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Knowing your network: blocking Google from indexing your website

I don’t have any analytics installed on my website, so I don’t know how many people visit or what they read.

Actually, that’s not quite true.

I did set up a Google Search Console (GSC) account before starting my current job, just to get up to speed. GSC tells you:

  • How many times your website appeared in Google search results over a given period
  • How many clicks through to your website came from those search result impressions
  • What pages were visited
  • What search terms generated the visits
  • What country visits came from
  • What type of device visitors used (namely desktop, mobile or tablet)

In the last year, my stats are:

So I have some awareness of what people read on this site, and that Google is sending, on average, around 11 visitors a day.

And yet today I added this simple line of code to every page’s head:

<meta name="googlebot" content="none">

It tells Google to stop indexing the page, thereby removing it from search results entirely.

Why?

Part of my job consists of trying to expose our website to Google search, an activity known as SEO. This website is not work – I’m not establishing a presence in a marketplace via a search engine – in short, I’m not marketing here. I know I have readers because they’ll occasionally email me, reply on Mastodon or send a webmention. That’s my network, rather than a market, and I’m more than happy with it.

I only slowly became aware of just how much apparently personal online communication is in fact marketing, and inherently inauthentic despite how informal it may seem. That’s a necessary evil if you’re, say, a journalist looking for commissions, or you’re jobhunting, but I’m not. Small, word-of-mouth networks offer an escape from the drudgery of establishing a personal brand or writing for SEO.

Several years ago I separated my work and personal websites. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Removing This day’s portion from Google completes that separation.