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MARCH 28, 2024

What Is Google Indexing and How Does It Work: A Guide for Web Developers

    I get it. If you're a web developer, you might think - why in the world would I need to care about Google indexing? Well, the world is digital, and if you aren't online, it is like you don't exist at all. So, whatever project you're working on, you have to think about its visibility. And it isn't just a task for marketers.

    In fact, devs have much more influence on indexing than anyone else. How comes? Well, in the end, you are responsible for a big part of the technical SEO (i.e., everything that makes a website easy to crawl for Google's bots.

    Still, this mission can seem like a challenge right off the bat, right? There is so much overwhelming information out there and so much to do; how do you know where to even begin? This is what we will be looking at in this post. We will explore how the indexing process works and how to ensure that your website is crawled and indexed correctly.

    google search indexing

    What Is Google Indexing, and Why Is It Important for Web Developers?

    Google indexing is a process that refers to how Google's search engine discovers, stores, and organizes all the web pages. Basically, google has to understand what each page out there is about and organize it to then show it to users when they search for something related. This process works the same for other search engines like Bing, Yahoo, DuckDuckGo, etc. The content of your web page is then stored in the Google index (i.e., database), which has hundreds of billions of web pages (as you can imagine).

    But if you are a developer, what does this mean for you? You see, Google has an algorithm that determines search ranking, meaning what position your page gets in the search results. You might think that it's what SEO guys and copywriters have to worry about. In the end, you aren't responsible for the SEO-friendly content. That's right! But the issue is that no content (no matter how well-optimized it is!) will rank until you have the technical optimization in place.

    The thing is that websites that aren't indexed simply don't show up in search results. So imagine a web designer creating the visual part of the page, you coding and dealing with all the bugs, the QA team testing it, and the marketing team crafting that content. And what? Your page just isn't there. Well, it kinda is, but no one can find it. Doesn't sound that inspiring, right?

    Of course, there can be many reasons why something like this happens. It can be anything from an indexing error (not your problem) to the page being blocked from indexing by a duplicate page or a robots. txt file. Sometimes, the problem might not be that technical, like when it comes to expanding geography. In this case, more often than not, your page will be indexed but won't rank too well. If that's the issue, leave it to your SEO or marketing team.

    Let's say your company decided to expand to India. Then, to please Google, you might either need to translate your website to Hindi, do some local SEO, or hire backlink services from India. It might not be totally free but still, it can save you many hours of work. So the point is - before fixing anything, make sure you analyze the problem.

    Google Indexing: How Search Engines Process Your Website

    I know we talk a lot about Google. But, well, Google dominates 92% of the search engine market. And imagine - those are thousands of searches happening every second (99,000 to be exact).

    Plus, the Google search index is constantly growing as the number of sites and the amount of content are also increasing. Each time a person types something into the search engine, the algorithm has to sort through millions of pages to determine the most useful web page for the user.

    How is it happening exactly? Google goes through these stages:

    1. Crawling. This refers to how Google spiders or web crawlers explore the web (by following links) to find pages that need to be added to the index. Remember that the content needs to be rendered so it can be properly indexed, as this helps the bot understand what your page is about. But these crawlers also revisit sites to see what has changed since the last visit and add that to the database as well.

    2. Indexing. This is where your crawled content is analyzed, sorted, and added to the database. The index or database is home to different file types, and this process can take anything from a few hours to a couple of weeks, depending on several factors (we don't actually know all of them).

    3. Ranking. Now that your site is crawled and indexed, the algorithm has to score or rank your content to determine how well it aligns with a user's query. Chances are that there are others in your niche who will have similar content topics. Still, the higher your score, the easier it is for your site to outrank theirs.

    Of course, Google has many more metrics on how to access every page. For example, you can't really expect to rank high if your website isn't secure and doesn't even have an SSL certificate. It's a whole different topic, but the first thing you should do, according to PowerDMARC, is constantly monitoring your site for any vulnerabilities and acting fast after any risk is detected.

    Today, we focus on indexing because it is fundamental for any website. If your web pages aren't indexed, you can't get traffic. And if you can't get traffic, why do you even have your website? So, let's now see how you can influence this process because you can (and that’s great news)!

    How to Get Your Page Indexed by Google

    Imagine that it might take your page weeks to get indexed, but your competitors will get their page indexed in a day or two. Obviously, your site's web performance, ranking, and traffic will all be affected (not in a good way, unfortunately). So, how do you make sure that you get your pages indexed by Google and make this happen faster? Here's what you need to do to have it all:

    #1. Be Extra Meticulous With Your XML Sitemaps

    Hoping the Google search engine will discover your web pages without any hiccups? The first step to attract the attention of search engines to your website is to make sure that your XML site map is updated. What is it? Simply put – it is a sitemap. How do you make Google love it?

    • Clarity. Even if you have a messy workflow, your sitemap has to be well-organized. This will help search engines find your URLs faster. As a result, your pages will be crawled and indexed faster. And if you have a giant website like e-commerce or something like that, pay special attention to the order in your sitemap.

    • Constant updates. Things change fast. And it's okay that your website is updated constantly. Just make sure that you let search engines know about that. Keep an eye on whether you have any fresh information on your web pages and update your sitemap accordingly.

    • Details. You can't be superficial with Google. It only believes in transparent relationships. So, make sure to include all the relevant details like languages supported, last update, file locations, age ratings, etc. Your sitemaps need to have it all.

    And you know that getting some help won't hurt. You can create your sitemap yourself using a text editor (go old-school). But do you really need it? There are tons of third-party tools that can help you. And just FYI – if you're using a CMS, generating a sitemap is very easy and doesn't even require any extra sweat.

    #2 Add a Robots Meta Tag and Robots.txt File

    A robot meta tag lets the search engine crawlers know which page you don't wish to be indexed. You can add this manually to the head section of the page's HTML code simply by introducing the <meta name ="robots" content="noindex">. Alternatively, you can use your CMS plugins to select the specific pages that you don’t want to include in the index of Google search.

    Plus, you can use the robots.txt file to signal what pages should be crawled and which ones should be left alone. But you have to take your time and configure this correctly. Because bots have to access other pages without any issues. And one more fun (not really) thing - you should include your XML sitemap reference in the robots.txt file as well.

    #3 Build High-Quality Backlinks (We Mean It)

    Most people think that link building is all about getting some links and calling it a day. Who cares what those are? And why would you even bother to spend weeks of work on outreach and content creation if you can get 1,000 links for $100? Nah, useless. But unfortunately, the reality is different. Let's talk facts here:

    • Fact #1. After you get your URL Google indexing in place, you want to rank. And guess what? The web pages with the highest number of backlinks are also the ones that get the most traffic.

    • Fact #2. So, if you want to get to the first page of Google, you have to get into link-building.

    • Fact #3. But the issue is that low-quality 1-cent links can get you in trouble, like real trouble. If you play a lot with that, Google can simply give you a manual action (aka penalty), and whether you want it or not, you will have to deal with it.

    • Fact #4. Yet, another fact is that link-building is tough (especially if you focus on high quality). It isn't us saying – 52%+ of marketers say that getting backlinks is the toughest part of SEO.

    • Fact #5. So, you might need to get some professional help. You can hire someone for your team, outsource it, or get a contractor. But when it comes to online publishing sites, remember that you have to manage this process to see whether your links are permanent, do-follow, etc.


    I know that Google indexing isn't a fancy nor a fun topic. Yeah, it isn’t like watching your favorite gamer on Twitch. Trust me - it makes me sad as well. But everyone who works on a website has to know how it works because otherwise, all the hours we spend on the page might as well be useless. So, as a developer, remember to make sure that the technical side of the SEO is in place. If you do that, all the other SEO stuff will get so much easier. And then, you can go back to that Twitch stream.

    I like writing content about C/C++, DBMS, Java, Docker, general How-tos, Linux, PHP, Java, Go lang, Cloud, and Web development. I have 10 years of diverse experience in software development. Founder @ Studytonight