How to hide content from Google

Why would you want to hide content?

For most of us, it’s not a matter of how to hide all of our site content from Google, but a handful of pages, blog posts or media files.
As an example, I have some PDF downloads that I provide to my nerd alert peeps that I’d rather not have showing up as a top result in a Google search. Or maybe you’re working on a new project + the graphics/page just aren’t ready for public consumption yet.
Whatever your reason, it’s really easy to protect your content from being shown on Google search result pages, as long as you know where the settings are.

Option 1: hide all the things

This option is pretty nuclear, so it’s unlikely you’ll use it. Yet if you find yourself wanting to keep your entire website clear from any search results ever, follow these steps.

  1. in your dashboard, head to Settings > Reading
  2. check the checkbox next to Search Engine Visibility
  3. click the Save Changes button

This will prevent everything on your site from showing up in Google searches — pages, posts, attachments, uploads, etc. The only time I recommend this option is if the WordPress site is member’s only + there is no public-facing or free content.
Using this option, you don’t have to individually exclude content from searches — but don’t confuse this with having a membership plugin that keeps users from accessing content. If they know the URL or have a link from another source, that checkbox won’t keep them from viewing your site.

Option 2: hide individual pages or media

Odds are that you’re looking for an easy way to protect a few PDFs, client intake forms, an audio file or two + some graphics. If you didn’t install the SEO plugin I recommend, you’ll want to add it to your site now.
What this plugin does is allow you to update the SEO settings for each page, post + media file individually.
Pages or Posts
In order to exclude a page or post, head to the editor of that content. Scroll to the Yoast SEO box (or your SEO plugin area) + click the gear icon.
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From there, set the first dropdown to No so the page isn’t shown in search results. I’d also set the Meta robots advanced dropdown to None.
In order to exclude a file you uploaded to the media library, find that file + click edit. Scroll to the Yoast SEO box (or your SEO plugin area) + click the gear icon.
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From there, set the Meta robots index to noindex. This tells Google (and other search engines) that they should ignore this item when making a sitemap of your content.
Saving Changes
Once you save your changes to the media file or page, your content will be excluded from Google the next time it crawls your site — which is why it’s best to set these settings as soon as you upload a file or create a page. Otherwise you run the risk of it being indexed first + then waiting for Google to remove it.
You can also resubmit a site map to Google to encourage them to crawl your site sooner rather than later.

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