In the center of all SEO-related strategies, Google Search sets the rules. According to Social Media Today, the users of the world’s top search engine settle for what they find on the first SERP page in no less than 90% of cases.
The importance of following Google’s rules for dominating SERPs cannot be more obvious.
Businesses across industries and markets must learn to navigate this field or sink. You can run a website for whatever reason; this would still apply to you. Simply put, the fundamentals of Google Search are the alpha and omega of every site owner.
So here it is, a quick but essential explanation of how Google serves its search results.
How Google finds pages
Before they appear in search engine results pages (SERPs), the internet’s many web pages (currently, the number is higher than 50 billion) must go through processing and indexing. For this tedious process, Google employs its web crawler, Googlebot.
But wait, what is a web crawler, exactly?
A web crawler is an algorithm that helps Google find, read, and rank web pages for SERPs.
Googlebot comes about this business similarly to an ordinary internet user would, only some zillion times faster. Upon discovering a publicly available website, it crawls all of its available pages, reads its content, and follows links for further reading.
Googlebot can see every page on the internet, except those marked with robots.txt or blocked for anonymous users. Although robots.txt pages aren’t accessible for crawling, their owner still may put in a special request for indexing.
Apart from some rich media files, Googlebot can read all types of web content.
Googlebot is also a two-in-one crawling solution. It consists of two site crawlers, one reserved for desktop versions and the other for mobile. One version works as a primary crawler for each site, whereas the other works as a secondary. If you want to know more about web crawling and its practicalities, visit Oxylabs. Definitely check it out.
All this will prepare your website for indexing – Googlebot’s second order of business.
Page indexing explained
After having processed content from all available pages, the first thing that Googlebot flags for future indexing is whether or not there are any duplicates of a specific page or its content. Together with all its copies, a page is then filed under documents.
This page is marked as canonical, which means that Googlebot will continue to crawl it for changes and updates. The duplicates, however, will be crawled less frequently. Googlebot uses its algorithm to decide which pages to mark as canonical.
What influences these indexing decisions?
Googlebot looks into everything from text, images, and videos to crucial content tags and attributes. The bot then rates the overall user experience by combining the two crawlers. At the end of this process, the priority goes to sites that load fast and are mobile-responsive.
Google index changes all the time, which directly translates to fluctuating SERPs. That is because crawling and indexing never stop. Googlebot continues to process new websites and indexed sites looking for updates and new links.
What if you don’t want it to index your site in the first place?
If you don’t want Googlebot to index certain pages on your website for some reason, you can mark them with a noindex directive. However, it’s important to note that if you also add robot.txt, the bot won’t index the page.
Ways to make your site easier to crawl
Now that you know what a web crawler is and how it works, you can reverse-engineer Googlebot’s crawling and indexing process and use it in your favor. That is a core strategy of any SEO approach, and it goes a long way in helping you rank your site higher.
Here’s a quick checklist before we include more detail:
- Make your main pages easy to access and render.
- Submit a sitemap to explain your website structure.
- Don’t get clever with URLs, but opt for clarity instead.
- Make it obvious what your canonical is and what its duplicate is.
- Check your Index Coverage Report for actionable data.
- Crawl your website before Googlebot returns for indexing.
The first bullet point on the list refers to regular website maintenance, which boosts your website health and makes it as flawless as possible. To help Googlebot experience your website as intended, submit a sitemap for easier visualization and navigation.
The third one is a no-brainer. Your URLs should be as straightforward and logical as they come. If your site comes with different URL parameters for local access, inform Google about that too. Hreflang will help you accentuate duplicate pages in multiple languages.
Finally, using a website crawling tool is always a good idea. Thanks to built-in reports, you’ll be able to see what you need to change to make your website easily crawlable. Alternatively, though not as comprehensively, you can use a simple URL inspection tool.
In theory, Google Search may not be as complicated at first thought. What makes Google’s ranking guidelines complex is its elusive algorithm, which never stops changing. We might never have the means to manipulate it, but we can still learn to play by the engine’s rules, and knowing how Google Search works is the decisive first step.