According to Search Engine Land, Google registered up to 212 billion searches monthly in 2020. People run to search engines when they require information about specific things. These include products they want to purchase. It is partly why business owners are always looking for effective ways to leverage search engine optimisation (SEO) services. They want their content to be more visible to prospective customers so that they can maximize sales.
The thing is, a search engine will help you when you put in the work. The tool's main function is to answer questions or help users find what they're looking for. To do so, search engines must deem a particular site's content relevant. Otherwise, they will not display the information to searchers. There are many moves that one can make to improve their site's SEO. These include optimising their content and updating it regularly. They can also avoid publishing fluff or irrelevant content.
But that is not all. One also needs to comprehend how search engines categorize each piece of content. This allows them to know the dos and don'ts while they work on improving their website's SEO. It's the only way to ensure that they appear in SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages).
How Search Engines Categorize Content
Search engines categorize content through performing their three main functions. These are crawling, indexing and ranking. Here is additional information about what happens when a search engine crawls and indexes web pages before ranking them.
Search Engine Crawling and Indexing
Crawling is the first thing that a search engine does during the process of categorizing content. It entails the tool sending out robots, which are known as crawlers, spiders, or bots, to discover new content. It could be recently published data or changes that have been made to dead links or existing websites. Crawlers do not mind the content's format. It could come in the form of PDFs, webpages, videos, or images. Regardless, the bots will record all the links they find on the new pages.
When crawlers discover the new content, they store it at the Caffeine, a large database where the URLs found are kept. When a searcher looks up information in the search engine, the results come from this database, arranged in order of relevance (indexing). Note that a website must be crawled before it is indexed. If this doesn't happen, searchers are less likely to see the site's web pages in SERPs.
Checking If a Site Has Been Indexed
As mentioned above, indexing happens after crawling. The search engine compiles a database or index of all the words from the crawled pages. It also identifies where they are located on the web pages. The search engine's algorithm compares the pages from one website to others (from other sites). Then, it organizes them in order of importance or relevance.
Bearing the importance of one's site getting crawled and indexed, one can check if their web pages are in the search engine's index. There are two ways to do so. The first one is with the help of the Google Search Console.
Google Search Console
One can utilize the Google Search Console to find out the indexed pages for their domain. Creating an account is free. It enables users to get the correct results and evaluate them. The process of knowing the indexed pages is pretty straightforward. One should use the three steps listed below:
- Sign in their Google Search Console account and clicking on or selecting their website
- On the left-hand side of their account, they should find the "Google Index" option and click on it
- Go to the sub-menu and select "index status"
After that, one is directed to their "index status" graph to see their domain's indexed pages. From the graph, they can also view the web pages that were not crawled, and those that were removed. All this is possible via the filters option.
The Google Site Query
This is the second method that one can use to know the indexed pages on their site. It is simple. One should go to Google and search site:theirdomain.com. Google will display the number of pages that have been crawled and indexed, but it is not 100% accurate. If a specific site has many web pages, it's possible to filter them. Here are examples of options that one can use.
- site:domain.com/sub-directory/ - When one wants to find out the indexed pages in a subdirectory
- site:domain.com inurl:phrase – To find out the number of indexed pages with the word "phrase" in their URL
- site:domain.com "specific phrase" – Ideal when one wants to know the indexed pages with a specific phrase of their choice. In this case, it could relate to certain web pages they are looking for
- site:domain.com intitle:phrase – Helps one to know the number of indexed pages with the word "phrase" in their titles
- site:domain.com filetype – Allows one to find the indexed pages according to their file types. Examples of files include pdf, doc, RTF, SWF and xls
Sometimes, search engines fail to crawl and index websites. This could be because of any of the following reasons.
The Website Is Under a Subdomain
This could be what is hindering search engines from indexing your website. A subdomain comes with a non-www or www domain. So, technically, http://www.example.com is different from http://example.com. Luckily, this problem is correctable. One should include both their domain and subdomain to their GWT account so that both are crawled and indexed. It is also prudent for one to prove that they own both sites, and verify the domain they'd like to use.
The Website or Pages Are Blocked
Search engines can't index a website or web pages if they have been blocked. In most cases, this is done using robots.txt. To allow the sites or pages to reappear in the search engines index, one should remove the link from robots.txt. It's that easy!
The Site has Crawl Errors
If a site has crawl errors, it is a bit tricky for search engines to index its pages. This is despite the fact that it can view them. Google Webmasters Tools can be handy when identifying these crawl errors. The steps to follow are:
- Select website
- Crawl errors
The pages with crawl errors will be visible in the "Top 1,000 web pages with errors" list.
Search Engines can't Find the Site
Sometimes, search engines may not be able to locate a site. This happens when it is still new. The best step of action is to wait for a few days to see if the site's pages will be indexed. If nothing happens, there are several recommended steps or options.
The first one is checking if the sitemap has been uploaded and is functioning properly. A sitemap.xml is like a list of easy-to-follow instructions. Search engines follow it when they want to find your site.
The second option is asking Google crawl (if the search engine is Google) to check out the site. Either way, the website will be crawled and indexed eventually.
The Site's Privacy Settings Are On
When a website's privacy settings have been turned on, search engines can't crawl it. Checking and correcting that is pretty easy. One should click on the "Admin" icon on their site, then "Settings" before proceeding to "Privacy". If they are on, one only needs to turn them off. This will pave the way for search engines to crawl and index the website's pages.
Too Much Duplicate Content
When a website owner publishes a lot of duplicate content on their site, search engines get 'confused'. This makes it difficult for them to index the content. But how can one know if they have excess duplicate content? When multiple URLs direct users to the same page or content. The solution to this problem is selecting the page that is worth maintaining. One can go ahead and 301 all the others. The popular 301 status code is used to transfer content to new locations permanently. This solves the problems of URLs redirecting visitors to irrelevant pages.
.htaccess has Blocked the Site
Websites need the .htaccess file that is written in Apache. It allows them to be accessible by users worldwide. Even though the file is necessary, it might prevent spiders from functioning. This means that search engines cannot index the sites.
Most website owners already know why it's vital for their sites to be indexed. However, they may still not want some of their site's web pages indexed. The reasons behind this might be:
- They crave privacy
- They have intentionally published duplicate content and only want one version of it indexed
- To solve the issue of keyword cannibalisation
- To prevent overconsumption of bandwidth
Due to any of the issues mentioned above, one may make an effort to keep crawlers from their site, or some of their web pages. The following tactics could come in handy when doing so.
This is the easiest and one of the most popular ways to block crawlers from accessing a site. Robots.txts are mainly found in a domain's root. Example: www.domain.com/robots.txts. If one doesn't know how to create these spider blockers, a little research is advisable.
Iframes are ideal when one wants to hide a specific part of a webpage. This means that even though search engines will view the page and index, the part protected by Iframes will be invisible. Most website owners do this when they want to shorten the page size for search engines. They may also want to evade the problems that come with publishing duplicate content.
Surprisingly, most major search engines do not have a Pig Latin translator. Hence, when one wants to keep crawlers at bay, they can encode and publish content in the language. When someone tries to search something like "Enwhay isyay unchlay?" search engines will have no answer for them.
Search Engine Ranking
This is the last step that search engines follow when categorizing content. Ranking occurs when a searcher is looking for something. The search engines use various algorithms to ensure that the results displayed are arranged according to relevance, that is from the most relevant page to the least relevant one. These algorithms are not the same. They have been changing over the years. Most of them are updated to eliminate issues such as link spams and enhance search quality.
If one longs to see their site at the top of SERPs during ranking, they must take advantage of search engine optimization (SEO) services. But first, they must understand the factors that affect their SEO ranking. Examples include:
- A website's mobile-friendliness
- Backlink profile
- High-quality/relevant content
- User engagement
- Site security
- Content optimisation
- Domain age
- Page load speed
- Whether the site adheres to certain Google Algorithm Rules
- Domain history
One may know little about SEO, but still want their content to be ranked as relevant and top-notch. In such a case, it is advisable that they research search engine optimisation for beginners that works. This enables them to create an effective SEO strategy to get the results they desire.
To sum up, search engines are responsible for categorizing different types of content available online. They play this role through crawling web pages, indexing them, and ranking them. The process may take some days depending on an individual's site and settings.
For instance, if a website has just been created, spiders will take a while to locate the new content. When a website's privacy is on, bots are less likely to get past the security. Hence, they give up and end up not crawling the site.
When one doesn't want bots to access their site, they could make the most out of things such as Robots.txts. One must understand the concept of SEO to enable search engines to display their pages in SERPS. This also means taking advantage of SEO services offered by professionals.