WHAT IS INDEXING IN SEO?
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What Is Indexing in SEO: A Comprehensive Guide
Build it and they will come. That saying isn’t true for brick-and-mortar businesses and it’s certainly not true for your online storefront: your website.
So how do people find you online? Search engines like Google and Bing, that’s how. Search engines provide users with search results that lead to relevant information on high-quality websites. Acting as filters for the abundance of information available on the internet, they help users to quickly and easily find the results that best match their searches.
Search engines use indexing to organize and rank websites. Indexing is part of a normal search engine process and is incredibly crucial for SEO purposes because content or webpages that aren’t indexed have no chance of ranking for a search result.
In this guide, you’ll find out more about search engine indexing, with an overview of how search engines work, details of the SEO indexing process, and insights on potential future trends and changes in indexing.
Understanding What Search Engine Indexing Is
Indexing in search engines is the process of how search engines organize information before a search to enable incredibly fast responses to user queries. Search engines work by crawling hundreds of billions of pages using web crawlers. Crawlers are also commonly referred to as search engine bots or spiders. A search engine navigates the web by crawling web pages and following links on these pages to discover new pages that have been made available.
This index is where the pages discovered in searches are stored. After a crawler finds a page, the search engine renders it making it visible in your browser. While the bot is crawling the page, the search engine analyzes the content and stores the information in the index.
Role of Indexing in Making Web Pages Discoverable
Indexing is helpful for businesses because it allows websites to be easily discoverable by potential customers using relevant keywords. When a website is properly indexed it becomes more visible and traffic to the site increases. Well-indexed websites are also more likely to rank higher in search results, which can increase visibility even more and result in more traffic to the site – which will likely lead to more conversions and sales.
How search Engines Work: A Quick Overview
Knowing how long your SEO process is expected to take is important for planning your brand’s other marketing and advertising strategies. Be Found Online wants to keep you on the frustration-free path to successful SEO, so we’ve put together this in-depth guide to help you understand what goes into SEO and when you can expect to start seeing positive returns on your pages and site.
- Bullets are great
- For spelling out benefits and
- Turning visitors into leads.
Search engines send out crawlers (also known as robots or spiders) to find new and updated content on the internet, from webpages and images to videos and PDF documents. The crawler starts out by retrieving a few web pages and then follows the links on those webpages to discover new URLs. By going down this path of links, the crawler can find new content and add it to their index (a massive database of discovered URLs). The stored URLs can later be retrieved when a user is seeking information that the content-specific URLs are a solid match for.
The Role Search Engine Bots Play in Indexing
Search engine bots work full-time, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. They sweep every website, making note of all the text they find, but they can’t see images or use many navigational buttons.
Connection between Crawling, Indexing, and Ranking in Search Results
Search engines systematically perform these main 3 functions:
- Crawling: Search engine spiders constantly crawl web pages across the internet, often using links on existing pages to find new pages.
- Indexing: After a page is crawled, the search engine will add it to their database.
- Ranking: After indexing, search engines rank pages based on various factors. As an example, Google has over 200 ranking factors it uses to rank pages.
The Indexing Process in Detail
The process of indexing involves 3 aspects:
- Crawling: As mentioned, crawling is a critical component of indexing that helps make search engines successful in finding the content users are looking for.
- Parsing: Consists of extracting page content and meta information.
- Storing: Once data is crawled and parsed, it’s saved in the search engine's index.
Index storage leads to greater search efficiency. Without it, it would be a very slow process for search engines to identify relevant information.
Factors Affecting Indexing
Various factors affect the indexing process, including:
Quality of Website Content
The quality of a website's content is a vital factor in the speed a search engine indexes it. For example, since Google's search engine indexing algorithms are designed to provide the most relevant and high-quality results to its users, content that is well-structured, engaging, original, and provides value to users is given priority.
Website Structure and XML Sitemaps
Good site structure allows search engines like Google to index properly and provide relevant information tailored to the behavior and needs of users. By optimizing your XML sitemap, you enhance search engine crawling and indexing, ensure the visibility of deeply buried pages, and provide valuable metadata so that search engines can better understand your website. As a bonus, XML sitemaps help create a positive user experience by enabling easy navigation.
Well-Defined Robots.txt Files
A robots.txt file tells search engine crawlers which URLs the crawler can access on your site. If a bot comes to your website and it doesn't have one, it will crawl your website and index pages as it normally would. A robot. txt file is only needed if you want to have more control over what is being crawled.
Common Indexing Issues
Duplicate content and thin content are two common indexing issues to look out for:
Duplicate Content and Canonical Issues
A search engine may recognize some of your pages as duplicate content, even if you didn’t mean for that to happen. Duplicate content is content that's similar to or exact copies of content on other websites or on different pages on the same website. Having large amounts of duplicate content on a website can negatively impact search engine rankings.
Canonical issues most commonly occur when a website has more than one URL that displays similar or identical content (duplicate content). They’re often the result of not having proper redirects in place, though they can also be caused by syndicating or publishing content on multiple sites.
If you do have duplicate content, there are two main ways to fix it, which are most effective when both are implemented:
- Use a 301 redirect. This will permanently redirect the old page to a new, live site page.
- Add canonical tags to your site’s pages to tell search engines which of several similar pages is preferred. A canonical tag is a way of telling search engines that a specific URL represents the master copy of a page.
Taking these steps will help you make sure that the same pages on your site aren’t competing against each other for views, clicks, and links.
Thin Content and Its Impact on Indexing
Thin content is website content that provides little to no value to customers. It’s lacking in depth, structure, and/or quality. When a search engine finds your content thin, it can demote or remove it from search rankings, and in extreme cases, it can deindex your entire site.
You can make thin content richer by implementing a keyword research strategy that is tailored to meet the needs of your audience. You can also combine thin pages with other ones on similar topics or search intent to add more value. Another option is to repurpose older unique content into more valuable formats by adding components such as infographics or videos.
If you find any unhelpful, irrelevant pages that aren’t getting any traffic, redirect them to other pages or delete them.
Indexing vs. Crawling: Clarifying the Difference
People often confuse indexing with crawling but they’re two different things. Where crawling is the discovery of pages and links that lead to more pages, indexing is storing, analyzing, and organizing the content and connections between pages found from crawling. There are parts of indexing that help inform how a search engine crawls.
Both crawling and indexing are necessary for search engines to properly rank pages and are significant factors in SEO.
Monitoring and Ensuring Proper Indexing
It’s critical that your webpages are indexed properly for users to find your site when searching online for products, services, or information you can help them with. Since proper indexing is so important, you’ll want to create procedures to perform periodic checks for index coverage of your pages and deal with any potential issues that are discovered.
You can have site administrators check the last time content was indexed and monitor the status of crawl jobs. You can also stop any crawl job that’s running, cancel the next scheduled crawl before it starts, or rerun a failed crawl.
If users report search issues, check the status of crawls to ensure they're current. Note that after a crawl is completed, users might have to wait a few minutes before they can locate the latest content.
Mobile-first indexing means Google predominantly uses the mobile version of the content on a page for indexing and ranking. This makes the mobile-friendliness of a website an extremely important factor for proper indexing, as well as for ranking. A mobile-friendly website is more likely to have higher visibility in the search results on mobile devices, leading to increased traffic and conversions.
Future Trends in Indexing
As searches are becoming more personalized, businesses may have to make their content more specific and focused on particular topics specifically geared to the viewpoint of the audience. In other words, content will need to be even more contextually relevant and valuable to users.
Emerging technologies like voice search, visual search, and AI will have more impact on the overall search process, including indexing. For voice searches, a conversational tone might become more effective, and keyword strategies might need to include more long-tail keywords. Visual search is also becoming increasingly popular, so image optimization will become more important.
The advancement of AI in search engines could bring challenges and opportunities. AI helps to refine and personalize search engine results by learning from user behaviors and preferences to provide more relevant and accurate results.
To sum up, expected trends include increased personalization, growth in voice and visual search, and improvements in semantic search due to AI advancements.
Speculation on Potential Change in Indexing Practices
AI won’t replace search, but it will certainly have an impact on how search is done in the future. Potential changes in search practices over the next few years as a result of AI (and other technological advancements) may include:
- A need for more fact-checking to ensure the validity and authenticity of content
- A decline in search volume for certain queries
- Less organic traffic for sites targeting those keywords
AI has the potential to help:
- Increase user interactivity on sites
- Further improve personalization
- Drive the need for better quality content
Indexing Is a Vital Part of SEO
Now that you’re more familiar with what search engine indexing is, it’s easier to understand the important role it plays in page ranking. Regardless of the potential future changes in indexing practices, indexing will continue to have a major role in SEO, helping your pages benefit from improved rankings and a more user-friendly website with quality content. You’ll want to get into the habit of maintaining your website so that it is set up to meet SEO ranking standards and is in the position to be indexed properly.
Having a solid SEO and content strategy will greatly help you stand out in search engine results pages (SERPs) and will set you up to smoothly adapt to the changing search landscape. Having a plan in place, being consistent in following that plan, and keeping up to date on changes in the SEO industry will enable you to maximize your current content and seize opportunities for growth in the future.