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In Jan 2022, a marketing company that was rebuilding my website set all pages to noindex,nofollow. The agreement also allowed them to run ads, optimize, improve SEO, etc., and I was paying a monthly amount for that. I was disappointed in the results of the ads and placement of my site on organic searches, but they couldn't provide an satisfactory answer. Later that year, I hired another company to run ads and do SEM, and those results were disappointing as well.

The answer to this question may be obvious, but not to me, who hasn't grasped an understanding of how Google and other search engines work, along with SEO and SEM, which is why I hired this service out.

What would be the long-term impact of having noindex,nofollow on both organic searches and on Google ads? The only reason I learned about these tags was I just signed up to Google Search Console, and this morning they sent an email letting me know that these tags were turned on.

My observations with ads (Google ads) is that the ads seem to get impressions and clicks at first, but then they rapidly drop off, and I don't see conversions. And the page rank and other Google measures were low.

I feel like this has had a long negative impact on my ability to rank higher organically as well as see better success with Google ads.

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What you have here is two different things: organic search and paid search. The former is very much impacted by the noindex, nofollow directive. The latter is not.

Here's what the meta tag would look like on your website:

<meta name="robots" content="noindex, nofollow">

Noindex tells search engines that the page should not be in the organic index. Nofollow tells them not to follow any links on the page. The directive concerns any crawler specified in the "name" attribute. (In the above case, to all known and legitimate ones.)

Most likely, the agency set this tag on your site to keep it from being indexed while they made changes, and forgot to remove it. That's on them.

What you want by default (but not necessarily on all pages) is this tag:

<meta name="robots" content="index, follow"> 

As for paid search, there is very likely a reason for what's happening (budget running out, Google optimizing away from your ad due to poor performance, others outbidding you by far, etc.) but campaign landing pages are often noindexed in paid search campaigns and still perform. Something else is likely going on here.

UPDATE: Per the comment thread below, and comments by Geoff and OP, while a landing page for paid search would not be impacted by these meta tags, if they're set sitewide, paid search performance might indeed be impacted due to low ad quality scores, etc.

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  • In my experience, a no-follow rule on landing pages for Google Ads will have a seriously detrimental affect, as it prevent the Google Ads robots from accessing the pages. This prevent DSA from running, and compromises Google's ability to evaluate landing pages for relevance and rules compliance. This cripples the performance of a Google Ads campaign. Commented Oct 9, 2023 at 7:32
  • @GeoffAtkins do you have any links from the web on nofollow hurting paid search efforts? I can't find anything, except to the contrary - as in moz.com/community/q/topic/64370/… : "If your landing page is only for Paid campaign then you can no-index and nofollow because there is no impact of no-index and nofollow on PPC landing page..." Commented Oct 9, 2023 at 8:02
  • Just personal experience. A client refused to pay for use to properly track conversion attribution, and insisted on duplicating their site for just paid search advertising. We set it to no-index to prevent either the duplicate or the original site being flagged for duplicate content, and the ads kept getting flagged because Google Ads' spider couldn't check the landing pages. Commented Oct 9, 2023 at 17:41
  • @GeoffAtkins Interesting - could there have been a robots.txt directive or a non-200 server response on that? Also I wonder if Google updated its policies on that recently... I mean, if you have a landing page, it's seasonal let's say, or the offer is changing regularly, you probably want it out of the index, because it's paid search only, would make sense to noindex that page. Now I'm curious. Commented Oct 9, 2023 at 17:57
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    The use case of landing pages not indexed to avoid duplication, etc. makes perfect sense. What I'm wondering is what is the impact on ads if ALL the pages on a site are not indexed and have nofollow on? Link authority would be in the basement, referral traffic non-existent. Seems like it would impact overall ad quality score, which in turn impacts ad performance. That's my observation. Ads start out ok but then drop off a cliff after a short while. It's not due to lack of budget, etc. I'm guessing not many companies are stupid enough to deliver a website with noindex, nofollow turned on.
    – BizOwner
    Commented Oct 10, 2023 at 14:51

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