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After merging two sites, one with ~40 URLs and one with ~700 URLs (due to a forum) the result was that overall traffic decreased by ~50%. I want to get the traffic back, as it was organic and a helpful resource to the community.

After finding this answer I decided to try removing the ~700 forum pages from the index by using a robots.txt disallow, which didn't work. As this FAQ and this answer point out, the robots.txt must allow the pages and meta noindex must be used.

After applying noindex tags to all forum pages, removing the disallows from robots.txt and waiting a week, still there are 700+ URLs in the index according to Google webmaster tools. However, if I view the advanced index status and check all the boxes, it shows 795 URLs indexed and 200+ blocked by robots. The blocked by robots graph line is increasing steadily (~30 URLs per week). Note that average crawl rate is ~125 pages per day.

My question is this:

How can I tell that the URLs have successfully been removed? Looking at Google webmaster tools' graph of index status is what I thought was a good indicator, but I am wondering what should actually happen in the results there. Should the blue graph line of total indexed drop back down to a low URL count (as I am expecting), or will the total indexed remain high and the blocked by robots and/or removed URLs increase?

This answer from Google seems to indicate that the total indexed (blue line) should drop. Why then has it not dropped at all after applying the noindex tags and waiting a week?

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2 Answers 2

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Google Webmaster Tools index count will fluctuate constantly especially with dynamic sites or those using common platforms such as forum software.

The best way to tell how many of these URL's Google are dropping from their index is to use the site operator in Google's web search, for example:-

site: example.com/forum

This will show you all indexed URL's at /forum/* - if you perform this search every few days and see how many URL's are indexed, this will give you an idea if they are being dropped from the index as you intend.

As these URL's start getting dropped from the index, you should expect to see the total indexed count in Google Webmaster Tools also decrease accordingly, although as I mentioned above, there will also probably be plenty of new URL's Google are indexing (and dropping) from your site each day.

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Thanks. Followup question: will all those extra URLs, even though they have been de-indexed, still count towards the site's crawl budget? –  Nat Weiss Aug 12 at 23:38
Yes, in Google WMT, the URL's crawled on your domain will still include those that are blocked from being indexed in Google (whether via configuration of URL parameters in Google WMT or robots declarations). –  zigojacko Aug 13 at 7:19

Unfortunately, the fastest way to remove pages from the Google index, you abandoned. There is nothing wrong with using the robots.txt file to remove pages from the Google index.

Having switched to noindex, it will take some time for the spider to fetch all of the pages and update the index. The speed will depend upon the freshness of your site in the past.

Part of what may slow this process down is changing the game. I strongly suggest staying the course. The more you change things around, the more you confuse the machine and the slower it will be to get what you want.

Be patient. It will take some weeks before the page are removed. Search engines are notoriously slow.

Unfortunately, there is no really good way to check your progress except for that the graph you already mentioned. Sometimes the numbers may not make sense. Google seems to use Microsoft for calculations sometimes. When the graph has leveled off for a period, it is likely that all the pages are de-listed. One thing you can do is to take a sample of the page titles and do a site: search using the unique titles in quotes. Taking a sample can give you an idea of what is going on.

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So will the google webmaster tools total indexed count drop when the noindex pages are finally crawled? –  Nat Weiss Aug 12 at 7:16
@NatWeiss That would make sense to me. I do not use the Google tools as much as I use a log file analyzer and some custom tools I created for my specific needs. I do keep an eye on some metrics Google supplies including (occasionally) indexed pages and site maps to gauge progress. I actually prefer to use a site: query since Google Webmaster Tools lags behind 2-3 days. –  closetnoc Aug 12 at 15:22

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