The answer to this question is commonly, yes. But I’ve got a few things to say about it.
In my early years of working on websites and SEO, I’ve never used noindex on any page I’ve ever touched. I alluded to this in my last post, but in that post, I was talking specifically about WordPress. In this post, I’m talking about any website.
Before I begin, you need to think about one thing and that’s the primary goal of search engines. They want to serve users web results. They can do that in a bunch of ways, but primarily, in order to serve results, they need to find results. To find them, they need to crawl them. They’ll basically crawl anything you put in front of them.
Now, let’s think about the majority of people out there who either create websites or blogs or just post content various places. We’ll think of these people as “non-expert.” What I mean is that they aren’t savvy in the ways of website optimization or SEO. So, if that’s the case, and I think we can agree that the majority of the world doesn’t specialize in SEO (just ask anyone you know), that means, in order for the search engines to crawl and rank web pages, they need to gear their processes for the least common denominator – the most non-expert user they could come across. If the least expert person a search engine could find is posting and getting their stuff crawled, ask yourself, are they using noindex in their meta tags? Go ahead, ask your mom if she tried to remove duplicate content on her blog by taking advantage of noindex in the head of her pages. Didn’t think so. But the funny thing is, her pages still rank.
There’s been a debate out there that’s been going back and forth with whether or not pages with the nonindex value pass pagerank. I try to chime in from time to time, but for all my years of reading articles like this, I’ve seen no evidence one way or another. I would suggest that only the Google engineers know the answer to this question, and they’re not about to spill the beans. Yet, day after day, “experts” like to write blog posts and feed them to the masses for the less fortunate to act upon. And act upon they do, because many a website has lost rank due to overusing noindex.
I’ve used the value. And from my obsessive log file scanning, I’ve discovered that once Googlebot crawls a page and sees that it’s noindexed, they put the page on the back burner. They might crawl that page once a month, if you’re lucky. Take noindex off the page and you’ll see crawl frequency rise. Have you ever wondered why it takes very little time to get a bunch of pages in the index but it takes forever to get them out? It’s because Google likes to crawl, but say you apply the noindex value to every page in the /category/ directory, they’ll learn that all similar pages are noindexed and frequency will drop off a cliff.
Let’s go back a second and talk about what I mentioned above – about the non-expert users. Logically speaking, if a search engine like Google relies on content and if content is their business and if users create content and if users are non-expert, Google needs to build a search engine to handle non-expertness. That’s not a search engine to parse pages and sites that are chock full of noindex pages. That’s a search engine to parse pages and sites with tons of junk and duplicate content. Once a search engine parses these sites and pages, they filter and canonicalize.
In my experience, if you have duplicate pages, only differing by title, Google will crawl both and return only the one that’s most relevant for the search terms. It’s true. They’ll keep both. They don’t merge them, per se, and only keep one. They merge the data and the returned page will vary. I’ve seen it time and time again.
Now, back to the question at hand – Do pages that use the noindex value pass link value? I know everyone says yes, but I say no. I think the search engines crawl these pages and find new pages that are linked from them, but you don’t need link value or Pagerank to rank in search results. I’ve built plenty of brand new websites that rank on page one and two of Google with no links whatsoever. And from what I’ve seen, once you noindex a page, it withers away. Pages that are linked to from it get no benefit.
But the debate rages on. It goes on and on and on. And there’s another expert around every corner.
I have a piece of advice for you – if you’re ever interested in finding the truth about something. When someone who suggests they know more than you tells you something, simply ask, “How do you know?” More times than none, they’ll be speechless. And then snidely ask, “Did you happen to read this on the internet?” Someone, somewhere will laugh. Always ask for evidence when dealing with any advice you find online.