Indexing websites is one of the first steps (after crawling) in a complex process of understanding what web pages are for in order for them to be listed and served as search results by search engines.
Search engines are constantly improving how they crawl and index websites.
Understanding how Google and Bing crawl and index websites is essential for technical SEO and useful in developing strategies for improving search visibility.
Indexing: How Search Engines Work Today
- 1 Indexing: How Search Engines Work Today
- 2 How To Get A Page Indexed Faster
- 3 Crawl Budget
- 4 Google Has Two Kinds Of Crawling
- 5 Discover How Search Engines Work
- 6 How do websites rank at the top?
- 7 How is Google indexing done?
- 8 How does a search engine rank results?
- 9 How does a search engine use an index and algorithm?
Let’s look at the basics of how search engines work.
This article focuses on indexing. So let’s dive in.
Indexing is where the ranking process begins after a website is crawled.
Indexing essentially refers to adding web page content to Google to be considered for rankings.
When you create a new page on your website, there are several ways it can be indexed.
The simplest method of indexing a page is to do nothing at all.
Google has crawlers following links, so as long as your site is already in the index, and the new content is linked to your site, Google will eventually find it and add it to its index . More on this later.
How To Get A Page Indexed Faster
But what if you want Googlebot to reach your page faster?
This can be important if you have timely content or if you’ve made an important change to a page that Google needs to know about.
I use faster methods when I’ve optimized a critical page or tweaked the title and description to improve click-through.
I want to know specifically when they were picked up and displayed in the SERPs to know where the improvement measure starts.
In these cases, there are a few additional methods you can use.
1. XML Sitemaps
XML sitemaps are the oldest and most reliable way to call search engine attention to content.
An XML sitemap gives search engines a list of all the pages on your site, as well as additional details about it, such as when it was last modified.
A sitemap can be submitted to Bing through Bing Webmaster Tools, and can also be submitted to Google through Search Console.
But when you need an indexed page right away, it’s not particularly reliable.
2. Request Indexing With Google Search Console
In Search Console, you can “Request Indexing.”
You start by clicking on the top search field, which by default reads, “Inspect and URL in domain.com.”
Enter the URL you want indexed, then press Enter.
If the page is already known to Google, you will be presented with a lot of information. We won’t go into that here, but I recommend logging in and seeing what’s there if you haven’t already.
For our purposes here, the important button appears whether the page is indexed or not – meaning it’s good for content discovery or just asking Google to understand a recent change.
You will see the button shown below.
Screenshot from Google Search Console, December 2022
Within a few seconds to a few minutes, you can search the new content or URL in Google and find the change or new content that was raised.
3. Participate In Bing’s IndexNow
Bing has an open protocol based push method of alerting search engines about new or updated content.
This new search engine indexing protocol is called IndexNow.
It’s called a push protocol because the idea is to alert search engines using IndexNow about new or updated content, which will cause them to index it.
An example of a pull protocol is the old XML sitemap way that relies on a search engine crawler to decide to visit and index it (or to be fetched by Search Console).
The advantage of IndexNow is that it wastes less web hosting and data center resources, which is not only more environmentally friendly but saves on bandwidth resources.
The biggest advantage, however, is faster content indexing.
Currently only Bing and Yandex use IndexNow.
4. Bing Webmaster Tools
In addition to participating in IndexNow, consider a Bing Webmaster Tools account.
If you don’t have a Bing Webmaster Tools account, I can’t recommend it enough.
The information provided is significant and will help you better assess problem areas and improve your rankings on Bing, Google, and elsewhere – and most likely provide a better user experience.
But to get your content indexed, all you need to do is click: Configure My Website > Submit URLs.
Enter the URL(s) you want indexed and click “Submit.”
Screenshot from Bing Webmaster Tools, January 2023
So, that’s most of what you need to know about indexing and how search engines do it (with an eye on where things are going).
More details on the Bing Webmaster Tools URL Submission Tool help page.
There is also the Bing Webmaster Tools Indexing API which can also speed up the time content appears in Bing search results within hours.
More information about the Bing Indexing API is here.
We can’t talk about indexing without talking about the crawling budget.
Basically, crawl budget is a term used to describe the amount of resources Google will spend on crawling a website.
The allocated budget is based on a combination of factors, the two central ones being:
If you run a large news site with constantly updating content that search engine users will want to be aware of, your site will be crawled frequently (dare I say – constantly).
If you run a small barbershop, you have two dozen links, and you are rightfully not considered important in this context (you might be an important barber in the area , but you are not important in terms of the crawl budget), then the budget will be low.
You can read more about crawl budgets and how they are determined in Google’s explanation.
Google Has Two Kinds Of Crawling
Indexing by Google starts with crawling, which has two types:
Discover How Search Engines Work
Optimizing websites for search engines starts with good content and ends with sending it to be indexed.
Whether you do it with an XML sitemap, Google Search Console URL Submission Tool, Bing Webmaster Tools, or IndexNow, getting that content indexed is when your web page starts its journey to the top the search results (if everything works out!).
That’s why it’s important to understand how search indexing works.
Read more about the key factors that influence search engine results pages in How Search Engines Work.
Featured Image: Overearth/Shutterstock
How do websites rank at the top?
Follow these tips to improve your search engine optimization (SEO) and watch your website rise to the top of search engine results.
- Publish Relevant, Authoritative Content. …
- Update Your Content Regularly. …
- Metadata. …
- Get a decent website. …
- Use alt tags.
How does a website get to the top of Google? Earn and build high quality links. Links are one of the most significant factors used by Google and other search engines to determine page rank. Google also uses links to discover new content and as such, high quality links are like votes of confidence in your website.
How are websites ranked? To rank websites, Google uses web crawlers that scan and index pages. Each page is ranked according to Google’s opinion of its authority and usefulness to the end user. Then, using an algorithm with over 210 known factors, Google orders them on the search result page.
How is Google indexing done?
Most of our Search index is built by software called crawlers. These automatically visit publicly accessible web pages and follow links on those pages, much like you would if you were browsing content on the web.
How does Google store its index? Most of Google’s index is stored on hard drives because, in Illyes’ words, hard drives are cheap, accessible, and easy to change.
How is indexing done in search engines? The search index for websites is created by crawlers – also known as web crawlers and web spiders. The crawler simply visits the website pages and collects the content from the website. This data is then transformed into an index.
How does a search engine rank results?
To provide you with the most useful information, Search algorithms look at many factors and signals, including the words of your query, the relevance and usefulness of pages, the expertise of sources, and your location and settings. The weight given to each factor varies depending on the nature of your enquiry.
What determines the priority of search results? Algorithm Ranks Google Pages Based On: Web Page Authority. The quality of the content. Number of backlinks. UX and mobile friendliness.
How does a search engine use an index and algorithm?
A search engine consists of two main parts: an index and algorithms. To build its index, it crawls known pages and follows links to find new ones. Search algorithms aim to return the best, most relevant results. The quality of search results is important for building market share.
How do search engines crawl and index? Crawling: Google downloads text, images and videos from pages it has found on the internet with automated programs called crawlers. Indexing: Google analyzes the text, images, and video files on the page, and stores the information in the Google index, which is a large database.
How are algorithms used in search engines? When a search query is entered into a search engine by a user, all pages deemed relevant are identified from the index and an algorithm is used to rank the relevant pages hierarchically into a series of results. The algorithms used to rank the most relevant results are different for each search engine.
How does a search engine use an index? In the index the pages you have found are stored. After a crawler finds a page, the search engine does it just like a browser would. In the process of doing so, the search engine analyzes the content of that page. All that information is stored in its index.
What is indexing in Google search engine?
A page is indexed by Google if the Google crawler (“Googlebot”) has visited it, analyzed it for content and meaning, and stored it in the Google index. Indexed pages can be shown in Google Search results (if they follow Google’s webmaster guidelines).
What is a good Google index score? The value is the answer to an important question: how many pages does Google need to crawl to index and rank just one? Experience shows that a ratio of 10/1 is a reasonable value for large commercial sites. Unfortunately, ratios ten to one hundred times less favorable are not unknown.
What is the purpose of indexing? Indexing, broadly speaking, refers to the use of some indicator or benchmark measure as a reference or measuring stick. In finance and economics, indexing is used as a statistical measure for tracking economic data such as inflation, unemployment, gross domestic product (GDP) growth, productivity, and market returns.
What is meant by search engine indexing?
Indexing is the process by which search engines organize information prior to a search to enable very fast responses to queries. Searching through individual pages for keywords and topics would be a very slow process for search engines to identify relevant information.
How do I prevent my search engine from indexing? The most effective and easiest tool for preventing Google from indexing certain web pages is the ânoindexâ metatag. Basically, it is a directive that tells search engine crawlers not to index a web page, and therefore not to be subsequently shown in search engine results.
What is a search index? A search index is a body of structured data that a search engine refers to when looking for results relevant to a particular query. Indexes are a critical part of any search system, as they must be tailored to the specific information retrieval method of the search engine algorithm.
Why is indexing important for Google?
Indexing is an important part of what a search engine does. Without indexing, all the pages Googlebot crawls don’t have a place to live and the ranking systems don’t have the input they need to do their job. If Google can’t index your website it can’t appear in the search results.
Why is the number of indexed pages important? Pages not indexed by Google cannot rank. When your web page is not indexed it can directly mean that Google may not like your page or may not be able to crawl it easily. So, if your indexed page count starts to decrease, this could mean the following: Google thinks your website pages are irrelevant.
What is Google crawling and indexing?
Crawling is finding pages and links that lead to more pages. Indexing is the storage, analysis and organization of the content and links between pages. There are parts of indexing that help inform how a search engine crawls.
How does crawling and indexing work? Crawl: Scour the Internet for content, looking over the code/content for every URL they find. Indexing: Store and organize the content found during the crawling process. Once a page is in the index, it is ready to be displayed as a result of relevant queries.
What does it mean when Google crawls? Crawling is the process of finding new or updated pages to add to Google (Google crawled my site). One of the Google crawlers crawls (requests) the page. The terms “crawl” and “index” are often used interchangeably, although they are different (but closely related) operations.