Published Google Docs Documents To Appear In Google Search

Martin Brinkmann
Sep 21, 2009
Updated • Mar 17, 2015

How would you announce a major change to a product that is likely going to affect a large userbase?

Probably not in the same way that Google announced upcoming changes to their popular document management and editing platform Google Docs.

In a recent post on the Google Docs Help Forum Marie, a Google employee, notified users of an upcoming change to Google Docs.

Google plans to index all published documents from Google Docs users if the documents are linked from a public (that means crawled by Google Bot) website.

What this means is that Google Docs users might find their documents in the Google index even if they never had the intention for this.

The main problem with the procedure is the following: Google Docs users cannot explicitly block their documents from being indexed. Even worse is the fact that there is not an option to see if their documents have been publicly linked.

Only documents that have been explicitly published by selecting the 'Publish as web page' or 'Publish/embed' option and are linked from a public accessible website will be indexed by Google Search. The only option at this point in time is to undo this from the same menu.

A click on the Stop Publishing button will prevent the indexing of the document in Google Search. It means on the other hand that the document will no longer be accessible if it has been linked from a website or is accessed by others through other means.

Update: The notification on the Google Docs help forum is no longer available. You find the feature mentioned on this Google Docs page however:

Anyone with the link is a great setting if you want to give easy access to information to a bunch of people (as long as the contents of the doc aren't sensitive). For example, if you want to share a syllabus and a book list, you could put that info into doc set to anyone with the link and send your students the link. Docs in this category are generally not indexed by search engines, but they may show up in search results if the doc URL appears on another webpage that is indexed.

Public on the web (must be enabled by Google Apps administrator)
Set a doc to public if you want to make it publicly available to anyone. Public docs may get indexed by search engines (like Google Web Search), can show up in search results, and anyone who finds the web address of the doc can access it. If you also select the 'Allow anyone to edit' option, anyone that finds the document will also be able to view and edit your document.



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  1. Daniel said on December 27, 2011 at 11:57 am

    any news on this subject?
    it seems like indexing is still not happening, none of my pdfs in Google Docs are indexed yet. It would be great

    1. Daniel said on December 27, 2011 at 4:04 pm

      thanks Martin,
      Thanks to you now i know that firefox is requiring a Google login to download the pdfs, whereas Chrome and WExplorer don’t…. (¿?)
      So the question remains.

    2. Martin Brinkmann said on December 27, 2011 at 12:25 pm

      Daniel they are only indexed if they have been published.

      1. Daniel said on December 27, 2011 at 12:50 pm

        thanks, Martin,
        but I my pdf’s are indeed public in Google docs and are linked from this google site (you can check the pdf links in the list, some are there since 2010):
        And yet, those pdf’s are not indexed nor searchable (in google)

        Any idea what could be going wrong?
        Has the new policy announced in this post been finally applied?

      2. Martin Brinkmann said on December 27, 2011 at 1:59 pm

        All pdf links require you to be signed in to a Google Docs account, can this be the issue?

  2. Igor said on February 1, 2010 at 3:17 pm

    I don’t understand all that moaning about indexation of published documents.

    It is what web search engines were developed for. To index all accessible doucments!!! It’s that fucking simple.

    Yahoo indexes google docs for ages no matter whether google will index their google docs or not.

  3. Riff said on September 23, 2009 at 5:58 pm

    So you are grumpy that documents published to the web are going to be indexed? Man I’m so glad they don’t index PDFs.

  4. Tim said on September 21, 2009 at 11:22 am

    To be fair to Google, they also emailed admins on Google Apps accounts on how to stop documents from being publishable to the web. Frankly if you have published a document publicly to the net you should be expecting it to be found and crawled.That’s how the internet works.

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