Fortifying Staging Sites: Strategies to Avoid Accidental Google Indexing

2 min read

The most recent episode of Google’s Search Off The Record podcast explores the intricate challenges surrounding website launches and the critical task of shielding staging sites from search engine indexing.
Staging sites, vital for testing and development, ideally should evade indexing, and Google underscores the effectiveness of password protection as a preventive measure against inadvertent indexing.
Hosted by John Mueller, Gary Illyes, and Lizzy Sassman, the discussion delves into the pivotal moment of hitting the “launch” button across diverse platforms and how this action intertwines with site launches and migrations. The conversation underscores the delicate balance required in launching a substantial volume of pages while upholding content quality and strategically choosing domain names for optimal branding and visibility.
Here are the key takeaways from Google’s recent podcast, illuminating the complexities of staging and launching websites.


Secrecy Strategies: Preventing Accidental Leaks in Website Launches


Mueller and Illyes elaborate on the imperative of concealing staging sites from search engines, recounting incidents of inadvertent leaks from Google’s history.
They recount the launch of Google’s search status dashboard and the tactics to shield it before its official unveiling.
Illyes mentions that they took virtually no measures to maintain the dashboard’s secrecy before its public announcement.

Since no links were pointing to it, no one noticed it had been up for months.

Illyes says:

“It is difficult to notice something if you are not linking to it online or making no mention of it anywhere, which is precisely what we were doing. I am not including it in arbitrary JavaScript files or referencing it anywhere. This is just another excuse, by the way, to avoid using JavaScript. It was risky, but it just worked.
Sassman continues, “The new Google dashboard was even harder to find because there was no sitemap.”

The discussion also highlights the pivotal significance of DNS configuration and delineates the difference between employing a subdomain and launching with an entirely new domain.
Despite acknowledging the inherent risks within their launch approach, the hosts concur that the potential fallout remained relatively insignificant.
Critical Insight: One viable albeit risky method to prevent a staging site from leaking involves abstaining from any mentions or links to it across platforms or content.


Strategies to Shield Staging Sites: Insights from SEO Experts


Illyes highlights the effectiveness of robots.txt in generally preventing search engines from crawling staging sites.
Regarding additional tactics to conceal a site pre-launch, Illyes recommends employing a noindex tag on individual pages. Furthermore, he suggests implementing password protection or IP-allow lists for staging sites.
This discussion prompted Mueller to recount an incident where using static IP addresses for server backend access resulted in a loss of access due to an IP address change.


Launching Sites with Extensive Page Counts & Navigating Domain Choices


The conversation pivots towards the intricacies of launching numerous pages simultaneously and the pivotal role of domain name selection.
Illyes posits that launching 7,000 articles concurrently should be manageable for a server with ample resources, yet ensuring quality across this volume might pose challenges.
When contemplating publishing a million pages in one go, emphasis is placed on quality over sheer quantity. The hosts weigh the merits of using free hostnames against custom domain names from hosting providers.
According to Illyes, the decision hinges on the business’s requirements and branding objectives, with custom domain names deemed more apt for establishing a lasting online presence.

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Shilpi Mathur
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