Time spent from “noindex“ to number one on Google

How much time did it take from when we removed the noindex attribute on a web page until it was on the top of Google’s search results?

Short answer is: 32 days. If you’re lucky. Similar pages struggled more.

Photo of a watercraft painted like a shark, driving in circles.
It took the watercraft search page on FINN.no 32 days to cruise to the top of Google.

When Google ranked the wrong page

We used to have strict rules on which pages we allowed to be indexed. These have now been liberalised, but with some unexpected restrictions. One such quirk appeared on our search page for boats, where we didn’t allow indexing when the search was filtered by a boat type, but not also for brand. That meant that if you were googling “watercraft”, you would find a list of vessels from a random brand, not the list of all watercraft, as you would expect.

The fix was obvious. We just needed to make sure that the tag <meta name=”robots”> didn’t have “noindex” as a value in the content attribute when boat type was the only filter used. We still use noindex quite a lot to avoid wasting our crawl budget on all the millions of possible search combinations, but in this case it had gone wrong.

When the bug was fixed, we needed to wait and see how long it took until the right page replaced the one with the unnecessary filter, and how it would affect the ranking.

Time from removing “noindex” to get to the top on Google

On the 8th of June, we removed noindex from the meta robots tag. At the same time we added the URLs to sitemap.xml and requested indexing in Google Search Console (GSC).

On the 11th of June, we recorded the first few impressions in GSC on searches for watercraft. The average position that day was 6.6.

On the 10th of July, after 32 days with some ups and downs, GSC reported the page to be on first place for the first time. It hasn’t looked back since.

A graph showing the position about 6th for some days, then some days absence before coming back and stabilize at first.
Screenshot from Google Search Console showing how the position developed over time.

Sitelinks as a bonus

Easy, isn’t it? Maybe because we didn’t start from nothing. The search pages filtered on brands ranked pretty well already, so the site did have some authority for the term.

Screenshot of a Google link to SeaDoo watercrafts on FINN.no.
Before: When you searched for watercraft (vannscooter in Norwegian), Google could only present pages that were filtered on a brand.

A nice bonus effect was that we now also got some sitelinks added to the main link, something which gave more visibility and more options for the users. Also, before the fix we ranked best on sales related terms like “watercraft for sale”. Now the link is ranked on top with “watercraft” only.

Screenshot of a Google link to all watercrafts on FINN.no, with some additional sitelinks for brands.
After: It took 32 days for this page to reach the top for watercraft searches. We also got some extra sitelinks to more detailed searches.

What about other boats?

Watercraft is of course not a random example. This was by far the category which responded fastest to the fix, while other categories, like sailboats and cabin cruisers, took one month just to appear on the Search Engine Result Page (aka SERP), and yet another 10 days to stabilise around third place.

A graph showing no traffic from deployment at June 8th until first appearance at July 11th.
It took a month until the sailboat page made its first appearance, and 10 more days to stabilize around third position and replace the page filtered by brands.

At the time of writing, on search for cabin cruisers, Google still prefer to rank the page that is filtered on the Bavaria brand, while our preferred page is ranked second. According to Google Trends, “cabin cruiser” is a far less common search term than other boats, something which might explain why things changed more quickly for the other boats.

Screenshot from a google search for cabin cruisers. The first result is for Bavaria boats only, while the second is for all.
Google still prefer to rank Bavaria cabin cruisers, while the page for all cabin cruisers comes second. Note that Google is confused by the similarities between English and Norwegian spelling.

More traffic, faster updates

So, the conclusion seems to be that more traffic on a search term gives faster updates in the search rank. In the case of watercraft, luck also seems to help. According to Google Trends, we made the deployment in the middle of a boost in popularity for that term.

In any case, a lot of patience is needed. The search rank just doesn’t change overnight.

Screenshot from Google Trends. Watercraft had dramatically increased traffic from June 7th to June 13th, while sailboats.
This chart from Google Trends shows that the number of searches for watercraft (yellow) increased dramatically at the time of deployment. Sailboats (red) are more stable over the year, while cabin cruisers have very few searches in general.




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Tom Widerøe

Tom Widerøe

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