Friday, December 8

How to get Google to Crawl and Index your Site

You’ve spent hours designing and creating content for your website, so why shouldn’t you be rewarded? Any marketer will tell you there is no sense investing in these tools if nobody can see what you’ve created.

This is where the beauty of search comes in. To make sure your target customers can see your site, you need search engines to recognise it. You can achieve this more quickly by taking a proactive approach to crawling and indexing. 

Generally, search engines such as Google take a three-step approach with your website:

  1. Crawling
  2. Indexing
  3. Ranking.

Let’s go over this in more detail. Crawling refers to these search engines scouring the internet and looking for new content, making a note of each URL they find.

Indexing takes this one step further. Now that the engines have found your site, they will analyse the content and store it in their index, organising it by content types. For example, they might recognise the blog category structure. Once your site is ‘indexed’, this means it can show up on search engine results pages.

Ranking is the tricky part. Once the search engines have indexed your site, they need to decide how valuable it is relative to a user’s search query. But let’s not run before we can walk. 

Why should we encourage search engines to crawl our site?

You cannot expressly tell Google to crawl your site. But, you can follow best practices to ensure they crawl it often, analysing new content and putting it into the index.

This is where it comes down to ranking. The more often search engines crawl your site and index the content, the more often you’ll appear in Google results. Searchers will find your service and click on your site, leading to those all-important conversions.

How to improve your ‘crawl rate’

You should encourage Google to crawl your site often so that new content is always readily available for users. But how can you do this without force? It all starts with the Google suite, so you’ll need a Google account:

  1. Start by setting up Google Analytics
  2. Next, set up Google Search Console
  3. Create an XML sitemap.

Sound like gobbledegook? Google Analytics is free tracking software that monitors how users engage with your site and where they have come from – for example, through social media or through Google.

Google Search Console allows us to break this down further. Specifically, it helps us to identify what keywords users are using to find us. It can also reveal any errors that may be preventing the site from indexing. All it takes is a little bit of code to get started. You can ask your web designer to add this to the site, or you can do it yourself. Many content management systems offer plug-ins to make this easy – there’s no need to play with code; just upload and go.

But what about those XML sitemaps? These are basically documents full of code that explain how your site is categorized, for example, category hierarchies. You don’t need to learn code to do this – again, you can use a plug-in or try a free sitemap generator.

You can then upload this sitemap to Google Search Console to help Google understand it faster. Note that this is not essential, but it will help your site to be crawled faster.

Why you should post regular content

Once you’ve finished submitting everything to Google, it’s time to focus on content. You can create regular content by blogging, which offers tons of benefits. Firstly, it encourages search engines to crawl your site regularly and index the content, making it appear for new queries.

Secondly, it keeps users on the site, which tells Google that your content is useful. Thirdly, it creates more content to share on social media, driving more traffic, and giving Google another way to find your site.

You can also add more content in the form of new products, press releases and general updates – again, all delivered to help the user, which is what Google wants.

Do a little internal housekeeping

Not quite as much fun as writing content, you can also improve the way Google crawls your site by improving your internal links. This helps Google to understand how your site structure works – for example, linking ‘transactional’ service pages to a content page. 

Don’t forget to link to new content too, so that Google is always up to date.

Don’t forget to build off-site links, too

It’s one thing to create on-site content, but what about your appearance off-site? Try a little outreach to improve your search engine rankings. The more relevant links you can get to your site from high-quality websites, the more often it will be crawled by Google.

You can start small, using free directories, and then once you’re more confident, you can look for guest posting opportunities. Remember – only build links from sites that are relevant to your own services and your users. Building irrelevant links may harm your rankings.

Use a robots.txt file

Again, this sounds scarier than it is! This is essentially a document telling Google what not to index. But we want Google to index all of our pages, right?

Wrong. Google has what’s known as a ‘crawl budget’, which means it can only crawl a certain amount of content at any one time. You don’t want to waste time having pages such as your privacy policy appearing in search results when they could be a meaty piece of transactional content.

This file simply tells Google which pages to avoid, and you can create one easily here.

Crawl, index and rank!

Search engine optimisation is a long game, but you can move it along with the right tactics. The sooner you take a proactive approach to indexing the site, the sooner it can rank. Start putting these changes in place today and look out for future results.

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