How do I delete a page from my website but not hurt my SEO?
We talk a lot about SEO when we talk about marketing your business on the web. There is a simple reason for this. Search Engine Optimization is what helps your website get listed on Google and Bing and Yahoo so that the people that search for the services you offer will find you. When the average user clicks a link, they decide in under 4 seconds if they clicked the right thing or not. A web page that shows up in search results but doesn’t go anywhere will return a 404 error when they click that link. Most users will hit the back button and leave your site if they get a 404 error. That’s the main reason you can’t just delete a page from your site if it becomes out of date. You’ll have to remove a web page from Google search if you want to eliminate this source of 404 errors.
We get a lot of questions about SEO and Google and 404 errors. If you want to know more about how to remove a web page from Google search, read on.
Q: We have a page on our website that shows up in Google, but it’s wrong, out of date, and we just want it gone. Can we delete the page from our website? Is there some way to make the Google search redirect to a new page?
A: You’ll need to set up a 301 redirect. That will send anyone that goes to www.example.com/oldpage to the correct www.example.com/newpage. You don’t want to delete that page without a 301 or your visitors will get a “404-not-found” error on your site. This isn’t just a bad experience for your visitors. Search engines don’t like to hit missing pages either. It makes your site appear “unhealthy.” When you remove a web page from Google search you keep everyone happy.
Q: I see a lot of plugins on WordPress.org/plugins that handle 301 redirects. Which one do you recommend?
A: I prefer to put them directly into my htaccess file. I get this question frequently, so I put some example code here: http://eppand.com/301-redirect-htaccess-file/
The 301 isn’t the only thing you should do to remove that page from the index. You will want some help from a plugin, though. You should already have the Yoast SEO plugin loaded on your WordPress site. If you don’t, install it now.
Once you have it installed, go back to edit your old page. Go to the Yoast settings at the bottom of that page, click on the Gear tab and set the meta robots index option to noindex and click the nofollow radio button below it. You could also go the extra step and add a Disallow to the robots.txt file. That isn’t required, but it doesn’t hurt.
That line in your robots.txt file would look something like this:
Q: How can I see what pages are indexed?
A: The best place to see where / how many pages you have indexed are Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools. Google doesn’t give you all that data, but going to their webmaster tools is a great start. You can also do a site search on Google to see the URLs indexed. It is not a comprehensive list, but it is quick and easy. Example is here: http://lmgtfy.com/?q=site%3LTnow.com
Keeping Track of Site Health with Google Tools
Connecting your site to Google Webmaster Tools is one of the best things you can to do maintain and monitor the health of your relationship with Google search. After you make these changes, you’ll want to check back every week or so for a month to make sure everything is still indexing as it should. That is also where you’ll notice that your index changes sizes and pages begin to be left out or added as you directed. If you remove a web page from Google search, this is where you will start to see the results.
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