Crawling, indexing and ranking are amongst the many technical SEO terms you would come across as you continue to learn about SEO. At first glance, though, these terms make seem difficult to wrap your head around. But, don’t worry, they are not rocket science.
With the right teaching and explanations, which I am going to give in this article, you can easily understand crawling, indexing, and ranking, what they are all about and how they can help optimize your site for traffic and conversions. We will begin with crawling.
What is crawling?
Have you ever seen the police out searching for drugs? Well, they usually go out with their dogs. Dogs have a far better sense of smell than humans and can sniff drugs out with ease.
The policeman lets the dog go, and the dog begins to sniff and sniff. When it finds drugs—if it finds drugs—it barks, signaling the policeman.
Search engines are a lot like dogs. I will describe them as web dogs. The difference is they don’t search for drugs. They search for web pages.
When a new webpage is updated on the internet, on websites, search engines, like a policeman sends dogs to look out for drugs, send a number of robots to search for this newly updated webpage. This process is what is described as crawling; it is identifying the URL, the site itself, the content on the site, etc.
The robots sent out are called crawlers or web spiders because they work a lot like crawlers. They move about, seeking, searching, scanning millions of web pages in a bid to dig out content on the web that is similar to what has been included in searches.
Crawlers are somewhat like the functional unit of search engines, and crawling is what makes search engines search engines in the first place.
“Crawling means identifying web pages that can be included in search results.”
What is Indexing?
Now, imagine that your company is about to publish an entire gallery about you. One evening, your boss calls to say: “Hey, we’ll be publishing a gallery about you and will need twenty of your pictures. Can you bring ten hard copy pictures of you sitting on a chair to the office tomorrow?”
Your response is going to be rushing to your photo album and swiping through hundreds of photos.
Now, let’s imagine that you don’t have hundreds of photos. You have thousands of them. And out of these thousands you have been asked to bring only ten. You are going to do a lot of quick swiping.
You swipe because you want to spot pictures where you are sitting on a chair. This is ‘crawling’. You, scanning to identify. When you find any picture of you sitting on a chair, what next? Well, you are going to take this picture aside. You will keep all pictures of you sitting on a chair on one side of the room.
This is pretty much what indexing really is.
When search engines crawl hundreds and thousands of web pages and identify from these thousands of web pages that have content related to searches, they create an index of these web pages—more like, keeping them aside for further use.
Something like: “Alright, I will just have to keep this web page here in case someone does a search like this some other time.”
Just like you say: “Even if I find a hundred pictures of me sitting on the chair and they need just twenty at the office, I will still keep these hundred aside in case someone else needs to have them.”
An index is a massive database where pages that search engines have understood are kept.
What is Ranking
Let us continue from the example above. So, you manage to find a hundred pictures of you sitting on a chair. What next? Well, you are going to lay aside the other ones and now start to surf through the hundred you picked out. You will attempt to arrange these hundred in order of quality.
No one wants the first page of a journal about them designed with a poor photo, you know? Even though subsequent pages can pass as just there, the cover has to be crisp and amazing. So, you will arrange your pictures in order of quality.
This process is called ranking.
Search engines do something very similar. After scanning through millions of web pages in a process called crawling and understanding and storing information in these web pages in another process called indexing, these search engines compile these pages in order of quality for display.
Search engines want the most optimized pages appearing at the top of the search engine results page. And this is for a good reason—they do not want to disappoint their users. If users are repeatedly unable to find what they are looking for on one search engine, they will begin to turn towards another search engine. Bad for business; search engines know.
How Does it all Work?
You should know that crawling, indexing, and ranking do not work in isolation. They all work together, and knowing how to utilize them is going to see your site doing a lot better.
With crawling, all you have to do is make your page identifiable by web crawlers. You have to show search engines like Google that a page like yours exists and can be accessed by people on the internet. Do this by hosting your page on a safe WebHost. Make sure the page runs on a safe: HTTPS.
With indexing, you just have to help Google or other search engines wrap their robot brains on what your page really is about. Do this by posting readable content. Google reads texts easier than it reads pictures. So, use texts and use pictures only where necessary.
Your ranking can be improved by improving the user experience on your site. So that google reads the page and goes something like: “Our users will love this page!” Make the page faster and better, etc.