There are ways to tell search engines and whatnot to not index things. One way is within the file using metatags (or try at least)...
<meta name='robots' content='noindex,nofollow' />
<meta name="robots" content="noarchive">
and another is to use a robots.txt file, essentially a no trespassing sign in a server folder. If you Google "robots.txt" you'll probably find some useful information.
Submit site maps to the major engines. It gives robots a legitimate list of URLs to follow.
Next time, you can also password-protect the entire testing directory through your hosting account control panel.
I allways use a testserver locally and f that can't be done I use a domain I use for hobby and testing purposes
Good suggestions. I didn't know how quick a response you get w/ sitemaps and robot.txt when change from noindex to index.
In other words, I'm curious to know if initially creating a noindex would hurt SEO efforts after we launch a site.
When you build your development environment use the noindex robots file. When you launch the live site, don't include it.
put it in a test folder if you have it on a/the server..a robots.txt file will keep the nice bots out. Once you go live, adjust or delete the robots file AND add an ht acess file for a custom 404 error page with a link or some other redirect to your new home page. delete the test folder. Then submitt your site to the search engines once its "live" to be crawled. It has never taken more than a few days for a site to get indexed in my experience this way. the ht access file for custom 404 page will get them back to the real site if they follow an old link that was indexed etc.
If you need or want to keep the test site on the server (as a backup etc) then you must block it from being crawled, and rename the path so any exisiting links will not work and trigger your custom 404 error page. If google (or others) crawl your site and there is alot of identical content, it will hurt your seo quite a bit.
Sitemaps (html and xml) really help robots know where to go, and robots.txt files (or meta tags) will keep content from getting indexed very well. Every site should have custom error pages anyway, but these will really help your visitors get where they need to be if old content was accidentally indexed and removed.