The URL removal tool is a feature of Google Search Console. You can use it when you don’t want a certain page to appear in search results. The tool doesn’t remove your URL from the Google Index but can temporarily hide it from users.
When to use the URL removal tool
The URL removal tool is beneficial when:
- You need to remove a page urgently. The URL removal tool removes a page from search results in around 24 hours. That’s why you can use it in a situation when, e.g., you posted sensitive information by mistake, or your site was hacked, and you want to remove pages from search immediately.
- You want to remove a large number of pages. It might take a while for Google to crawl a large number of pages and notice that you, e.g., added a noindex meta tag (HTML tag specifying that you don’t want a page to be indexed). You can quickly remove these pages with the URL removal tool without waiting for Google to crawl them.
- You changed your content, and you don’t want the outdated information to show up in the description snippet. The URL removal tool allows you to clear cached URLs, which removes the description snippet until the pages are crawled again.
- You don’t have access to your website’s code or server. The URL removal tool allows you to remove a page easily in Google Search Console without the need to write code or configure your server.
- You want to monitor if any of your pages were reported as outdated or adult content. In the URL removal tool, you can see if someone requested to remove your pages and act quickly, e.g., to update your content.
How to use the URL removal tool
You can access the URL removal tool in Google Search Console by clicking on the “Removals” option on the sidebar.
The URL removal tool is divided into three sections:
- Temporary Removals,
- Outdated Content,
- SafeSearch Filtering.
The Temporary Removals section
In the Temporary Removals section, you can:
- Temporarily remove URLs,
- Clear cached URLs, and
- See a history of your removal requests from the last six months.
Temporarily Remove URL
The Temporarily Remove URL option removes your page from Google’s search results for six months.
Keep in mind that Google doesn’t remove this page from its index. To remove a page from the index, you need to implement additional methods, e.g., noindex meta tag. Otherwise, the page can automatically re-appear in search results after six months.
Additionally, Google continues to crawl the removed pages. To block access, you need to add a disallow directive in robots.txt, a text file specifying which pages search engine bots can and can’t crawl.
Clear Cached URL
The Clear Cached URL option removes the page description snippet in Google Search results until the page is crawled again. Until then, the description snippet says, “No page description available.”
How to specify a URL in the URL removal tool
The Temporary Removal section enables you to remove:
- An individual URL,
- A group of URLs with the same prefix.
When blocking an individual URL, you need to enter the exact URL that appears in search results — variants like example.com/page and example.com/Page are treated as two different URLs.
However, the URL removal tool affects all variations like www/non-www and HTTP/HTTPS. That’s why you shouldn’t use this tool to specify which version of your URL you want to appear in search results. If you want to remove only one version, you should use canonicalization methods, e.g., canonical tag (HTML tag specifying which page is the main one when more than one version exists).
If you want to block multiple URLs, you need to define their prefix. For example, if you specify “blog/”, all URLs inside that directory will be removed (blog/page1, blog/page2, etc.).
You need to be extra careful when removing multiple URLs at once to avoid mistakenly removing a valuable page. Double-check if there are any important pages with the prefix you’re planning to remove and monitor any potential drops in organic traffic after using the tool.
History of removal requests
You can see the history of your removal requests made within the last six months. It shows you the type and date of your request and its current status.
Your request can have one of the five following statuses:
- Processing request – Google usually takes up to a day to remove a URL.
- Request denied – your request can be denied when the page is not indexed, or there’s another identical request in progress.
- Request canceled – you canceled the request, and the page should appear in search results again.
- Temporarily removed – your request was approved, and Google removed the URL from search results.
- Removal expired – your request has expired, and the page can appear in search results again.
- Cleared – Google cleared the cached URL.
How to cancel a request
After six months from making a request, the page should automatically re-appear in search results.
However, the URL removal tool allows you to cancel a request earlier. To do so, you need to:
- Open the Temporary Remove URL section.
- Click on the menu button next to the request you want to cancel.
- Select the “Cancel request” option.
And that’s all! The page should be able to appear in Google Search again soon.
However, there is no official information on how long it takes for Google to cancel a request. In one of his tweets, John Mueller mentioned that the requests are “processed pretty quickly.”
Canceling a removal request is usually processed pretty quickly, and it looks like the site is back now, awesome!
— 🌽〈link href=//johnmu.com rel=canonical 〉🌽 (@JohnMu) January 17, 2019
I decided to check what exactly “pretty quickly” means.
To test how long it takes to cancel a request, I performed the following steps:
- I used the URL removal tool to remove three of our pages from search results.
- I waited for Google to remove these pages from search results.
- After Google approved my requests, I used the “Cancel request” option and monitored how long it took to process it.
It turned out that all three pages were back in search results in less than 4 hours!
How to make a removal permanent
The URL removal tool provides only a temporary solution. To remove a URL permanently, you can:
Add a noindex meta tag
The noindex meta tag indicates that you don’t want a specific page to be indexed. Search engine bots discover the noindex tag while crawling the page, and if they respect it, they won’t index it. The page will remain accessible on your website to both search engine bots and users but won’t appear in search results.
Find out more about the noindex tag in this article.
Set up a 404/410 HTTP status code
Setting up a 404 (Not Found) or a 410 (Gone) HTTP status code removes a page from your site. As a result, search engine bots and users won’t be able to access your page.
Add a password
Search engine bots are not able to access a page if a password protects it. It’s a good solution if you want to secure sensitive information on your page.
The Outdated Content section
The Outdated Content section shows you when someone reports your content as outdated through the Remove Outdated Content tool.
Google recommends using the Remove Outdated Content tool when a page doesn’t exist anymore or the owner removed critical content. Google users can request one of the two types of removal:
- Outdated page removal – used when the page no longer exists. If the request is successful, Google will remove the page from its index.
- Outdated cache removal – used when the page exists, but some content has been removed. If the request is successful, Google will no longer show the page for queries related to the removed content.
If someone reports your content as outdated, you can monitor the request’s status in the URL removal tool. There are seven possible statues:
- Approved – user’s request was successful, and your page will be removed from the index, or Google will no longer show it for queries related to the removed content.
- Denied: Content still on page – Google won’t take any actions against your page because the reported content is still on the page,
- Denied: Outdated content not in index – reported content is not in the indexed version. You might have removed it already, or the user entered incorrect content.
- Denied: Page not indexed – the page reported by the user is not indexed.
- Denied: Page not removed – the page reported by the user still exists.
- Denied: Duplicate request – the same request is already being processed.
- Denied: Unspecified – user’s request was denied for other, unspecified reasons.
You can’t take any direct actions in the URL removal tool to stop the process. However, it’s still worth monitoring the requests. If some of your content is indeed outdated, you can take action to, e.g., update it or remove it from your website.
The SafeSearch Filtering section
Users who have the SafeSearch filter on don’t see pages that are considered adult-only. However, if they think that some page made it through the filter, they can report it in the SafeSearch suggestion tool.
In the SafeSearch Filtering section, you can see the history of requests users made and the status of each request:
- Processing request – Google is processing the request,
- Request canceled – users canceled the request on their own,
- Request denied – Google decided the content shouldn’t be considered adult-only,
- Filtered – Google approved the request and won’t show the page to users using the SafeSearch filter.
If the request was approved, but you think it’s incorrect, you can report it in the Webmaster Forum.
I hope that after reading the article, you know how and when to use the URL removal tool. Here are the key takeaways to keep in mind while using the tool:
- The URL removal tool doesn’t deindex the page. It just removes it from Google Search results for six months,
- Google continues to crawl pages removed with the URL removal tool. If you want to block it from crawling, you need to disallow crawling in robots.txt,
- The URL removal tool removes both www/non-www and HTTP/HTTPS versions from search results,
- To remove a page permanently, you need to implement additional methods, e.g., noindex meta tag, 404/410 HTTP status code, or add a password,
- If you want to remove more than one URL, double-check all URLs that will be affected to prevent accidentally removing an important page.
- Regular monitoring of the Outdated Content and SafeSearch Filtering sections allows you to take action quickly if any of your pages were reported (e.g., update your content or report it if you think the request was incorrect).