We all use search engines daily, but ask the average person how they work and they may just scratch their heads. How, exactly, do search engines read the content on your website and use it to rank pages in search engine results? Read on to learn more about what search engine crawling is and how it can help customers find your business. 

How Do Search Engines Use Crawling?

Search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing have three primary functions: to crawl, index, and rank content on the internet. When search engines crawl, they are scouring the entire internet for any new content and then looking over the coding behind that content for each individual URL they find. From there, the search engine indexes the content. They do this by storing and organizing anything they found during their crawl. Once a search engine has indexed a page, it can then be ranked. It’s a search engine’s job to provide results that are relevant and useful, so the content will be ranked based on how relevant it is to a user’s query. 

Let’s take a closer look at crawling in particular. To begin their crawl, search engines send out a bot known as a crawler or a spider. It’s this crawler’s job to find any content that is new or updated. Crawlers crawl everything – webpages, images, videos, documents, etc. But in the end, content is discovered when the crawlers find unique URLs. 

They do this by finding a few web pages, and from there, they follow any links on those webpages in order to locate new URLs. Crawlers travel down this path of links, finding new content along the way and adding it to their index. Indexes are huge databases of every URL that the crawlers have found. This database is referenced when someone makes a search query, and appropriate results are delivered from the index. 

If you want your website to be found on search engine results pages (SERPs), your page needs to get crawled and indexed. If you have a website already, you may be wondering how to see if your pages have been indexed. This can be a helpful way to see if search engines are finding and crawling all the pages on your site. It’s easy to check to see if your pages are indexed. You can do this by using a search operator, which is a special command or character that is entered into the search bar to increase Google’s regular capabilities. To use a search operator to see which of your pages are indexed, simply head to Google and type “site:yourdomain.com” into the search bar.

The results that Google displays aren’t perfect, but you should now have a pretty good idea of which of your pages have already been indexed by Google, and how they look when they show up on the SERP. If you’d like a more accurate way to see how Google has indexed your site, you can sign up for a Google Search Console account. This tool can help you better monitor how many of your pages have been added to Google’s index using the Index Coverage report. 

If you use the search operator only to find that your site isn’t showing up in Google’s results, there are a few reasons why this might be happening. First, if your site is brand new, don’t panic. It takes a little while for search engines to crawl and index pages, so this is a problem that can be solved by simply waiting a little while. And remember, search engines follow that path from link to link, so if your site isn’t linked to from any external websites, crawlers may be having trouble finding it. More information on getting backlinks to your site is below. 

How Can I Facilitate Better Crawling On My Site?

Now that you have a clear picture of what crawling is, how can you build a website that makes it easy for search engine crawlers to index all your pages and deliver them in search results?

  • Link building is key – like mentioned above, search engines find your site via links, so getting high-quality inbound links is key. Getting a link to your site is similar to getting a word-of-mouth referral in real life – it gives your site and your business legitimacy. Link to your site from social media or local pages, or try guest blogging to receive backlinks.  
  • Improve your site’s navigation – a well-laid out site is a crawler’s best friend. Crawlers can follow the navigation of your site as long as it’s clear and logical. Make sure that both your mobile and desktop navigations are the same, and don’t forget to make sure every page is linked to somewhere on your site. A page without any other pages linking to it is as good as invisible to a crawler. 
  • Make sure no pages are hidden – sometimes, you want to hide content behind logins, or the content can only be accessed by someone searching for it on your site. Crawlers can’t search for your content and they can’t log into your site, so they won’t find it.

Can Search Engines Index My Store Locator? 

If you have a business with multiple locations, it’s logical to use a store locator on your website instead of listing every one of your locations in your top-level navigation. But you may be worried that search engines won’t find each of your store pages, so it’s important to use the right store locator for the job.

When looking for a store locator to use on your site, make sure it lets you build or link directly to a permanent landing page for each individual location. Also, be sure that it works on both desktop and mobile sites. 

If your business has multiple locations and you’re looking for a store locator that works well with search engine crawlers, contact us. MetaLocator’s store locator is responsive and optimized for both desktop and mobile, so you can be sure that your customers are able to find you when they need to.