Indexing is a fundamental concept in SEO and one that even beginners should be aware of. In this article, we’ll look at how search engines work, including how they index and rank web pages. We’ll also go through some techniques you can use to improve your website’s indexing. But first, what is indexing in SEO?
What Does Indexing Mean in SEO?
Indexing in SEO is the process that search engine algorithms use to sort websites into a large index. An index is a database of search engines, where all the information on the web is organised and stored. Indexing allows a search engine to return search results in a matter of seconds.
To improve your website’s ranking on Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs), you have to make sure your website is indexable by search engine bots. While this may sound like a complex programming task, it really isn’t that difficult once you know the basics.
Before we get into that, it’s important to understand how your website interacts with search engines.
How Do Search Engines Work?
For a website to appear in a SERP, a search engine needs to first index and rank it. Let’s take a closer look at these two processes.
Search engine bots are constantly “crawling” the internet, finding new web pages and sites to add to a search engine’s index. These search engine bots are also known as spiders or crawlers.
Crawlers typically start scanning through a handful of web pages, going to links found on these web pages. A link forms a connection between one web page and another, so the more links there are between different web pages, the more interconnected the whole system becomes.
When your website is first published, it isn’t indexed yet. It simply exists on the internet. So, you can find the website by searching for its exact URL link, but the website won’t appear as a search engine result.
Once a crawler lands on one of your web pages, the indexing process starts. The search engine bot scans your website for any new information and adds that to the search engine’s index. For rookies, your whole website should go straight into the index, meaning your website will now appear on SERPs. After the indexing stage comes the final step – ranking.
As implied from its name, the ranking process is a search engine’s way of putting the best content at the top of the SERP. Instead of ranking based solely on the quality of websites, search engines like Google rank based on the matching search query.
When a user searches for something on Google, they type in a search query. The ranking process involves pitting web pages against each other, determining which web page provides the most helpful and relevant content for that search query.
So, your website may rank first for a certain search query, but tenth for another. Since search engines have no idea what search terms users will use, they rely on algorithms to rank the web pages on the spot. This is why the SERPs of some less well-known, less developed search engines take much longer to load.
So, how can you help crawlers find your new website to ensure it appears in SERPs?
How Can You Attract Crawlers to Your Website?
Crawlers find new web pages and websites through links from other indexed websites. But if your website is new, it’s unlikely there will be any web pages linking to your website. As a result, it can take search engine crawlers 2-3 months just to find and index your web pages.
Before you start spamming links to your website on every social media platform, which is a black hat SEO technique, you should consider these three other solutions first:
1. Internal Links
Internal links are links on one web page which lead to another page on your website. The internal linking structure of a website is important, as it gives crawlers a new page to index. If your site is well linked, all you need is a crawler to find one of your web pages and it will automatically index your entire site.
Make sure you have a good internal linking structure on your website from day one. That way, when a crawler comes across one of your pages, other parts of your website are ready to be indexed!
Robots.txt is a text file you can add to your website that tells search engines which pages they should or shouldn’t index. In general, this file helps you manage an overload of indexing requests but doesn’t block your web page from search engines directly.
Sometimes, de-indexing a web page may be beneficial for your website. For example, you may not want to show certain content on your site as you are planning to update it later. Using a robots.txt file can help you temporarily hide that page from crawlers. However, if another website displays a link to your web page, crawlers can still find and index it.
3. XML Sitemaps
Sitemaps are XML files that store your “website in-a-nutshell”. Best practice says that you should save all the website’s information, content, videos, pictures, and relationships between different web pages in the sitemap.
This sitemap tells search engines like Google more about your website, such as which page they should prioritise in the SERP. By helping crawlers understand your website, the chances of it being indexed are far higher. Plus, it can also help avoid a situation where crawlers index only half of your web pages, leaving the rest of your site undiscoverable by search engines.
For beginners without an internal linking structure on their website, this sitemap is the first step to establishing links between web pages. That means that you won’t have to spend as much effort linking your web pages on your website – doing so on the XML sitemap is good enough in the beginning.
The sitemap creation process is fairly simple, and once you’ve done it, you can submit it to various search engines. For Google, you can submit your sitemap to Google Search Console for review. You can also use Google Search Console to submit all of your links to be indexed directly. We’ll have an article explaining exactly how to do that in the future!
Once your website has been indexed, there are also some simple strategies you can use to improve its rankings in the SERPs.
How to Rank Higher on Google
Google’s ranking criteria are ever-changing, so there’s no guaranteed formula to get your website ranking higher. But there are a few things you can do to boost your ranking.
Original and Helpful
First, make sure your website has original and helpful content. Search engines are always looking for content that genuinely benefits the reader. So, algorithms rank your website well if you have viewership-worthy content.
Next, have an engaging website interface. A more interactive website that engages with its viewers tends to hook readers, and maybe even convert them into subscribers or customers. Search engine algorithms see that as a success – people subscribing to a website means that they value its content.
Finally, optimise your website for mobile users. Google is a major advocate of this, which is unsurprising given over 60% of Google’s US search traffic originates from mobile devices. This involves configuring pages to be mobile-friendly, speeding up your loading times, and even formatting images correctly. After all, this ultimately increases your viewership as well as SERP rankings.
All You Need to Know About Indexing in SEO
Indexing your new website can feel like a daunting task, especially from a beginner’s point of view. But there’s a lot of value in learning the basics of indexing. Focus on your website’s internal linking structure, create quality content, and configure your website to be more efficient. If you do these things, you’ll have a better chance of your website being found, indexed, and ranked highly in the SERPs!
If you want to learn more about the basics of SEO, check out our other articles here!