Google recommends prioritising the creation of high-quality content to improve the indexing and ranking of your webpages, but before you begin to reap the rewards of an excellent marketing strategy, you first need to make sure that your site is ‘indexable’.
Google says that its own Search Index is crammed with “hundreds of billions of webpages”. This index is where Google turns to find all of the relevant content it surfaces in search results for users. If your site or page is not indexed, then you will not be able to drive any sort of organic traffic from search, which is a major problem.
How does indexing work exactly?
Indexing is actually the second step in Google’s search engine process. The first is known as ‘crawling’, and this is where Google’s web crawlers gather information about a site and determine whether it is eligible to be indexed.
Google says: “Crawlers look at webpages and follow links on those pages, much like you would if you were browsing content on the web. They go from link to link and bring data about those webpages back to Google’s servers.”
If Google’s web crawlers can access a page and complete the crawling process, Google then adds the website to its Search Index. However, merely being added to the database does not immediately translate to higher rankings in SERPs. This is a separate process that you also need to optimise for.
Indexing is not a ‘one-and-done’ process though. You want Google to re-index your site and pages so that new content features in search. This is a process that will occur automatically after you enter the index and when there are no issues preventing the web crawlers from crawling your pages.
How do I know if my site has been indexed?
Fortunately, you can find out whether your site has been indexed by entering ‘site’, and then your domain name, into the Google search bar. Using the placeholder ‘example’, it would read ‘site:example.com’.
After typing in your domain and pressing ‘enter’, you will be able to see the number of results that are visible in search beneath the ‘All’ category. If there are no results, then your site has not yet been indexed.
You can also find out your indexing status by using Google Search Console, where you’ll be able to see the number of valid pages that have been indexed within the ‘Coverage’ section.
How long does it take to index a site?
Google is not very specific with its timeline for the process. It states in its own guidance on Google Search Central that crawling and indexing a site “can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks”, and urges webmasters to be patient and keep track of progress using either the URL Inspection Tool or the Index Status report.
The waiting game for a new site or an exciting webpage to be indexed by Google and discovered by people via search can be frustrating. You will therefore be pleased to hear that you can try to fast-track the process by optimising certain on-site elements.
How can I get my pages indexed?
Google actually has a tool that allows you to request that the search giant starts the process of indexing certain pages. This is available in Google Search Console.
All you need to do is paste the URL in question into the URL Inspection Tool within Google Search Console. Google will then tell you whether the URL has been indexed before presenting you with a ‘Request Indexing’ option if it has not been.
Google did disable this tool in October last year, but it appears to have been a short-term shutdown, as full functionality is now available again in Google Search Console.
Indexing pages takes time though, so it won’t suddenly happen within the space of 24 hours. To prepare for the process, you can optimise pages for efficient indexing.
What can I do to make indexing easier?
To begin with, make sure that your robots.txt files are being used correctly. These files are part of the web standard for crawlers known as ‘Robots Exclusion Protocol’ (REP).
Robots.txt files are used to inform search engine spiders on Google, as well as Bing and Yahoo, that webpages should not be crawled. You might want to ignore files if you want to prioritise certain pages, for example. The first priority though is making sure that everything is crawlable.
Next, go through your SEO tags and check that they are also being deployed correctly. Removing any ‘noindex’ meta tags on your site is crucial, as you want all of your pages to be indexed.
You should also make sure that canonical tags are being used correctly. Canonical tags inform Google which URL is the ‘master’ version of a page. Google’s URL Inspection Tool is useful for reviewing your usage of canonical tags and making amendments where necessary.
The final technical checks centre on internal linking and your site architecture. Internal linking – the act of directing one page to another on your site via links – is recommended as crawlers will use these links to find and index your pages. High-quality backlinks to authority sites also help.
Is content creation important?
Now that you have run through a technical checklist, you can focus on crafting compelling content on each of your pages. This content should be unique, engaging and valuable for users. Google always urges brands to craft the best content to improve the quality of pages and search engine rankings.
You should also try to remove any older pages that are ‘thin’, low quality or underperforming. Keep an eye on any duplicate content, as this can detract from your SEO efforts. You can refer to Google Search Console and Google Analytics to check for these potential issues, and to see how your pages are performing.
Now, you should have everything in place for Google to start indexing your site and re-indexing pages over time, which will enable you to drive organic traffic to your content, consistently.