Blogging and Writing

Making a Blog Unsearchable

Making a blog unsearchable using WordPress privacy settings

Sometimes people don’t want their blogs to be easy to find, and WordPress offers a way to do that. For a lot of bloggers, we’re looking for exactly the opposite. While asking search engines not to search your blog isn’t going to be directly relevant to everyone, it explains why sometimes you might be having a hard time finding a blogger.

By default, WordPress lets search engines know when you’ve published something new on your blog. Web crawling bots will swing by and have a look around. While there’s a wide variety of assorted helpful and malicious bots that are busy around the web, there would be no search engines without search engine bots crawling the web to find out what’s out there.

The how

You can tell WordPress that you’d prefer that search engine bots not include your posts/pages in search results. This is done under My Sites > Settings > General, in the privacy section, and is shown in the screenshot below. Beneath where it says Public, you can tick the box for “do not allow search engines to index my site.”

screenshot of WordPress blog privacy settings

While it says “do not allow,” it’s more of an ask than a hard no. WordPress says:

Do not allow search engines to index my site. If you want all human visitors to be able to see your site but don’t want your site to appear in search engines, this option will block most web crawlers for search engines. Please note, however, that not all search engines respect this setting.

While self-hosted blogs have more flexibility to play around with their site’s code and mark specific posts/pages as no-index, for most bloggers, you’re looking at an all or nothing proposition.

The why

So, that’s how it’s done, but what does it actually mean? A couple of bloggers I know have gone this route and I haven’t actually asked them why they chose that.

Besides not being included in search engine results, a non-indexed blog is also kept out of WordPress Reader search results. This also includes searches by tag. If I follow a no-index blog, new posts will turn up in my Reader feed, but if I’m trying to actually track down the blog, I may have to go back to one of my posts they’ve commented on to track them down. Since I do most of my reading in the Reader, I don’t necessarily remember people’s URLs.

The implications

I would imagine that not being searchable in the Reader makes it a great deal harder to grow one’s blog. I’m not saying that it’s a bad choice, but giving up Reader exposure seems like it could be a significant downside. If the only way people can find you is through comments that you’ve left on other people’s blogs, that really limits the ability to attract new readers.

If your blog isn’t indexed by search engines, search engine optimization (SEO) strategies become rather pointless. Using tags for your posts can help with organization within your site, but they won’t help anyone else find you.

Have you ever taken steps to make your blog harder to find in any way?

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31 thoughts on “Making a Blog Unsearchable”

  1. I did NOT know such blogs are hidden from the Reader tag search, wow! I thought it still would, while not being indexed by search engine.

    I’ll have to re-evaluate my site settings, because I love the WordPress community and it seems I’m really missing out.

    I basically don’t mind people from the WordPress community and Instagram reading my blog, but am fearful of being “too out there / too exposed” if I allow search engines to crawl my site.

  2. I’m a blogger who ‘went that route” and opted to make my blog unsearchable. I have/had people in my past that I preferred not to ‘find’ me (of course they can), but all one really has to do, if one wishes to find someone (on WordPress or where ever) is type in a few key words and voila! One is visible again. Last year when that ugly harvesting of blogs wholesale off WordPress by that horrid company occurred, my blog was one that was taken. So I don’t think I’m as ‘secure’ as I like to presume. I think if one is in the blog effort to make money off selling their books or other reasons, or has a business that one is promoting, then being easily searchable is key. For me? I write. I’m not trying to get people to notice that. Of course it’s nice if they do (and the numbers keep steadily growing) but it’s not mandatory. And as mentioned above, I’m fairly paranoid.

    1. Yeah, all that setting does is ask search engines not to crawl a site; it doesn’t provide any sort of protection or security beyond that.

  3. I hid my blog a year or so ago, when some friends got annoyed with me about something I had said on my blog (I thought it was completely value neutral, but they interpreted it as a criticism and got offended). That made me wonder if I say too much about people I know in real life generally and whether one day someone would find out about it. However, these were originally blog friends, so the connection was as much emotional as logical on my part. I hid my blog just in case, but lately (as in the last week or so) I’ve switched it back to public. I’m not sure if I’ll keep it that way or not. I still worry about “real life” people identifying me, but I also feel that the number of religious Jewish mental health/autism bloggers is pretty small, and maybe I owe it to other Jews with “issues” to blog more publicly as a resource. It’s a tough one.

    1. Do you think that there’s much chance realistically that someone could track down your blog? I can how someone who was a regular reader might figure out they actually knew you in real life, but if someone was looking for you but didn’t know about your blog, that’s a whole lot harder.

  4. Huh!! Interesting!! I ***think*** my blog is searchable, but with WP’s level of dysfuncionality, who knows? I do think it would be great to have an online diary that only you could access, if that’s what you wanted. Maybe other sites do that?

    1. Searchable is the default setting. With the non-searchable setting, a blog is still public, so people can still read it if they’re already following. To hide it from everyone, a blog can be changed from public to private.

      1. Ohh, okay!! You know, you ought to work for WP! I think you know more than the happiness engineers do!! 😀

  5. As personal as I sometimes get in my blog post, I think it’s important for others to learn from my situation as someone with bipolar and the effects mental illness has on you. It was a tough decision to start my blog, but one I don’t regret because of all the support I get to give to others and the encouragement I get back! ❤️

  6. I wondered how many more people would be following me, if I opened up my site to crawling and the full web. Since its inception, I’ve been doing it this way. Do you use 2 factor authentication, and what if any problems have you had with your site?

    1. No, I don’t use 2-factor authentic authentication. When you choose not to be searchable, WordPress just adds a noindex meta tag to your site. As far as I know there’s no added security benefit.

      1. I guess I didn’t write that out right… Do you believe the pros outweigh the cons, when it comes to making your site visible to search engines, as well as, the WWW? I know you get more followers… Thank you Ashley!

  7. Interesting read.My guess is once we’enter the ‘InternetWorld’….there is no escape route and big brother is always watching and taking care of you.. It’s immaterial whether it’s private or public..we are all entering into this world willingy.
    I am at loss as to what could be the strongest reason to make it private ? You can make me understand better
    Thank you.

  8. I’ve got myself into a frustrating situation on here, because I created a second blog as I didn’t want to use my primary one any more. Now, every time someone clicks on my profile, they get asked to request access to my primary blog and can’t see the one I use.
    I’m not sure if there is a way around this, as if I try to delete my original blog, it will delete both blogs.

    1. When you’re in WordPress, click on your gravatar at the top of the screen, then go to account settings, and then under “web address”, change the URL to your 2nd blog, and that should do the trick.

  9. As a WordPress newbie (well, I had a blog on here loooong ago when it was mostly HTML edits and very basic CSS), this was very helpful. Thank you!

  10. I also saw that option but all I want is to grow my blog more 💖 The only time I almost changed my mind was when I got hate comments and got scared. I’m glad that’s ovet though

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