I challenge you to prove me wrong on this. Actually, I plead with you to prove me wrong. Someone, please, prove me wrong.
Let me ask you a question. Have you ever seen the noindex tag improve the ranking of a website? I’m venturing a guess that you haven’t. I haven’t and I’ve been playing this SEO game for a very long time. Over 20 years, to be exact and I’ve owned and worked on many different websites in many different industries. Not once have I seen the noindex tag have a positive effect on a site. Not once. And you know what? I am so sick and tired of people saying that it does.
I just finished reading a post about how the noindex tag was the cure-all for a website that had its ranking suppressed by the Google Panda algorithm. The person who wrote the article stated that they had their ranking drop and then, after placing the noindex tag on thousands of pages that they thought were duplicate and of low quality, their ranking sprang back and now it’s better than it’s ever been. I’m here to say that the person who wrote the post I just read is a liar. I have no idea of their motivation for writing something like that, but it’s not true. They’ll have to prove it to me before I believe them. I doubt they can.
Here are the facts. The no index tag stops a web page from being shown in Google’s search results. That’s true. The problem is, the page is still in the index. It gains pagerank and it’s just like all the other pages on the site. So, if you’ve got thousands of these things, you’ve got thousands of pages with very low pagerank that will cause you to be penalized by Panda. Prove me wrong. I beg you.
Yes, noindex pages still live in the index and Google knows about them. They are distinct pages and can (perhaps) fall out of the index some day if they are of low enough quality. They may not though. Do you want to risk that?
Noindex pages pass pagerank, but it’s a very small amount because of the low pagerank of the page itself. The primary issue with these pages with the noindex tag on them is that they absorb pagerank that can otherwise be used more effectively on the website. If you have thousands and thousands of pages with the noindex tag on them, you’ve got a big problem, especially if you’re linking to them internally. That practically guarantees that they’ll hang around forever.
If you have a directory with only one link leading into it and that contains thousands of noindexed pages, the best thing to do is to block that directory in the robots.txt file. Again, make sure there aren’t thousands of links going to those thousands of page or else you’ll have thousands of blocked pages that will never fall out of the index. If there’s only one link going to all those pages, block that link and the pages will disappear over the next few months. I know this. I’ve done it a dozen times. I am not lying like all the liars out there.
The canonical tag is a much better bet than the noindex tag. At least with the canonical tag, you can potentially merge similar pages with others. It really depends on your situations, but I can tell you this; you definitely don’t want thousands of pages with the noindex tag on them being crawled for eternity by Google. Trust me.