs smoothly and that Google ranks its pages properly. If you run an e-commerce store, odds are you have at least several dozen product pages. Those product pages can show up on Google search engine results with the right tags, directing your audience to the best products for their needs.
However, you might occasionally need to ensure that a web page on your e-commerce site doesn’t show up on Google. That’s what noindex tags are for. This article will break down what noindex tags are, how they work, and how they might boost your e-commerce SEO.
Robots Meta Tags Explained
There are many elements that go into a properly functioning e-commerce website, like SSL certificates, links to other pages, and meta tags.
To understand noindex tags, you need to understand robots’ meta tags first. In a nutshell, robots’ meta tags (also known as just meta tags) are code directives that instruct search engine robots. Specifically, they tell the robots:
- What web pages they should crawl and index
- What web pages they should ignore
Search engine robots browse the many billions of pages across the internet and index them for displaying in the search results or ignore them as directed. The primary robot tags to keep in mind are:
- Index, which tells a search engine robot to index a specific page
- Noindex, which tells a search engine robot not to index a specific page
- Follow, which tells a search engine robot to follow links on a given page to discover other pages
- Nofollow, which tells a search engine robot to not follow links on a given page
In search engine meta coding, “follow” is the default code. For example, imagine that you use a string of code like this:
- <meta name= “robots” content= “noindex” />
A search engine robot reads that as if “follow” is added after “noindex.” You have to specify that you don’t want search engine bots to follow links on a page rather than the opposite. It can be useful if you’re still building a page and it has several broken links to fix.
Noindex Tags Explained
As you can see from the above breakdown, noindex tags tell search engine bots that they should not index a specific web page. That means a search engine bot may discover a web page but won’t add it to search engine indexes.
When someone searches for keywords associated with that page, it will not appear in the SERPs. Note that noindex tags don’t prevent robots from finding pages. The robots still crawl through the pages and note their contents and tags – they just don’t add them to the public index for searcher discovery.
How Do Noindex Tags Improve Site SEO?
While noindex tags are important for proper site operation and functionality, online business owners might reasonably ask why they would use them at all. Isn’t it always better for a customer to find a page on an e-commerce website, especially if it has hundreds of different products for customers to browse?
Not always. There are many situations where displaying all of your website’s pages can actually hurt your SEO. Let’s look at how noindex tags can help avoid SEO issues.
Prevent Duplicate Content from Penalizing Your Site
Firstly, noindex tags allow you to stop search engine bots from indexing or cataloging duplicate content. Say that you have a Google Ad landing page for your small orthodontic business that has a lot of copied and pasted content from category pages or articles on your website.
If a search engine bot discovers the landing page, plus the other pages it borrows copy from, it could penalize your orthodontic business’ SEO efforts. Google search engine bots don’t like duplicate content, so e-commerce site owners might use the noindex tag on certain pages to prevent this penalty.
Prevent Customers from Finding Low-Stock Items
Next, noindex tags are useful if you want to stop customers from finding product pages for items without a lot of stock. If people constantly visit a product page but don’t make a purchase because your store doesn’t have enough of that product in stock, Google might detect this and penalize that page.
You can use noindex tags as a temporary measure until you restock that item (they are not permanent tags; you can use them whenever needed). It’s best to think of noindex tags as tools to leverage when appropriate. You might even regularly review page tags and decide to filter pages in or out of circulation as time passes.
Experiment with Pages Without Affecting SEO
From time to time, you might want to experiment with or revamp your e-commerce site. That means launching web pages for measures such as A/B testing. The only trouble is you don’t want Google to index those test pages before you are ready for it.
Noindex tags are the perfect solution. These tags allow you to test different web pages for functionality or broken links without indexing them before they are ready. Once the web pages are good to go, you can launch and make them “live” for Google searches by changing the noindex tag to an index tag within the page code.
Tell Engine Bots to Ignore Low-Value Pages
Your e-commerce site has an overall score, and certain pages are of higher value than others. If you eliminate low-value pages from your site, Google will reward you with a higher search engine rank, which could help you bring more traffic to your site.
But what if you don’t want to eliminate the low-value pages for one reason or another? Instead, you can use noindex tags to tell bots to ignore those low-value pages and move to high-value pages. Pair these tags with nofollow tags for even better rankings.
Streamlining Site for Searchers
Lastly, you might wish to streamline your e-commerce site for Google searchers. Noindex tags prevent cluttered pages or pages that aren’t meant for average searchers from showing up on Google. That way, when people search for your brand, they’re directed to either a single landing page or a handful of high-quality pages. This, in turn, allows you to better direct traffic to the best parts of your site or sales funnel.
Noindex tags are important tools you can and should leverage for your e-commerce site. When implemented properly, noindex tags can improve your site’s search engine rankings and lead to better traffic and sales. Try using noindex tags for the benefit of your SEO today!