Let’s start with a definition straight from Google itself: ‘A page is indexed if it has been visited by the Google crawler (“Googlebot”), analysed for content and meaning, and stored in the Google index.’
Describing the process that Google follows to produce search engine results can also help you understand what indexing is. To start with, Google is fully automated. That means, you don’t have to submit your website to any server or program for it to be considered in search engine results. The Googlebot is working 24/7, 365 days a year to better understand the information on the internet.
However, there are strategies that you can use to help Google better understand what your website is about. These strategies include providing a sitemap, having other websites link to your site, creating page titles, using description meta tags, and organising the hierarchy of your site.
Sitemaps are one of the most critical tools for helping Google to index your page. A sitemap provides the search engine with information relating to the pages, videos, and other files on your website. You can use a sitemap to highlight which pages you think are important and which Google doesn’t need to know about. While everyone should consider using a site map, websites that are particularly large, content heavy, or new can definitely benefit from this resource.
Building a sitemap is a slightly complex process, best left to a professional who specialises in SEO services.
Having indexed your site, Google’s bots will emerge with a location (URL) and a description of that page’s content. It’s important to note that crawling is not a one off occurrence. The more often Google’s bots can crawl your site for new information and changes, the more likely they are to direct relevant traffic to you. You can check how often Google crawls your site via the Google Console platform.
How has indexing changed over the years?
The way that we use the internet has changed dramatically over the past twenty years. Google understands this. They aim to provide users with the most relevant, trustworthy content possible, and so their algorithms are constantly changing in line with our evolving wants and needs.
Google is fairly transparent about tweaks they make to their algorithms. After all, it’s in their best interests that as many people as possible understand what they’re looking for in a website. All up, there have been thousands of changes to the way that Google unleashes its bots to crawl and index websites.
One of the most significant was the transition to mobile-first indexing. When Google was first launched (all the way back in 1998), the desktop computer was the predominant device people used to access the internet. In fact, smartphones wouldn’t even become widely available for another 10 years. It makes sense, then, that Google was largely concerned with the desktop user experience. User experience in this context can refer to everything from how quickly a page loads to how easy it is to navigate menus and headers.
Fast forward to today and the vast majority of people access the internet on a mobile device. What effect has this had on the Google algorithms? Quite a significant one, as it turns out.
A few years ago, Google announced that from July 1st, 2019, mobile-first indexing was enabled by default for all new websites. In simple terms, this means that Google would predominantly use the mobile version of a site for indexing and ranking.
While many SEO experts saw this coming, it was still one of the most substantial changes to Google’s indexing practices ever recorded. As is the case with all major updates, Google shared a raft of materials that web developers and those that provide SEO services could use to ensure their website was well received by the search engine’s bots.
Optimising your site
As mentioned, there are several strategies you can use to help Google index your site. The search engine itself says that you can approach this task using either an active or passive approach. What does this mean? Well, a passive approach means that you don’t provide Google with a sitemap. Rather, you rely on the natural links between your pages on your website being enough for Google’s bots.
This strategy is definitely less work and is generally recommended for simple websites. An active approach, on the other hand, means that your site includes a sitemap that can be accessed by the Google bots as well as metadata that outlines the relationship between URLS.
Clearly, the latter approach is one that will require more work and a better understanding of technical SEO practices. However, it can pay off significantly in the long run, particularly if your website is complex.
Optimising your site for the Googlebot can take a lot of work, which is why many people opt to outsource their digital marketing to an SEO company in Australia. Given the ever changing nature of Google’s algorithms and the competitive landscape that is search engine optimisation, a little professional help is definitely not a bad idea.