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?

Tom Widerøe
Aug 25 · 4 min read

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

Photo of a watercraft painted like a shark, driving in circles.
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

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 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.
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

Screenshot of a Google link to SeaDoo watercrafts on FINN.no.
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.
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?

A graph showing no traffic from deployment at June 8th until first appearance at July 11th.
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.
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

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.
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.

FINN.no Blog – Product, Design, and Tech

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