Advanced SEO Techniques

Removing Your WEBFLOW.IO Staged Site from Google

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Adding JSON-LD Structured Data
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Site Name JSON-LD
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Technical SEO
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Removing Pages from Google
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Removing Your WEBFLOW.IO Staged Site from Google
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Webflow's webflow.io staging is an excellent tool for your site build and change process. It gives you an easy-to-use link to your published site during the build process, which looks like https://mysite.webflow.io.

But what happens if Google indexes that staging site in search results?

For many designers, the staging site complicates their SEO plan when it is indexed in Google's SERPs, because those webflow.io links compete with the branded domain links they're trying to promote.

This happens more often than you think. Currently, Google indicates that there are 1.46 million links that Google has indexed on webflow.io sites.

Many of those links should be indexed... they are templates, or Made in Webflow demo and portfolio sites.

Also, many should not be indexed, and we want to remove them so that we can promote our custom branded domain properly.

Preventing your webflow.io site from being indexed

When you don't want your webflow.io staging site to appear in Google SERPs, Webflow has a site setting to help you exclude these, which you can find under the SEO tab;

However that setting is Off by default. You have to remember to enable this when you first create your client project, in order to successfully block the Googlebots.

The problem

Unfortunately, if you miss that step, and discover that your webflow.io site has already been indexed in Google's SERPs, switching on this "disable subdomain indexing" setting won't fix the issue - and the reason has to do with how Googlebot works.

Webflow's "disable subdomain indexing" feature switches on a robots.txt exclusion mechanism, which blocks robots from indexing your site.

It does not remove pages that have already been indexed.

In fact, some sources indicate your site will be "stuck" in search results, because your robots.txt prevents Google from crawling it again to obtain new information, like a meta noindex tag.

How to remove your webflow.io site from Google's SERPs

So. Your new site is live, and you're seeing webflow.io results in Google SERPs alongside your client's official domain.

How do you fix this?

METHOD #1 - Google Search Console

Google has a removals tool, which allows you to request the removal of specific URLs.

This tool is part of Google Search Console, however to use GSC, you must first prove that you have control over a particular domain name.

While you don't own the webflow.io domain, you can probably still use a META tag verification approach to prove your ownership of your specific mysite.webflow.io subdomain.

  1. Setup a new GSC property
  2. Set it up for your specific URL, e.g. https://mysite.webflow.io
  3. Verify it using a META tag
  4. Add that META to your site-wide HEAD custom code area
  5. Republish your site
  6. Complete the verification in GSC
  7. Then use the removals tool to remove those URLs.

You may be able to see the specific URLs Google has indexed by doing a Google search for e.g.;

site:mysite.webflow.io

METHOD #2 - Swap and Exclude

Here's another approach;

Let's assume your staged site is at mysite.webflow.io. The mysite part of that is known as the shortname.

Clone your site in the Webflow dashboard. You'll now have two versions, which I'll call REAL and FAKE.

On your REAL site, the one that has a custom domain;

  1. Change the shortname mysite of the published site to something different.
  2. In the REAL site's SEO settings, make certain that the Disable Webflow subdomain indexing setting is ON. You DO NOT want this version or your webflow.io site to be crawled, since you'd create the same problem you're fixing now.
  3. Republish your REAL site.

On your FAKE cloned site, make these changes;

  1. Change the shortname TO mysite, so that it matches what you're seeing in Google's searches.
  2. In the FAKE site's SEO settings, make certain that the Disable Webflow subdomain indexing setting is OFF. You want this version to be crawled, so that Google will remove it.
  3. Add the below META tag to your site-wide HEAD custom code.

<meta name="robots" content="noindex">

  1. And then publish your FAKE site to staging.

This will take some time, days or weeks- but the next time Google crawls those webflow.io URLs it will find your FAKE site, see the NOINDEX meta tag, and remove your site from the Google's site index.

Meanwhile, promote your REAL site as normal. Setup GSC and submit your sitemap there to maximize the indexing visibility of your REAL site.

METHOD #3 - Javascript META Hack

Google's Search Engine is good at executing JavaScript as part of the page preparation before it indexes the results.

This means that it's possible for you to make variations to the page depending on which domain it is being accessed through.

Your script can detect the hostname, and then when it's the mysite.webflow.io staged version, you can insert the noindex META tag;

Paste into your site-wide before-HEAD custom code area.

<script>
    if (location.hostname.endsWith(".webflow.io")) {
        document.write('<meta name="robots" content="noindex">');
    }
</script>

Note-

  1. You will need to make certain your robots.txt allows indexing of your webflow.io site for Googlebot to see these. This includes setting your site's SEO settings so that Disable Webflow subdomain indexing setting is OFF.
  2. Make sure you don't already have another conflicting robots meta instruction in your page HEAD custom code, or Google won't know which to follow.

More Methods

Beyond the scope of this article.

  • Reverse proxy
  • Contact Webflow support, they may be able to issue a removal request, since they own the webflow.io domain

Resources

https://support.google.com/websearch/answer/11080680?hl=en

https://www.google.com/search?q=site%3Awebflow.io

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