Search engines typically have access to a new WordPress installation.
If you don’t want search engines to index your content until your site is ready for the world to see, you must block them.
To do this, navigate to Settings > Reading and tick the box next to Discourage search engines from indexing this site.
That’s all you have to do to block search engines indexing your content.
Blocking search engines won’t stop people looking at your site, but there’s very little chance of this happening unless you mention the URL to someone, include it in your social profiles or share links to your articles to test reactions.
At the start of a new blog or website, there’s virtually zero chance of getting organic traffic from Google.
Working on your site while blocking search engines
If you want to work on your site and block people from viewing the pages while its in development, you need to install a maintenance mode plugin. There are tons to choose from. We use a free one called Maintenance. You can download it here or through the WordPress dashboard and install it in the usual way (here’s a tutorial on how to install a WordPress plugin).
A maintenance mode plugins installs a splash page across your site so the only way in is through the admin area. Once you’re logged in, you can view the site as if it is fully available on the internet and work on getting your content right.
This is what the splash page from the Maintenance plugin looks like on a live site.
You MUST remember to change the settings when your site is ready!
When your site is ready for the world to see, you really must go back to the settings page and untick the Search Visibility button. If you don’t do that, the search engines won’t index your website.
At this stage you might be asking yourself how search engines find out about a new site.
There are a few ways, in the case of WordPress powered sites, it’s usually by pinging.
It’s built-in to WordPress. You find it in Settings > Writing.
At the bottom of the page is this section (note – it’s only visible if search engines are NOT blocked):
This is what you see if you’ve blocked search engines.
When you publish a new post, or update an old one, WordPress sends out a notification message to site called Ping-o-matic.com.
Ping-o-matic notifies its subscribers that there is new content on your site, or older content has changed, and they send their web crawling programs (spiders) to index or re-index your content. All this happens electronically and in a split-second.
When you’re ready for the search engines to index your site, head over to Ping-o-matic, enter your site’s details they way I have in this image, and hit the Send Pings button.
The web crawlers should visit your site straight away and start indexing your content.
It might take a while for Google to show it in the search results, but there’s a chance of it appearing within a few hours.
One last thing to say on this – when your site is finally ready, don’t forget to remove the blocking function.