What You Need To Know About Crawling and Indexing for SEO Ranking
Two of the most intimidating search engine optimization concepts are crawling and indexing. Neither are easy to learn nor master—just ask any SEO agency expert. Add to that, the rules surrounding them are constantly changing as search engine algorithms continue to advance.
However, they are inseparable from a good SEO education.
This guide covers most of what you should know about crawling and indexing in SEO, including:
- Background information on crawling and indexing
- Connecting these two concepts with SEO ranking
- Three actionable steps for better website SEO
There’s a lot to discuss, so get ready to take notes.
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Crawling vs. Indexing in SEO
Every website on search engine results pages (SERPs) goes through the entire crawling and indexing process. It would not be a stretch to say that it is impossible to appear on SERPs without it. That is why SEO experts offer tips that improve crawlability and indexability.
Breaking down these relatively hefty concepts is simple enough by comparing them with basic real-world scenarios. For instance, imagine driving around a new town looking for a good restaurant to stop at for lunch. Similarly, crawlers visit websites looking for new content.
On the other hand, indexing is like a search engine adding detailed book tabs to the entirety of the internet. Its goal is to find all the valuable pages and show them to users whenever they search. Indexing is the first step toward working your way to the top of the SERPs.
Take a closer look at the two crucial SEO processes below and how they work.
Crawling: How Search Engines Find Your Content
A common metaphor for crawling is a spider slowly making its way through every thread of its web, hence the term "crawling." Links between website content are a must for this reason. In the example below, pages in the center cluster are easier for bots to crawl than any outliers.
Indexing: The First Step to Appearing on SERPs
A web page cannot appear on SERPs unless the search engine’s crawler bots index it first. It is easy to assume that crawling immediately leads to indexing, but that is not the case. All content must pass a long list of quality requirements to earn its spot on the SERPs.
If any of your pages are not indexed, you can quickly assess why with the checklist below:
- Is the page live and publicly accessible, or is it password-protected?
- Is my content unique or valuable enough for users to be indexed?
- Did I create a sitemap and submit it to the different search engines?
- Is the page currently set as ‘noindex’ in my website’s robots.txt file?
- Did the page not make the cutoff for my website’s allotted crawl budget?
Why Crawling and Indexing Matter for SEO Ranking
Crawling and indexing are inseparable from SERP and SEO ranking. Google and other search engines cannot show users information they do not have. These two processes work together to guarantee that this does not happen.
Your content has to be in a search engine index to appear on SERP. For your content to exist in this index, search engine crawler bots must find it at some point, whether naturally or by your request. Either way, leveraging crawling and indexing is vital to better SEO ranking.
3 Steps for Better Crawlability and Indexability
Now that you (hopefully) thoroughly understand the basic concept behind crawling and indexing, it is time to take measures to improve them for your website. These can be either preventative or curative steps, depending on your website’s current SEO condition.
Below are three robust and reliable steps to drastically increase site crawlability and indexability.
1. Determine Your Website’s Technical SEO Needs
Every website has its own critical technical optimizations for crawling and indexing. Google itself does not see a need for you to stress over achieving SEO perfection. Take, for example, Google’s clearly defined distinction between who does and does not need a sitemap.
Google recommends creating and submitting a sitemap in any of the following scenarios:
- Your website has over 500 pages that you want Google to crawl and index.
- The website is new and has little or no links from other websites pointing to it.
- You upload plenty of rich media content, such as images, videos, or news.
2. Work Within Your Website’s Allotted Crawl Budget
Large websites, especially e-commerce websites with thousands of URLs worth of pages, can quickly deplete their crawl budget without reaching a critical page. That is, unless they adequately plan for efficient crawling through the clever use of sitemaps and robots.txt files.
To make the most of your website’s limited crawl budget, follow these steps:
1. Start by discovering the amount you have to work with daily or monthly.
2. Identify and earmark new and updated pages you want search engines to see.
3. Create an XML sitemap, prioritize pages for indexing, and submit it to search engines.
3. Update Your Site Structure and Website Design
So far, we have covered crawling and indexing in the context of written content and touched on a little on-site structure. However, other technical SEO elements, such as web design, also affect how bots judge your website while doing their jobs. This is a classic case of “less is more.”
When it comes to technology and data, flashy almost always means heavy, and you do not want a website weighed down by unnecessary bulk. Loading your web pages with plugins, add-ons, and extensions prevents them from functioning as intended, especially for your users.
Instead, go with a modern and minimalist approach to keep everything running smoothly.
SEO is a constantly growing entity, which makes it daunting, if not intimidating, for beginners to tackle. It is no easy task to simplify complex topics, such as crawling and indexing, without skipping crucial details. However, it is possible to focus on the more digestible parts of it.
Moreover, concepts such as crawl budgets and sitemaps become easier to explain with clear illustrations and examples. Applying SEO, let alone understanding it, is no easy feat, but that should not stop you from doing your best.
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