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Until now and still going strong I've always hosted my pre-release websites (my own and customers) (test builds / beta versions) on a test domain, before uploading the whole content to the official domain, purely based upon the assumption that, even with a <meta name="robots" content="index, nofollow"> it would affect your future/current SEO score on the official release of the website.

But I was wondering: Is that actually true?

Of course, without a no-follow, Google (and others) would index all unofficial and, often not completed, content, combined with a (often) worse coded website than the official release, resulting with a lower SEO score.

However, -with- using a <meta name="robots" content="index, nofollow"> your SEO score (might?) not be lower, but for a longer time not indexed.

I'm known quite a bit with SEO, but always wondered if this assumption was true.

My question: Is this assumption true and what could be my best bet of having the website online for testing/showing opportunities, besides just testing locally.

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Although you state you use a "test domain, before uploading the whole content to the official domain" - I'm just a bit puzzled why you allow it to be indexed at all if it's only the "test domain"? –  w3d May 9 at 13:33
    
The official domain of course should be indexed, the test-domain not. Work-in-progress might harm your SEO score, therefor (for presentation and live testing purposes) I'm hosting the website first on a test domain, before it's ready for public launch. This question only refers to the thought if having a no-follow meta tag (until official public launch) will affect the SEO score, versus uploading the site yet until its ready for launch –  Sander Schaeffer May 9 at 13:45

1 Answer 1

I wouldn't worry too much about letting Googlebot view websites that are works in progress:

  • It is very common to have "coming soon" pages. Googlebot knows about them and knows what to do about them.
  • Google expects websites to be released gradually -- releasing lots of pages all at once could be a sign of spam to Google

On the other hand, Google uses usability signals as part of their algorithm. If the site is in such bad shape that users don't like it, I wouldn't put it up yet. Users returning back to the search results to click on another site is a sure way to lose rankings.

I typically release a website as soon as it has a few pages of content that users might find useful. I use a development server that is not publicly accessible before the release date.

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I agree. If at all possible, use an internal web server for development. It does not have to be robust. When you are reasonably done, then deploy the website. However, deploying a large scale website all at once does not indicate spam, but it can be one indicator along with other indicators that indicate spam. If you are not a spam site, deploying large scale changes and updates can work in your favor. Yes it will jerk a knot in Google's tail for a bit, but you will see interesting results that will help you tune your site along he way. –  closetnoc May 9 at 14:56

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