How to Avoid Unwanted SEO (& When It’s Essential to Do So!)

October 31, 2023

Getting your website and information at the top of the Google SERP is usually a cause for celebration. But what happens if the search engine puts information at the top of the SERPs and it’s flat-out wrong? Unwanted SEO or unwanted search terms can harm your organic traffic, digital marketing strategy, and user experience. 

If you’ve been following the latest Google algorithm updates, you’ll notice October brought many changes, the most notable being that Google shifted to better help people answer questions when typed explicitly into the search engine. This change recently resulted in an interesting few days for one of our clients. 

Screenshot of Google search result with incorrect information featured. A real-life example of unwanted SEO 

Now that it’s shopping season, people are starting to request catalogs from some big box retailers around the United States—specifically Target. 

After the latest Google update, one of our clients with “Target” in the name saw a significant uptick in phone calls unrelated to his business. After searching “How Do I Get a Target Catalog,” he noticed that the latest update pulled his phone number to the top of the SERP. Because it’s the first phone number listed, he started getting a barrage of calls requesting Target’s sought-after catalog.

Luckily, our SEO team jumped in quickly and efficiently. By reporting the error to Google to trigger a review, downvoting the incorrect connection, and making adjustments to the site, the calls significantly slowed down and then stopped altogether.

What can you do to prevent this? 

The issue here isn’t only that this search has nothing to do with our client’s business, but because this is such a popular item, it clogs their phone lines, taking time, attention, and resources away from their goals and KPIs.

For SEO depreciation on terms you don’t want to rank for, try these things: 

  • Update the landing page. Update the landing page to change the query slightly. You may still want your page to rank for specific search terms, just not these search terms. Change the title a little bit. Add additional keywords to modify what the crawlers are pulling. In this case, we added “shooting” to the catalog request to help depreciate the exact match search of this query.
  • No-index your page. If this is a page you don’t need indexed, consider adding a no-index tag. Your page may not need to be indexed or hold no search value at all. In this instance, it may make sense to remove it from Google index altogether and save yourself the time and effort it takes to respond to those who aren’t looking for your page.
  • Robots.txt. Similarly, you may want to add this page to your robots.txt file. Similar to the no-index tactic, you can set the file to tell crawlers not to crawl your page. This will also help your page drop out of the SERPs for any crawler you see fit.
  • Take control of your knowledge graph. If you’re having issues with people calling you for something as specific as ordering a Target Catalog, update your knowledge graph with additional information to inform people this may not be what they are looking for. 
  • Send feedback to Google. When looking at the results for questions people commonly search on Google, there is a feedback link. Don’t be afraid to send your feedback. If enough people use this, it will trigger a manual review on Google’s end. Hopefully, someone on their team will see what is happening and depreciate the value of this search for your landing page.

Screenshot of sending feedback to Google to correct unwanted SEO terms.

In the end, strategic SEO depreciation for search terms you don’t want to rank for helps alleviate unhelpful traffic and call-ins that aren’t relevant to your business. 

Getting the right traffic to your website will make your analytics cleaner, helping you figure out which actions and events are truly helping or hurting the traffic on your website.

Get the Attention You Want

The only thing worse than getting no attention is getting the wrong kind. If you want more impressions and clicks from your target audience, we’re your digital marketing agency. With in-depth industry understanding, our Minneapolis SEO Agency uses cutting-edge SEO tactics to get your page in front of the right people at the right moment. And when that happens, anything is possible. 

Schedule an appointment with our Brandography team! 

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