A website is only effective if it has an audience. Whether it’s a blog, an e-commerce shop, an informational hub, or any other type of website it is only effective if it can connect internet users with the content they want. Have you ever wondered how Google is able to identify the contents of a website so that it can connect those audiences with those sites? It’s through a process called crawling and indexing, and its how Google identifies what’s on the internet, and whether it’s relevant to you!

So what is crawling and indexing? Crawling, (also known as web crawling) is when google “crawls” (imagine a digital spider, not cause it’s accurate…but because it’s fun!) through your website and identifies the content on it. Google reads the text, views the images, and looks at the links on your site and where they point, whether it is within the site, or to other relevant sites. Once they have thoroughly identified the details of the content of your site, it’s now time to index.

What is indexing in SEO? This is the logical next step after a search engine has looked over your site. They store the information they have gathered so that they can serve it up to a user of their search engine whenever they need to. As you can imagine, this requires the search engine owner to store a massive amount of data. And even though they aren’t storing the entire site, but rather just informational snippets, this is still an inconceivable amount of data. After all, the internet is a big place!

Now with this basic understanding, you probably have more questions than answers. For example, content changes regularly. Let’s say that you owned a domain called rooms.com and initially you used it for bathroom renovation, but you’ve changed businesses. Now you use rooms.com as a site to find available hotel rooms. How do you ask Google to crawl and index your site? Well, Google gives site managers a couple of tools to do that very thing. Sometimes though, it just takes patience. With all the changes that are happening on the internet on a daily basis, you can’t expect Google to recognize them all in real time.

Now we already know what the difference is between crawling and indexing, but how do they affect the ranking of your results? Well when your site is crawled, the content of your site is evaluated so that its relevance can be evaluated against specific search results. Using our example above, if our new rooms.com website simply had a few links to different hotel providers, that content wouldn’t be as relevant to a potential traveler as a variety of informational pages on travel cost and availability. So for that reason, it is important to create your site so that not only is it structured in a way that is clear for the crawlers, but that the content that is on it is both clear and very useful and relevant for your target audience.

Crawling and indexing are some of the most basic fundamentals of how a search engine works. But with even a simple understanding of those basics, you can position yourself for better SEO ranking and an improved ability to connect your site with the audience it was made for.

Alex Orton