While many SEOs are more focused on getting their content indexed quickly by Google, the very opposite – getting it removed quickly – is frequently needed too.
Maybe your entire staging environment got indexed, sensitive content that never should have been accessible to Google got indexed, or spam pages added as a result of your website getting hacked are surfacing in Google – whatever it is, you’ll want those URLs to be removed quickly.
In most cases, deleting or restricting access to this content will cause it to naturally drop out of search results after a while. But sometimes “a while” can take weeks or even months.
In the meantime, Google “thinks” you want this content indexed, and that can potentially hurt your rankings, as it is looking at the bad URL as containing valid, indexable content.
If you urgently need to remove unwanted content that has gotten indexed by Google for whatever reason, and you can’t wait for it to naturally disappear, you can use Google’s own removal tool to expedite the removal of content from Google’s search results.
Although there are obviously other search engines like Bing and Duck Duck Go, Google gets by far the most traffic, and we’ll stick to this use case for this article.
When Should You Remove URLs from Google Search?
There may be occurrences where you accidentally publish duplicate content on your domain. Removing the URLs that have duplicate content from Google Search avoids the risk of Google essentially “penalizing” your content since now two copies exist — which copy do you want it to rank?
Duplicate content essentially splits your ranking potential and thus, search traffic, rendering your content unable to rank on Page 1.
If you have a website that has been running for a few years now, chances are there is some outdated content on your website such as old blog posts. Outdated content doesn’t even have to be aged content. It can also either be old product pages that are not available anymore or old promotions that have expired.
If your website experienced a security breach and hacked content starts appearing on your website, chances are Google may continue crawling them and index them from your servers.
To avoid users reaching these hacked pages, it is best to remove them from Google Search while cleaning up your website and buffing up your website security.
If your website includes private content and should only be available to you and other people in your team, then you should remove them from the search results. If not, they will be accessible to the public and people may get access to confidential information.
Temporarily remove URLs using Google Search Console
Google does not provide support in the form of human interaction for this problem. However, they do offer tools that allow you to remove URLs from showing in Google search quickly via Google Search Console.
It’s important to note that temporary removals do not actually delete your URL from Google’s index, instead, they simply hide the URL for about six months from showing up in the search results.
Even after using their removals tool, you will still need to permanently block the URL in the future, such as using a 404, robots.txt, or another method to block the URL.
You need to be the owner of the Search Console property to use this tool
You access the removal tool by logging into Google Search Console, selecting the removals option in the menu on the left side of the screen, and then clicking the red button that says new request:
Removing a Single URL
You have the option to remove a single URL:
Removing a Group of URLs
You can also remove a group of URLs that start with a specific page path (“prefix”):
It typically takes up to 24 hours until the URLs are removed from Google’s index.
This tool gives SEOs, webmasters, site owners, and others access to quickly remove content from the Google search index.
Having invalid URLs in Google search results is a fairly common occurrence when doing rapid development, staging sites, creating test pages, etc. Fortunately, you can easily delete any web page from Google’s cache with the techniques discussed herein.
Remember, no matter what you do in Search Console as far as deleting URLs in Google search, if you don’t actually delete them, or redirect them or password protect them, they will eventually reappear like bad pennies.
Happy URL blasting!