Meta Tag Madness

Posted: 03/08/10

What Have You Done To Upset The Googlebot?

I had an old customer vaguely on my case this week about their website, claiming that it had apparently vanished completely from Google. A quick check using proved that what I was being told was correct. Google returned absolutely no results.

The last time I'd worked on this site was to make it render pages in Turkish if the visiting browser's HTTP_ACCEPT_LANGUAGE contained "tr". I certainly didn't meddle with meta tags which were at the root of the problem.

The site was still up and running, so I looked at the source and saw this in the header:

<meta name="googlebot" content="all, index, follow, none, noindex,nofollow, noarchive> nosnippet"></meta>
<meta name="revisit-after" content="2 days"></meta>
<meta name="pagerank" content="10"></meta>

Whoever had been updating the site during my considerable absence had made rather a pig's ear of it. It seems that Google is a good robot, and when given conflicting directives (index followed by no index), decided that the decent thing to do was not to index the site. It simply wandered off elsewhere and the site vanished from Google's index in an instant.

The other thing that was rather amusing about the whole episode was the "pagerank" tag along with its value of 10. If it were that simple to convince Google that your pages were that informative and valuable, everyone and his dog (and probably the dog's fleas too) would be doing it.

Needless to say the howling error was hastily corrected and apologies were offered and accepted.