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I've recently noticed that an entire site I manage had been set to noindex for about 3 weeks. This has caused the entire site to be completely dropped from Google's index (searching "site:" and then the domain name renders 0 results).

What occurred was a redesign of the site was launched, the staging site had been set to noindex (in WordPress). WordPress does this through adding a meta noindex tag to all pages as well as through robots.txt. During the launch, in an apparent confusion by the team, the staging site was set to be indexed instead of the production site. This has also caused the staging site to be indexed in the 3 weeks since.

What I've done so far:

  • Set the production site to be indexed again
  • Submitted the production site to be indexed by Google through Webmaster Tools
  • Submitted a sitemap through Webmaster Tools for the production site (hadn't been done yet, should have)
  • Submitted a reconsideration request through webmaster tools for the production site, explaining what happened (not sure if I should have done this, question below)
  • Submitted a removal request for the staging site through webmaster tools

Here are my questions:

Should I have submitted a reconsideration request? I have a theory (maybe more of a fear, don't have anything to back it up) that possibly Google will wait until they review the request to re-index the site, even though it never violated their guidelines. I would think this will take much longer than waiting for it to be re-indexed. I did this in frantic action after discovering the problem but then had this thought afterwards.

Secondly, because it was a redesign of the site being launched there were 301 redirects set up from old pages to new. When the site is eventually re-indexed, will Google look for those old pages again and follow the 301s, or would it have already written off those pages as gone?

I've read some things saying that when this happens, normally sites regain their previous ranking, but I have a feeling in this case it may be a bit different as maybe the opportunity for Google properly follow the new 301s is now gone?

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2 Answers

You could submit an XML sitemap of the OLD site URLs trough Webmaster Tools, if you still have information about those old URLs. This way Google would both recognize the redirects and find the new URLs as well. I did this for a client once, to speed up things when the site was redesigned.

You could also share some of the new URLs on Google+, as this often leads to rapid indexing.

You didn't need to submit a reconsideration request. It's for the cases when your site has been hacked or you have been doing something spammy - not for an innocent noindex. According to Google's Matt Cutts, it takes about 2 weeks for a reconsideration request to process.

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Reconsideration request is when you're slapped manual penalty. Google would've deleted the internal cache of your pages as you've asked for this.

So it has no history of old pages to compare with new ones. I think you've lost all ranking for all such no-index pages.

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