I bet you never thought that Google’s ability to help people find your site could be a bad thing. However, the issue of Google indexing your staging/developing site can create a nightmare for your site rankings.
So that’s why this month webmaster and Google+ blogging guru John Mueller posted a list of tips and tricks to tackle Google’s “too-smart-for-its-own-good” indexing abilities.
Here are some of the takeaways:
What Is a Staging Site?
A staging site is a testing ground site for your actual website. By creating one, you are developing a subdomain that is supposed to remain hidden from the public. The site’s purpose is essentially to be your testing “sandbox” for your website before the real deal is published under a separate domain.
A staging site is meant to be an interface to allow web developers to layout the functionality of a website under an unlisted URL before creating a public URL for the website. This is done so reviewers of the site can see exactly what the site will look like before going public.
However, Google’s indexing powers can be so effective that in some cases it will list your staging site version within the Google Search network.
Google Indexing Staging Server = Harmful Things
Having your staging site indexed by Google can cause harm to your actual site’s search results. This is because being double indexed means that there are essentially two websites (your staging site and your “real site”) that have nearly the same exact content floating around inside the world wide web.
This duplicate content can negatively affect your search rankings because it confuses search engines, forcing them to try to determine which site is the correct one to direct traffic two.
John Mueller’s Recommendations
John Mueller mentioned several different tactics in his blog post for how to remove your developing server from showing up in Google search results. He says that while HTTP authentication and whitelisting your IP address are typical workarounds for hiding your developing site from the Google index, they aren’t the most effective methods.
Mueller recommends instead that webmasters use the Google Search Console. Using this URL processing feature will lead you down the quickest path toward removing your staging site from the index. Going through the steps listed on the search console will remove the host name from the index for up to 90 days. The feature also allows users to extend the host name removal past 90 days if needed.
For more tips on how to execute the changes needed to hide your staging site from Google indexing results, check out John Mueller’s Google+ blog post.