Crawling and indexing are how Google explores and makes sense of your website, and it can have a big effect on your site’s SEO.
In this article, we will explain what crawling and indexing are, what affects your site’s crawlability and indexability, and what you can do to improve both.
- What is Crawling?
- What is Indexing?
- Can You Ask Google to Crawl a Page?
- What Affects Crawlability and Indexability?
- Improving Crawlability and Indexability
What is Crawling?
Crawling is the process by which Google deploys an internet bot (also known as a “web crawler” or “spider”) to a publicly available web page so the bot can “read” that page. When Google crawls a page, it downloads all the text, images, and videos found on that page.
The process starts with a list of web addresses from past crawls as well as sitemaps provided by website owners. As crawlers or spiders visit these websites, they utilize the links on those sites to find other pages.
In particular, crawlers pay special attention to new websites, changes to existing sites, and dead or broken links. Similar to how internet users browse content on the web, crawlers look at web pages and follow links on those pages.
Those bots go from link to link on a webpage and bring data about those pages back to Google’s servers.
The word crawlability refers to how well search engines are able to access and crawl content on a webpage.
Once a page has been crawled, its content is then indexed.
What is Indexing?
While crawling refers to the process by which search engines read a page, indexing is the process by which Google organizes that information prior to a search query in order to enable fast responses for queries.
When a page is indexed, Google analyzes the text, images, and video files on the page and then stores it in a massive database of all the content it has discovered and deemed good enough to serve up to searchers. This involves processing and analyzing all of the textual content and key content tags and attributes on a page, such as title tags and alt attributes, images, videos, and more.
The word indexability refers to a search engine’s ability to analyze a page and add it to its index. The easier it is to index a page, the higher that page’s indexability.
Can You Ask Google to Crawl a Page?
Web crawlers exist so that they can explore the web regularly to find pages to add to Google’s index. That means if your website or page exists, Google will find it.
According to Google, a vast majority of the pages listed in its search results are not manually submitted for inclusion. They are found and added automatically when Google’s web crawlers explore the web.
However, there may come a time when you deem it necessary to ask Google to re-index your website. This can be for several reasons such as your website not performing as well in search results as it used to, or your site just not showing up in results at all.
If you find it necessary to request a re-indexing, you can ask Google to reconsider crawling your site using Webmaster Tools.
If you need to find out how your page is indexed, the Fetch as Googlebot tool will allow you to see your webpage as Google sees it.
What Affects Crawlability and Indexability?
The way you organize your website’s content is known as its site structure, and the best thing you can do to ensure your website is crawlable is to have a solid informational site structure.
Typically, a website is made up of a variety of related topics that exist on pages and posts. Site structure is basically how you group, link, and present all that content to your visitors.
The better you structure your website, the easier it will be for users to find their way around, and the easier you make it for Google to index your site.
If you have a weak site structure, it could lead to crawlability issues.
Internal Link Structure
Because web crawlers work by traveling through the web and following links, they are only able to find pages that are linked to from other posts or pages.
That is why it is important to link to every page on your site you want Google to find. If you create content but don’t link to it anywhere on your site, there is a good chance web crawlers will not be able to find that content.
On the other hand, a solid internal link structure makes it easy for crawlers to quickly find even the pages buried deep in your site’s structure.
If you need help with your site structure, learn how to Master Your WordPress Site Structure.
Another way that web crawlers can find your content is through links to your website from external websites, but securing backlinks is easier said than done.
However, if you can get other sites to link to your content, it is a great opportunity to increase your crawlability as well as build up your website’s domain authority.
One way you can work on securing external backlinks is with a good link building strategy.
Broken Links or Redirects
Sometimes URLs change and their owners forget to set up a redirect or replace the link in existing content. When this happens, it stops web crawlers from successfully visiting those links.
Much like broken links, broken server redirects and other server-related issues can kill your crawlability.
If you find that your site is not being crawled and indexed, you may need to check to make sure is operating correctly on your server.
Blocking Web Crawler Access
There are times when it may seem like a good idea to block web crawlers from crawling and indexing a page, such as when you have created a page you want to prevent public access to.
However, blocking one page can often lead to blocking other pages by mistake as well. If you are going to purposefully block a page, triple-check your code to ensure you are not accidentally blocking other pages as well.
Unsupported Scripts and Other Technology Factors
Another thing that can cause crawlability issues for your website is the use of unsupported technology or scripts.
A common thing that can stop web crawlers is the use of forms to gate content. Crawlers are not able to follow forms, so if you use a form to gate a page or post, it likely won’t get crawled.
Improving Crawlability and Indexability
Now that you know what can affect your website’s crawlability and indexability, we will cover some things you can do to improve both.
Submit a Sitemap
If you want to make your website easier to crawl and index, one of the best things you can do is submit a sitemap to Google.
Sitemaps are small files that live in your domain’s root folder. These files enable you to tell Google which pages are important to your website, as well as provide additional information. They are especially important for crawling non-textual content such as images.
Sitemaps house all the direct links to all the pages on your website and submit that data to Google via Google Search Console.
When you submit a sitemap to Google, that file tells Google everything about your content and shares any updates you have made to your site. Google will not limit crawling to the pages listed in your sitemaps, but it will prioritize crawling those pages.
Regularly Update and Create New Content
Updating your content is great for SEO, but it’s also a good method to improve your crawlability.
That is because Google is more likely to crawl sites that consistently update their content. The more you update old content or add new content to your website, the quicker Google is able to crawl and index your site.
Strengthen Internal Links
We mentioned above how important it is to link to all the pages on your site if you want them to be crawled and indexed. If you are not doing that, you need to be.
Taking the time to link to all your content is a good way to increase the likelihood that Google’s web crawlers will be able to find every page on your site.
Avoid Duplicate Content
Duplicate content can hurt your website for a couple of reasons. Not only does it create keyword cannibalization issues, but it can also make your site less crawlable.
Why? Because when you duplicate content, it can decrease how often Google deploys crawlers to crawl and index your site. To improve your crawlability, take the time to audit your website and make sure you don’t have duplicate content floating around.
If you need help, Google has some guidelines on how to remove or handle duplicate content.
Improve Website Load Time
When web crawlers are sent to a site, they operate on a crawl budget, which means they only have a limited amount of time allotted for crawling and indexing that site. Once that crawl budget runs out, crawlers leave that site.
That means the quicker your site loads, the more likely crawlers are to finish exploring your entire site. If you haven’t done so already, it is a good idea to improve your website speed optimization.
Improving your crawlability and indexability is a great way to increase your website’s overall SEO.
Want more SEO tips? Check out SEO For Beginners – A Comprehensive Guide.