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Meta Box Advanced Tab

In our last few tutorials, we introduced you to Rank Math’s Meta Box, and also discussed the General Tab in the Meta Box. This tutorial, however, is about the Advanced Tab and all the goodness it has to offer.

The Meta Box’s advanced tab is home to, well, advanced options. This is where you address the technical side of SEO–stuff people usually refer to as “technical SEO.” —often rolling their eyes at the same time.

Lucky for you, we created Rank Math to take the pain out of the process. Thanks to Rank Math, you don’t have do look at raw HTML, meta tags, schema JSON, open graph tags, and the other hundred things that make up a page. Instead, you can tick a few boxes and move on.

First things first, here are all the settings that you will find in the Advanced Tab of the Meta Box.

all-options-in-the-advanced-of-rank-maths-meta-box

As you see, there are many options, but not as much as there were in the General Tab. The difference should also be clear; the Advanced Tab has nothing to do with the content but affects the page from a higher perspective.

Before We Begin

Before we start explaining all the options in the Advanced Tab, there is something you need to know. The settings that you configure in the Advanced Tab will affect this specific post only, and not your entire website. That is because these settings are local to this post, and not the Global settings.

The Global options for all these settings are located in Rank Math’s Title and Meta Settings, which where you should configure them first.

where-the-default-meta-robots-is-set-in-rank-math

In the Global settings, you should configure your default settings, and those settings will be applied to all your posts. Then if there is a need for a post to have different settings, you can override them from the Advanced Settings Tab.

Now that you understand how the settings in the Advanced Tab work and the impact they have, let us understand the actual options in detail.

Robots Meta

When Google visits a page on your website, there are many things that Google-bot does, including:

  • Indexing the page
  • Cache the page (or save the page on their servers)
  • Follows all the links on the page
  • Indexes the images on the page
  • Analyzes the Javascript on your page and executes it

and many more.

These are the things that Google does automatically; you don’t have to tell Google to do it. In fact, all the other search engines also probably perform the same activities on your website.

But what if you want to restrict the search engines from accessing some pages of your website?

Think about, not all of your pages are meant to be indexed and/or appear in the search results. A prime example of this is your admin page—which is technically a page on your website. You wouldn’t want all your admin pages to show up in Google search, would you?

Similar to your admin pages, there are plenty of other pages that you’d want search engines to ignore. Your category archive pages, date archives, tag archives, and author archives are just some of the examples of pages you should avoid.

This is where the robot meta tags help you. They are options that you can enable to tell search engines what not to do on your website. There are many robot meta-tags, but Rank Math supports 6 of the most important ones, which you can see in the Robots Meta section.

all-options-in-robots-meta-in-rank-math

To understand the robots meta, you have to understand how each of the options affects search engines. So let us explain each of the options.

Index

Index is the tag that tells Google to index the page. Although Google and other search engines index pages by default, in some cases it becomes necessary to tell the search engines to index a page specifically.

If you’d like your page to be indexed, then simply check the Index option. It is probable that option would have been checked already as it is the default setting, so you can leave it at that.

No Index

No Index is the opposite is of Index, and enabling it means that you want search engines to not index the page. There are many reasons to No Index a page, and we will discuss some practical examples after discussing all the robot meta tags.

Now, an obvious thing to understand is that you cannot enable Index and No Index at the same time, as it will be contradictory. We’ve set up the Robots Meta in a way that once you enable Index or No Index, the other option will be disabled automatically. Here is a demonstration.

index-and-no-index-options

No Follow

No Follow tag is an interesting tag, as it instructs search engines to index the page, but not follow the links on the page. Let us explain.

As you’re probably aware of, links can be followed or no-followed. A followed link passes authority (SEO juice, link juice) to the page being linked to, and helps it improve its ranking. A no-followed link looks exactly like a followed link, but it does not pass any authority to the page being linked to.

When you enable the No Follow option on a page, search engines will not pass any link juice from your page to the websites you link to.

The “No Follow” meta tag is very similar to the rel= “nofollow” attribute you can add to links. But, here’s the difference: the rel= “no follow” attribute only affects one link—the one you add the attribute to. But, the Robots No Follow meta-tag affects every single link on the page.

As always, we will discuss some practical examples of each Robots Meta tag after we’ve discussed them.

No Archive

As you probably understand, Google saves a copy of every page it visits on its servers to analyze the content and add it to its index. But, did you know, that Google allows users to access their copy of any website’s pages?

That’s right. Anyone can access Google’s cached pages by using the cache: search operator. Here is what happens when we access cache:https://www.apple.com/iphone-xs/.

an-example-of-google-cached-result

As you can see, you can navigate an entire website from Google’s servers without ever visiting that website, neat!

As advantageous as it is, it does have many disadvantages as well. But, that’s not the point of this discussion. The point is that Google allows website owners to opt-out from being available in this way by using the No Archive Meta Robots directive.

If you enable the No Archive option, then your page will be indexed, it will be ranked as it normally would have, but Google will not display a cached version of the page in its search results.

No Image Index

Most pages you visit on the Internet, including your own pages, will have images on them, and the search engines index them as they index their page.

If you want to prevent search engines from indexing the images on your page, you can enable the No Image Index Meta Robots option.

No Snippet

This option allows you to restrict search engines from showing snippets from your posts.

For most search engines, snippets just mean your meta description; the little piece of text that appears below the URL of the ranking result.

example-of-snippet-in-google-search-meta-description

You can see the snippet of your page from the General Tab.

where-to-set-meta-description-inside-rank-math

But for Google, Snippets have now extended to answer boxes, FAQs, video snippets, and many other forms of rich results. If you enable the No Image Index Robots Meta, then Google will not show your page in any of its snippets. Also, Google will stop showing the cached version of your website in the search results.

Overview of Robots Meta in Rank Math

If you’re looking for a quick overview of what the Robots Meta do without searching for this article, then you can simply hover your mouse over the tooltip icons present next each of the fields.

tooltips-on-robots-meta-in-rank-math

Some Use Cases of Robots Meta

Now that we’ve discussed what the Meta Robots do let us take some practical examples on when you would use these directives.

Usage of Index

The Index Directive should be used on all the regular posts on your website and the content you want to be indexed. There is no special use case for this.

Usage of No Index

A practical example of the usage of No Index is WordPress Archive Pages. WordPress supports many types of archives, and all of those archive types create a specific page on your website — author archives, category archives, tag archives, date archives, etc. If you create custom taxonomies, then they will have archives as well. Since all these pages do is show a collection of the content in that taxonomy, there is no value add from these pages to the search engines, as they can discover the actual content through your sitemap.

If a search engine starts indexing these pages, not only can it create duplicate content issues (if you’ve not set canonical URLs correctly), but it can also waste your crawl budget—you wouldn’t want that, right?

Our first recommendation is to disable the page entirely—which you can do directly in Rank Math. But, if you have a specific need to keep your archive pages active, then you should definitely disable them.

Another great example of No Index is Amazon Wishlists. You probably know that you can create public and private wishlists on Amazon. But, it is not commonly known that you can add products from other websites to your Amazon Wishlist too. In any other scenario, this would be a breeding ground for spam, but here, the page has a No Index and No Follow.

Usage of No Follow

The most popular use of the No Follow directive is user-generated content. Whether it be a forum, a discussion board, or a social media page, the No Follow directive can help instantly curb spam.

Usage of No Archive

The No Archive Tag is particularly useful when you have pages on which the content changes often, or with pages with content you want to protect. Let us take an example of both.

Suppose that you are running an ecommerce website and have a page specifically for coupons. Obviously, coupon codes change often, and your customers can access a cached version of the page and find outdated coupons—which will be less than ideal experience for them.

The same example can be extended for coupon (affiliate sites). If your pages are cached by Google, then your users might be presented with old coupons that do not work for your customers.

The examples are real concerns, but not all users are tech-savvy that they would try to access a cached version of your website, and the only reason they would need to do that would be if your website was down—which often won’t be the case. So, let us take another example.

Suppose that you run a membership-based website and have tons of content available only for paying members. If you don’t add a No Archive to those pages, then savvy customers can simply access everything from your website for free. And don’t think that this does not happen in the real world. Many people use this technique to circumvent websites with paywalls, like news websites.

Usage of No Image Index

There are many practical examples where you’d need to use No Image, but a few main reasons you’d use No Image is for are:

  • When you want users to consume content from your website only
  • When you want to preserve your crawl budget
  • When you want to prevent plagiarism

The first reason is quite simple. If Google does not have your images indexed, your users have to come to your website to consume your content. Be careful with this reasoning, as many times, having your images indexed can lead to more traffic through Google Image Search. Test both the options and then make a decision.

If you have a ton of images on your website, then Google might slow down the indexing of your website in many cases. This happens with ecommerce websites, stock photo websites, and even wallpaper websites. By disabling the image indexing, you can speed your content crawling, and then you can have the images indexed slowly at a later date.

The last practical reason why you would want to prevent your images being indexed is to avoid them being stolen. Sadly, there are still many people who don’t understand basic copyright laws and think that they can download any image they found on Google without breaking any laws. If the problem is quite severe, then you can stop your images being indexed at the cost of some traffic. Obviously, someone can steal an image from your website too, but then you know that the user’s intent was malicious. If they stole it from Google, you might give them the benefit of the doubt.

Usage of No Snippet

As the No Snippet prevents your content appearing in the snippet, it is useful anytime you’d want the content to be accessible only through your website. A practical example would be a coupon affiliate website.

Coupon websites make money when someone uses a coupon on another website. But, most often these websites make money when a user clicks a link on their website to reach the destination website. If Google shows their most popular coupon codes in the snippet itself, users can directly go the shopping website, stripping the coupon website of its commissions.

Another example would be of a news website. Most news can be summarized into a few lines, and the short-form news is becoming more popular than long-form news. If your page was available as a snippet, most people would consume the news from the snippet directly, and never come to your website.

Limitations of Robots Meta

An important thing to remember is that Robots Meta is simply a suggestion to the search engines and not a complete command. Keeping that in mind, you should be prepared for the scenario where the search engines do not honor your request. Before you freak out, let us clarify.

Most popular search engines will not do this; they will honor your requests. But, there are hundreds of other malicious bots (not necessarily search engines) who will not honor your request and index the content anyway.

In most of these cases, you won’t have to do anything as search engines like this have barely any traffic volume, to begin with. But, if you have something important on your website that you absolutely don’t want to be indexed, then you should not rely only on Meta Robot Directives.

Alternatives of Robots Meta

Although the Robots Meta is a powerful way to direct the search engines, it can work only on a page to page basis, which is inefficient and does not offer any way to manage directives in bulk.

An effective solution to that problem is using the robots.txt file. In a nutshell, it is an implementation of The Robots Exclusion Protocol by the search engines. How it works is that webmasters place a file on their server called robots.txt which contain instructions for the search engines to follow.

The advantage of using robots.txt is that allows you to manage your pages in bulk with the help of regular expressions. You can also use it to manage categories, tags, even subdirectories on your server.

Rank Math has a built-in option to manage your robots.txt file, so you don’t have to fiddle around with FTP. The tool is located in Rank Math Settings > General Settings > Edit Robots.txt.

where-to-edit-robots-txt-file-in-rank-math

If you try to read the text in the file, then you may have been able to guess that it is instructing all the search engines not to index your /wp-admin/ directory, while allowing the /wp-admin/admin-ajax.php file. This is the level of control that you would not get with Meta Robots directives.

Robots.txt versus Meta Directives

An important question that can cross your mind after reading the information we mentioned above is what exactly the difference between using the Robots.txt and using Meta Robots is, apart from the bulk operations? Is there a technical advantage, or are they 2 ways to achieve the same thing.

Actually, there is. The most important difference being how good search engines treat these directives. Remember, both the robots.txt and Robots Meta are suggestions to search engines, and notorious bots might ignore your instructions anyway.

Let us take Google’s example. If you restrict the indexing of a page using robots.txt, then Google will follow your instructions. But, if the same page is linked to from another website, then Google might still index the page. But, if your page has a Meta Robots tag that says No Index, then Google will definitely not index it.

There are many other technical differences, but this one is the most important for you to understand and remember.

Canonical URL

The canonical URL is an absolute must to understand to avoid duplicate content issues. Here is how it works.

For search engines, including Google, different URLs means different pages. For example:

https://www.yourwebsite.com/category/product-1/
http://www.yourwebsite.com/category/product-1/
https://yourwebsite.com/category/product-1/
http://yourwebsite.com/category/product-1/

Google will consider all of these as separate pages.

Without getting into why this happens, it is better to accept that this is how it is. Thankfully, there is a solution called canonical tag.

The canonical tag helps you specify a canonical URL for a page, which should be the actual version of the page you want Google to consider. Let us take an example.

If you run a WooCommerce store, then you might have noticed that a single product can be accessed in multiple ways. For example, https://www.yourwebsite.com/tag/product-1/ and https://www.yourwebsite.com/category/product-1/ will point to the same product while the real URL for the product could be https://www.yourwebsite.com/product-1/.

So, how do you communicate to Google which URL should it consider a master copy for the product? By using the canonical tag. All you have to do is add the actual version of the URL, which in this case is https://www.yourwebsite.com/product-1/, to the canonical tag URL.

Since the actual page loaded from your server will be the same, no matter which URL is used to access it, all URL versions of the page will carry the canonical URL with them. By reading the canonical URL, Google and other search engines can figure out the actual page URL, and only index that URL.

canonical-url-field-in-rank-math-meta-box

As you can see in the field inside Rank Math, a default canonical URL is already set for you. But, this is just a placeholder, and it lists the URL of the post. That is Rank Math’s default behavior.

Even if you don’t set a canonical URL inside Rank Math, Rank Math will set the post’s current URL as the canonical URL of the page. Depending on your permalink settings, you might want to set a canonical URL yourself or change your permalink settings so that the default canonical URL is the one that works for you.

Redirect

redirection-option-fields-in-rank-math-meta-box

A redirect is a pretty magical thing that web servers can do. Let’s say you type a URL into your browser – something like http://www.example.com/123

As you would expect, a web page loads. But when you look at the address bar, you see:

http://www.anothersite.com/a-totally-different-url.html

What happened?

When you reached the URL http://www.example.com/123, the server instructed the user-agent (your browser) to redirect you to the new URL.

Redirects have many important uses. They are used to manage errors on your website, help manage deleted content, update your URLs, permalinks, and a bunch of others stuff.

Rank Math has a built-in Redirection Manager, which helps you manage redirects with ease. But, the redirect option here is specific to this page, and it allows you to redirect this specific post or page to the URL of your choice.

When setting up a redirect with Rank Math, you have to set up 2 things.

  • Redirection Type
  • Destination URL

The redirection type is as important as the destination URL, as there are temporary and permanent redirections. Setting a temporary redirection will direct the search engines to keep the original URL in their index and check if the redirection is in place every time the URL is accessed. If a redirect is permanent, that won’t happen.

There are a couple more options for the redirection type as well. Here is the complete list.

all-types-of-redirections-supported-in-rank-math

  • 301 Permanent Move: The redirect is permanent, and future request to the URL should directly be taken to the destination URL
  • 302 Temporary Move: The resource has been moved temporarily to the destination address. Future requests should be made to the original URL
  • 307 Temporary Redirect: A 307 is quite similar to a 302 with some technical differences
  • 410 Content Deleted: Use this redirect if the content on the original URL has been deleted. Useful for pillar content and in-depth guides which can be updated over time on different URLs
  • 451 Content Unavailable for Legal Reasons: If you write about a topic which could be temporarily banned (religion, politics, or other sensitive topics), then this redirect could come in handy.

To save the redirect, just save your post (as a draft or update it). Your redirect will be saved. If in the future, you want to delete a redirect, all you have to do is delete the URL in the destination field and save your post again. The redirect will be deleted.

We understand that deleting redirects individually from the post can become time-consuming and inefficient when you have many redirects set up. But, you do not need to worry about that as all the redirects you create inside the post will show up in Rank Math’s Redirect Manager as well. There you can use all the powerful redirect management features that we’ve designed. Here is a demonstration. We set up the redirection in the post.

an-example-of-redirection-set-at-post-level-in-rank-math

And the redirect shows up in the Redirections Manager as follows.

a-redirect-set-at-post-level-shows-up-in-redirection-manager

If you disable or delete the redirect here, then the redirect will disappear from the post as well.

If you wish to learn more about Redirections, we’ve created an entire guide which covers just the Redirection Manager in Rank Math. We highly recommend that you read it.

Conclusion

This covers all the options present in the Advanced Tab of Rank Math’s Meta Tab. There are plenty of powerful options in the tab that can help you manage your website’s presence in the search engines in pristine detail. They might take some getting used to, but as soon as you master them, you won’t be able to live without them.

As always, if you have any doubts, questions, or queries, feel free to open a support ticket on the forum. To learn more tips and tricks and to see how others are utilizing the power of Rank Math, join our Facebook Group—don’t forget to say hello.

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