How do I fix the SEO when my dev site gets inadvertently indexed in Google?
 by Kristi Hagen

How do I "fix" the SEO when my dev site gets inadvertently indexed in Google?

  • For the past few months I've been working to improve the rankings of one of my client's sites we'll call During that time I noticed that the link count was falling. Looking into it, I found the domain, the links from which had been steadily dropping over time.

    So, I asked the web designer if they knew anything about it. Apparently this was a development site that had been deleted or set to No Followsome time ago.

    However, when searching site: on Google I get over 200 results. This seems to indicate they are still live (or least were when last indexed). Then, when I go to the cache for say, the home page - Google says that it is a cache of which, of course, is the currently active site.

    How can you see a URL for a page and then see what it is/was directed to when you click it? Wouldn't a 301 have redirected Google's spider too? Regardless, our main worry is that this may have harmed the SEO of the site. What are your thoughts?


You're assumptions are correct, if a site: search command for the dev URL is reporting results, it does indicate the pages are still in Google's index even if the pages have the meta noindex tag in them. The meta noindex tag just tells Google not to display the URL in regular search results, they may still show up in a site: search query. The pages can also show in this type of search even if they are redirected.

You can check to see what the dev URLs are doing, such as is the URLs still live (Code 200)? Is it redirecting? If so, where is it redirecting? Learn what it's doing by checking the Server Headers the server responds with. We have a Server Header Analyzer to check to see the status code the URL returns. Code 200 is a valid working URL, 404 is missing URL, 302/301 are redirect codes, and the redirect will show the new location the URL redirects to.

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