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Let's just say a "friend" wants to do a guest blog on your site with a link to their site, but you aren't very happy about it. You can't say no, but you don't want to be playing the "link juice" game.

Is there a way that I can instruct Google to completely ignore this URL and any links on it, without leaving any markers on the page itself?

As far as the person in question knows, the page is live with a dofollow backlink, but secretly Google has been instructed to ignore this page completely?

One idea I had was to add some code to detect search engines and return a 404 when they visit. I was worried Google might spot the difference and punish me for trying to give the spider a different page.

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Beside of ethical aspect: yes, it is possible. Let the link be dofollow in the page source code, but send nofollow with X-Robots-Tag, like:

<FilesMatch "page.html$">
Header set X-Robots-Tag "nofollow"
</FilesMatch>

Googlebot reads the X-Robots-Tag earlier then the source code and, despite conflicting signals about this link, it would (hopefully and according to its behavioral logic) follow the signal it got earlier.

  • wont this still be visible on the page though or is this configured globally in google webmaster? – Dan Hastings Jan 26 '18 at 12:30
  • @DanHastings sure it will be visible. It is configurable in htaccess, if you run Apache, or in nginx.conf, if you are run Nginx as webserver. The rule i cited above is for htaccess/Apache. – Evgeniy Jan 26 '18 at 13:04
  • @DanHastings: It won’t be visible in the HTML. X-Robots-Tag is a normal HTTP header. Every HTTP header is visible by checking with a specific tool (a web app, a browser add-on, a command-line client etc.). – unor Jan 27 '18 at 13:59
0

Google's remove URL tool allows you to hide your page from the Google search results for 90 days. This method would leave no visible trace on your site. The only way your friend would know is if they tried to search for the page in Google and couldn't find it.

After 90 days, you would need to make another removal request. Google doesn't pass Pagerank through non-indexed pages, so this method might also prevent the link from counting. However, it isn't clear that the page isn't really indexed, as opposed to indexed but hidden from the search results.

A second method would be to use robots.txt. If you put Disallow: /the-page-to-be-removed.html in your robots.txt file Google wouldn't be able to crawl it or pass link juice from it. It might index the page if it got external links, but it wouldn't include any of the keywords on the page itself in the index. Your friend could check your robots.txt file if they wanted to. If you wanted to make it more discreet you could disguise the Disallow with wildcards: Disallow: /*-to-be-*

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