What to Do When Google Still Shows Old Website Pages in a Search Result
Sometimes, you want old pages to disappear from Google. The process isn't as hard as it sounds, according to our development team.
You typically want your website to be seen by Google, but there are some instances where you need to remove certain pages from Google's search index. The reasons for this could include that a page no longer exists on your site or that it simply contains outdated information (and you want a new page, with more relevant information to become the more definitive source for a search). Conversely, you may want to just temporarily remove a link that appears in the search index as you finalize copy updates.
Ensuring your site’s presence in search results is up-to-date and accurate is often just as vital as ensuring you show up at all. Ultimately, you don’t want your SEO efforts to direct users to outdated or wrong information.
In any event, you may find yourself in a situation where you need to have a certain page removed from search results but are left confused regarding how to accomplish that. Requesting that a specific URL is removed from Google’s search index is possible, provided you take advantage of their built-in tools.
Prerequisite: Google Search Console
To even begin, your site must be registered with Google Search Console. GSE has applications outside of removing links for the search index including analyzing your site’s structured data, showing search analytics, reporting crawl errors, and much more.
As such, it’s just good practice to ensure your site (or any site’s you build and launch) are properly configured within GSE. If you’re just getting started, you can associate any existing Google account with Search Console. You can then add any site, where you will then be prompted by a variety of methods to prove that you have ownership or administrative access to the site.
After validation, you can then submit a sitemap and configure other search index settings that will help your organic SEO presence. Additionally, this will now allow you to request that specific URLs be removed from the search index.
Delete or Redirect the Page in Question
If you want a page to disappear from search results, the first step is to either delete the page entirely or, at the very least, set up a 301 redirect for the page.
What option you choose depends on how you want the page to be indexed in the future. If the page is no longer relevant, and won’t be in the future, then deletion is the recommended option (or, at least, setting the page’s status to something other than Published in your CMS). If you want for a page to just temporarily be removed from search results, then setting up a 301 redirect is your best approach at this juncture.
The reason for doing this step is that your URL removal request will be significantly more successful if the given page in question is no longer accessible. Ultimately, such removal requests are up to Google’s discretion; accordingly, if the page no longer exists (even temporarily) then your request will likely be approved.
Request URL Removal from GSE
With the page deleted or now redirecting, you can now return to Google Search Console to request that the URL in question be removed from search results.
Log in to the specific site, and under the “Google Index” navigation option, click on “Remove URLs”:
Click on the “Temporarily Hide” button that will now appear and enter the relative URL for the page you want to remove:
Click on the continue button. You will then see several “Request Type” options. They can be described as below:
- Temporarily hide page from search results and remove from cache: Hides the page from Google search results for about 90 days, and also clears the cached copy of the page and snippet. The page can reappear in search results after the blackout period. Google will recrawl the page during the blackout period and refresh the page cache and snippet, but will not show them until the blackout period expires.
- Remove page from cache only: Clears the cached page and snippet, but does not remove the page from search results. Google will refresh the page cache and snippet.
- Temporarily hide directory: Hides an entire directory from search results for about 90 days and also clears cached pages and snippets for all pages in the specified directory. The directory can reappear in search results after the blackout period. Google will recrawl the pages during the blackout period and refresh the page caches and snippets.
Make your selection (“Temporarily hide page from search results and remove from cache” being the default) and click on the “Submit Request” button.
You will now see that the request has been set to “Pending”. This status should after a few hours or days upgrade to accepted. At such point the URL will no longer appear in Google search results.
As the above “Request Type” options show, this URL removal is only for 90 days. If you really don’t want to have the URL return in any fashion, see the above notes about deleting the given page. With all of that in mind, you should now have the URL properly removed from search results, thus ensuring your site visitors aren’t directed to outdated or inaccurate information.