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Which pages should I noindex or nofollow?

Some of the pages of your site serve a purpose, but that purpose isn’t ranking in search engines or even getting traffic to your site. These pages need to be there, as glue for other pages or simply because regulations require them to be accessible on your website. If you regularly read our blog, you’ll know how noindex or nofollow can help you deal with these pages. However, if you are new to these terms, please read on and let me explain what they are, and what pages they might apply to!

If you want to know how to noindex a post in WordPress in a super easy way, you should read this post: How to noindex a post in WordPress: the easy way.

What is noindex or nofollow?

Both are settings you can add to your robots meta tag. Want to know more about that? We wrote quite an extensive ultimate guide on the robots meta tag that you should read.

In short:

Pages that you might want to noindex

Author archives on a one-author blog

If you are the only one writing for your blog, your author pages are probably 90% the same as your blog homepage. That’s of no use to Google and can be considered duplicate content. To keep these out of the search results, you can noindex them.

Certain (custom) post types

Sometimes a plugin or a web developer adds a custom post type that you don’t want to be indexed. At Yoast, for example, we use custom pages for our products, as we are not a regular online shop that sells physical products. So, we don’t need a product image, filters like dimensions and technical specifications on a tab next to the description. Therefore, we noindex the regular product pages WooCommerce outputs and are using our own pages. Indeed, we noindex the product post type.

By the way, I have seen shop solutions that added things like dimensions and weight as a custom post type as well. These pages are considered to be low-quality content. You’ll understand that these pages have no use for a visitor or Google, so need to be kept out of the search result pages.

Thank you pages

That page serves no other purpose than to thank your customer/newsletter subscriber/first-time commenter. These pages are usually thin content pages, with upsell and social share options, but no value, content-wise. Those pages shouldn’t be in the results pages!

Admin and login pages

Of course, login pages shouldn’t be in Google. But these are. Keep yours out of the index by adding that noindex. Exceptions are the login pages that serve a community, like Dropbox or similar services. Just ask yourself if you would google one of your login pages if you were not in your company. If not, it’s probably safe to say that Google doesn’t need to index these login pages.

Internal search results

Internal search results are pretty much the last pages Google would want to send its visitors to. If you want to ruin a search experience, you link to other search pages, instead of an actual result. But the links on a search result page are still very valuable, you definitely want Google to follow them. So, all links should be followed, and the robots meta setting should be:
<meta name="robots" content="noindex, follow">

The same setting goes for all the examples mentioned above, there is no need to nofollow the links on these pages. Now, when should you add a nofollow to your robots meta tag?

Pages that you might want to nofollow

Google roughly indicates that there are three reasons to nofollow links:

  1. Untrusted content
  2. Paid links
  3. Crawl prioritization

For instance, we add a nofollow tag to links in comments. We don’t know what all of you are dropping in there, right? It could be anything, like #1 and #2 from the list above. Regarding #3, this could, for instance, apply to login links, which we sometimes find on WordPress websites (see image on the right). It’s no use having a Googlebot go over these links: they add no value. These should be nofollowed.

All of the above is very much on a link level. But, if you have, for instance, a page that lists SEO books, with a surplus of Amazon affiliate links, these could be of value to your site for your users. But I’d nofollow that entire page if there’s nothing else that matters on the page. You might have it indexed, though. Just make sure you cloak your links the right way.

To be honest, on a regular website, I don’t think there are a lot of pages I’d set to nofollow. Check for yourself if you have any content that mainly contains links like the ones Google indicated, and decide if Google should follow them or not.

Changing SEO insights

At Yoast, we always try to keep you on top of your SEO game, only bugging you about it when necessary. For years, we used to have a “Noindex subpages of archives” checkbox in Yoast SEO. It made all the sense in the world to noindex, follow these, and have Google index just the main page, the first page of your (f.i.) category archive. But, we were always aware that Google was getting better and better at understanding rel="next" and rel="prev" on these subpages of archives. Yoast SEO adds these tags as well.

At this point, we know that rel="next" and rel="prev" cover the way archives should be indexed and noindex-ing subpages isn’t necessary anymore, so we’ve removed that setting from our plugin altogether to make sure it’s done right on your site!

Conclusion

As we have seen, whether or not to noindex or nofollow a page boils down to two questions: do you want this page to show up in the search results pages and should search engines follow the links on this page? For ‘thank you’ pages or login pages, for example, the answer to the first questions is “no”, for a page with loads of affiliate links, the answer to the second question is “no”. Keep the examples from this post in mind and you shouldn’t have any more trouble deciding the answers for your own site!

Read more: Prevent your site from being indexed, the right way »