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Everything You Need to Know About How Search Engines Crawl & Index

Optimizing websites and creating content without first understanding how search engines function is like setting your site up for failure. This is why it is important to understand how search engines “read” and “understand” so that you can fully optimize your website.

Although this blog is going to be mainly about organic search, I’d like to talk about one essential fact about search engines briefly.

Paid Search

It is essential to be aware of the fact that the bread and butter of search engines such as Bing or Google, is not organic listings, but paid search results. Although, search engines are advertising that happens to draw users to their properties with organic listings.

Why is this important?

Paid search results are the leading cause of layout changes, the existence of features in search results such as knowledge panels & featured snippets, and the driving force behind click-through rates (CTR) of organic results.

How Search Engines Work

Now that we have a general idea of why search engines even provide organic results let’s take a look at how they operate. Here is a generalized process of how search engines work:

  • Crawling & Indexing
  • Algorithms
  • Machine Learning
  • User Intent

Indexing

This is where the process begins. Indexing is the adding of a webpage’s content into Google. Whenever you create new content, there are several ways Google can index it.

The simplest method of getting your content indexed is to do absolutely nothing. That’s right. Nothing. Google or other search engines have crawlers following links and, if your site is already indexed and the new content is linked to from within your site, Google will eventually find it and add it to its index.

But what if you want crawlers to index your content faster?

  1. XML Sitemaps

XML sitemaps give search engines a list of all the URLs that can be found on your site in a very organized way, which helps the crawl bots index them quicker.

  1. Request Indexing

If you need a page indexed immediately, you can request indexing in Google’s Search Console. After going through the process, within a few seconds to a few minutes, you can search the new content or URL in Google.

  1. Host Your Content on Google

Waiting for crawl bots to crawl and index content on your website takes time. One alternative is to host your content directly with the search engine. Although Google hasn’t pushed for this approach yet, this can be the best option in the near future as it enables the search engines to index the content immediately, without effort.

Crawl Budget

If we are talking about indexing, we have to talk about the crawl budget, as well. Crawl budget is the number of resources that Google will expend when crawling a website.

The budget assigned is based on a combination of factors, the two main ones being:

  • How fast your server is (i.e., how much can the crawl bots index without degrading your user experience)
  • How important the site is

For example, if you run a major news site with continually updating content that users will want to be aware of, your site will get crawled more frequently.

But if you run a small bakery, with a  couple of dozen links, and are not deemed important in this context, then the crawl budget will not be as high.

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