It happens to the best marketers. You search for your website on Google and notice the search engine has indexed some pages that you would have preferred to keep private or hidden. This could include outdated information, duplicate content or content that contains sensitive or private information.
Once you’ve discovered this content on Google, one of your first reactions may be panic.
Take a breath! And remember the following options for getting content removed from Google’s cache:
Before applying a no-index tag, decide what kind of content you are dealing with:
- If the content in question is of a private nature, remove the content from your site and ensure security is enabled on the page so that crawlers are not able to access password-protected content.
- If the content only needs to be updated, make your changes in your CMS and then allow Google to re-index quickly by entering URL into Google Search Console.
- If it’s duplicate content (for example, any blocks of content that appear more than once across the site) that should remain on your website, keep the content as is and then apply a no-index tag to the pages you do not want indexed.
At this point, you can wait for Google to re-crawl your website and the content should drop out of search results or be updated automatically.
But, if the content issue is urgent and you would like it to be removed right away, proceed to Step 2.
Google Search Console is a free tool offered to anyone that manages or owns a website.
If you are not already a verified owner of the website, follow verification instructions provided by Google then,
- Log in to your account
- Choose “Remove URLs” from the “Google Index” menu
- Click “Temporarily hide page from search results and remove from cache” and enter the relative URL of the page you wish to remove entirely from search results and Google’s cache.
Google will typically process your request within 24-48 hours.
- Click “Remove page from cache only” if you’d like the URL to remain but you want the cache for the page to be updated faster.
- Click “Temporarily hide directory” if you’d like to remove an entire folder or directory of your site from search results.
- Click “Temporarily hide page from search results and remove from cache” if you want both of the above options completed.
You’ll know when your request has been processed once a “Removed” status appears on your Remove Urls list within Google Search Console.
If you are looking to ensure your content is being removed as quickly as possible, Google offers an additional tool to remove outdated pages, it is a part of Search Console; but is accessed through the Public Search Console Help page. For this application, you do not have to be a verified owner of the website. When you enter the URL you wish to delete, the tool will then analyze the URL to determine whether the content was removed. If it has, it will process your request as an Outdated Page Removal. The immediate detection is protection from unauthorized page removal requests.
Check Search Results to Determine if Removal was a Success
Sometimes, after successfully removing a page from the index, you may find that the page still exists within search results and the cache.
To check whether it has been removed, enter the exact URL into the search bar and see what results are returned.
The removal request is case-sensitive, so you will need to submit multiple versions of the URL if your URLs do not redirect to their lower-case versions, and if canonicalization is not present.
It is considered an SEO best practice to ensure all pages redirect to their lower case version because search engines recognize URLs with different cases as being different pages.
Ensure you have followed Google’s Removal Guidelines
Remember that the link removal request that you’ve submitted through Google Search Console is not permanent. After 90 days your content could return to search results pages if you haven’t performed the following actions to block access to your content:
- Block URLs with robots.txt
- Block URLs by password-protecting your server directories
- Block search indexing with meta tags
- Opt-out of display on Google+ Local and other Google Properties
With all that in place, you should be good to go!
Still having problems?
Google does not provide phone support for these kinds of issues, since Google My Business representatives are only trained to help with issues related specifically to how your business appears to users on Google products such as Google Maps.
However, you can connect with other individuals that may have had similar issues to yourself on the Google Product forums.
If you believe your issue is a bug, you could also report a Security Bug through another one of Google’s platforms.
And of course, if you’re a business and struggling with how Google is indexing your content, don’t hesitate to call us or submit a question through our website.