A Deeper Dive: Crawling, Indexing and Ranking

Computer displaying Search Engine Optimization

As you learn the basics of SEO, three words that will keep appearing in your vocabulary are crawling, indexing and ranking. You may have a general understanding of what each word means, but are you understanding how to apply them to your business’ needs? In our last blog about SEO, we covered the basics along with best practices and general SEO importance. This next blog will take a deeper look at how crawling, indexing and ranking relate to a successful SEO campaign.

If your site is not indexed by Google, it’s essentially invisible. You’ll have a difficult time showing up for any search queries. The question is how do you make your site visible?

A Search Engine’s Function

Let’s start here: There are three primary functions to a search engine, which includes crawling, indexing and ranking. The discovery process, or crawling, releases a team of robots that are known as crawlers or spiders to find content that is new and updated. They search for webpages, videos, images, PDFs, etc, which are usually discovered by a link. The bots will find webpages and then follow links to find new URLs, which they then bring back to search engine servers.

Indexes are where all the information is held. For example, Google’s search index contains billions and billions of webpages. Search engine crawlers find a webpage, scour the content and take note of key signals such as keywords and website maneuverability. Using this information, Google and other search engines will rank your website accordingly using a search engine algorithm, which checks for highly relevant content and then orders it by the level of importance in relation to the searcher’s query.

Are my Pages Indexed?

Search engines like Google are constantly updating its index of pages so it can generate faster search engine results pages (SERPs). To ensure your pages are coming up in the index, go to “site:yourdomain.com.” This is an advanced search operator that will show you the total number of results and how long it took for them to surface. Though these numbers aren’t exact, they do give you more of an idea of which pages are showing up ins search results.

Search Engine Optimization Google Search Console

This will help you find the pages that you don’t want to be indexed. For example, your website may have duplicate URLs (which is usually sort-and-filter parameters for e-commerce), old URLs that don’t have strong content, test pages, promo code pages and more. To hide these pages, utilize robot.txt. This directs the crawler away from certain pages and sections of your site.

How do I Ensure my Pages are Indexed?

There a few optimizations that can help search engines find your important pages aside from crawling. To make sure search engines are able to discover your content, use the following options:

  • Use internal links: Pages are crawled by search engines through HTML links. Internal pages that have authority can push equity to others. You can find out which pages have more authority by using Ahrefs, an all-in-one SEO toolset that offers free learning materials.
  • Block low-quality pages: It’s important to pay close attention to the type of content that is on your page. Though your main focus should be providing high-quality content, be sure to take an audit of low-quality pages on your site as it can decrease the number of times Google crawls, indexes and ranks your site. You can block these pages by utilizing the aforementioned robot.txt direction.
  • Secure external links: Having other websites link to your page is important not only from a ranking standpoint, but it allows for you to pick up the indexation of your website. Consider guest posting on relevant, authoritative websites or find relevant media sites and secure advertising.

Having your pages indexed directly affects your website’s ranking. Confirming pages are indexed is critical to optimizing your page rank.

Why Aren’t My Pages Ranking?

There are three important factors when optimizing for ranking – relevance, authority and utility. Relevance is how well your page matches the search query. To optimize your relevance, you must cater to the why behind a query.

Authority is essentially how powerful your website is and directly relates to backlinks, which are also known as inbound links. A backlink is when a website links to a page on an external website and plays an important role in most search engine algorithms. Backlinks must have both authority, which relates to the power of the linking website; and relevance, which relates to the topic of the linking webpage and website. Backlinks are important because they vouch that your content is valuable.

And the final factor, utility, means that your content needs to do more than just match the search query. Blog posts and free tools help with narrowing down the quality items that searchers can use when making a search query.

Having a deeper understanding of crawling, indexing and ranking can help your business’ website rank better in most search engines. If you’re looking to optimize your website and earn a higher ranking, contact us today!

Jessie Koerner is a Senior Account Executive at Mulberry Marketing Communications, an award-winning full-service B2B communications agency based in Chicago, London and Australia. She has a deep passion for media relations, strategic PR and marketing campaign planning and content creation.