How Does Search Engine Crawling, Indexing and Ranking WorK?

Search engines are responsible for providing the best answer possible to users. In order to provide these answers, search engines must discover, interpret and organize the information available online and to accomplish these, search engines use crawling, indexing and ranking.

With countless new pages and posts being created and updated everyday, how do you actually get noticed? To get noticed it is essential that you understand how to make it visible first.

Search engine optimization (SEO) helps get more eyes on your content and especially, Google’s eyes. If it goes unnoticed, Google won’t be able to index it. No indexing, means no ranking. No ranking, no traffic!

So how do you make sure it gets ranked in the end? We need to discuss just how search engines work.

First, to understand search engine crawling, indexing and ranking lets take a look at the different search engines, and what their three functions are.

Table of Contents

What are the different search engines?

There are a variety of different search engines available online, each with its own unique features and advantages.

The most popular search engines are Google, Yahoo, Baidu, and Bing. They’re all free to use, but they have their own set of features that make them different from one another. 

  1. Google is known for its extensive search engine index and powerful data-mining capabilities. Google is the most important search engine currently as it commands 90% of all search users and roughly 5.6 billion searches every day
  2. Baidu is the leading search engine in China, and gets roughly 1.5 billion searches per day.
  3. Bing has established itself as one of the top players in the search engine market. Bing has around 900 million searches per day.
  4. Yahoo is best known for its front page banner ads and its comprehensive search results database. Yahoo gets approximately 560 million searches per day.

Search engines have three functions:

When it comes to websites and its content, search engines have three functions. These functions include:

  1. Crawling: Analyze web pages, and scan the URL’s code and content
  2. Indexing: Collect the content and information discovered while crawling. Once indexed, the page can be featured as a result for related queries.
  3. Ranking: Displays the indexed page’s content that best answers the query. The content is ordered in descending order with the first result being the most relevant.

Let’s dive in to crawling, indexing and ranking:

What is crawling, indexing and ranking in SEO?

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a critical aspect of digital marketing that involves optimizing a website’s content to improve its visibility and ranking on search engines. Three key processes play a vital role in SEO, namely crawling, indexing, and ranking.

In this context, crawling refers to the automated process by which search engine bots browse and retrieve web pages from the internet. Indexing involves organizing and storing the retrieved web pages in a database, while ranking involves ordering the indexed web pages based on their relevance and authority to the user’s search query.

Understanding these processes is crucial for website owners and digital marketers seeking to improve their website’s ranking on search engines.

What is search engine crawling?

Crawling is the process search engines undertake to understand what content is present and available on a certain page. The search engine web crawler also known as ‘bots’ and ‘spiders’ will look at everything on a page including old and new pages, articles, links, product sheets, images, and videos.

In order for the spiders to understand the particular content available, they use complex algorithms to scan the page. The search engine algorithms tell the bots which pages to look at and how frequent to do so, by distributing the crawl budget to the website.

The spiders comb through website’s and discover new pages and posts by identifying links. Once the links have been identified they are added to the to-be-crawled URLs list.

Identifying links to be crawled in the future is crucial for SEO and websites, as this is how the bots begin to develop a profile of webpages in reference to the quality of connections the page has. Both in terms of internal links and the backlinks on your website.

If your website is new, or if you are having difficulties getting Google to crawl your website, you can use Google Search Console’s URL inspection tool. The tool will allow you to request a priority crawl.

Why is crawling important?

Crawling is the process that Google uses to understand what a web page and its content is about. Moreover, by crawling a page of content Google’s algorithm determines if it will index and subsequently rank the page.

Search engines use a number of different technologies to crawl websites and index the pages that they contain. The main purpose of crawling is to gather information about the site so that it can be evaluated for ranking purposes. This includes locating all the URLs on the website, extracting information from those URLs, and categorizing it according to the specified topic and what search query it satisfies.

In addition, it allows search engines to update their database with new content as it’s published, which improves how relevant results are shown for certain queries. Google uses two different types of crawling when crawling a website’s content: Discovery and refresh.

1. Discovery crawling:

Occurs when a new page is discovered by Google’s search engine spiders. A new page can be discovered by Google crawling an internal link to the page, checking the XML sitemap the webmaster submitted, or by the user requesting Google to put the URL in a priority crawl queue.

2. Refresh crawling

Refresh crawling occurs when Google re-crawls an existing page in its index. The refresh crawl takes place so Google can check for any changes to the content of the page. This ensures that the most up-to-date information is displayed to the search engine user when they click on the site. 

A website owner can request Google to re-crawl a page if they have made significant changes to the content and needs Google’s index to be updated.

How to make sure your website is being crawled?

To ensure you are maximizing your SEO efforts and driving as much organic traffic as possible to your website, you will want to ensure that your website is being crawled properly. To help increase the frequency of your website being crawled, work on the following four elements

1. Create an XML sitemap: 

Ann XML  sitemap is a file that contains all of the pages on your website, including the contents of each page and the links between them. It can help you track which pages are being visited and which ones aren’t, which can help you optimize your website for better search engine visibility.

The easiest way to create a sitemap is to use a plugin on WordPress, like Yoast, AIOSEO, or Rank Math. Remember to submit the sitemap to Google Search Console after you have created it.

2. Create a robots.txt: 

A robots.txt file is a text file that tells web crawlers what to crawl and what not to crawl. By default, most browsers will ignore any links in this file, which means the links will not be crawled or indexed. Ultimately, limiting the exposure of your website on search engine result pages.

You can manage your robots.txt with a plugin on WordPress.

While writing content make sure to use internal links. These hyperlinks help a Google crawler understand your content better, as well as allow them to find new content on your website. Moreover, they are great for keeping your readers on your page longer.

Although it’s not necessary to build backlinks in order to get your website crawled. They do help with the frequency your site will be crawled. Backlinks will also add credibility to your site, which will help it get indexed and ranked on search engines.

Most common way search engine discovers a web page

The most common way search engines discover web pages is through a process called crawling. Search engines use automated software programs, commonly referred to as bots, spiders, or crawlers, to systematically browse through the internet and collect information about websites and their contents.

These bots start with a list of web pages, often referred to as a seed list, and then follow links on those pages to discover new pages to crawl. The process of following links from one web page to another is known as crawling or spidering. As bots crawl through web pages, they collect information about the content, structure, and other relevant data that help search engines index and rank the pages.

In addition to crawling, search engines also use other methods to discover web pages, such as through XML sitemaps or by being submitted directly to the search engine. However, crawling remains the most common method, as it allows search engines to find and index a large number of web pages efficiently and quickly.

Overall, ensuring that your website is easily crawlable and discoverable by search engine bots is crucial for improving your website’s visibility and ranking on search engine result pages (SERPs).

What is indexing?

Indexing a web page is the process a search engine undertakes to store the content on its index. In order to index, during the crawling phase, the search engine locates relevant content looking for keywords, meta descriptions, and other signals that indicate importance. After compiling this information and deeming it a quality piece, it will index the information.

Having a web page or post indexed is essential for the overall visibility of the website. Having Google store the information on their index means that the particular page has the opportunity to appear on search engine result pages (SERPs). 

For example, if the website is an ecommerce site for handicrafts, including keywords like ‘hand sewn’, or ‘DIY necklaces’, will help the search engine build an understanding of the scope of the website. In order to build a specific and robust scope, the website should conduct relevant keyword research and use head and long-tail keywords, as well as their synonyms. Of course using them is only one aspect, placing the keywords in the right places on your website also play key roles in helping Google find and index the site.

After the spider has built the scope and understands the information on the page, it will then begin measuring the relevance of the content compared to similar pages. 

Why is indexing important?

When a web page is indexed, it is stored in the search engine’s database which allows it to be viewed by a search engine user. Whereas, search engine indexing is important because it allows users to find content that’s relevant to their search queries.

Search engine crawlers (also called spiders) are programs that crawl the websites that they’re considering to index. They do this by following specific links and collecting all the information that they can on those pages. This information includes the text, images, and other files on those pages.

Once a search engine has collected all this information, it can use it to create an index — a database of all the information that it has collected. The index is then used as a foundation for searching through millions of web pages at once and displaying the best options to people searching for information. Search engines use indexes to determine which websites have the most relevant content for their users.

It is important to note that not all pages that get crawled will be indexed by search engines. Some pages may not get indexed as they are low-quality, duplicate content, or have various technical SEO issues.

Why isn’t my site indexed?

Indexation is one of the most important factors that can affect your website’s ranking on search engines. If your site isn’t getting indexed, then it won’t appear in the results when people search for specific terms.

There are a few things you can do to speed up the indexation process:

  • Make sure your website is properly configured and optimized for SEO. This includes things like making sure your website is accessible to search engines, using valid URLs, and utilizing the right keywords in the right places
  • Implement content marketing strategies that focus on attracting new visitors and building trust with potential customers. This will help you generate relevant traffic to your site, which will help it get indexed faster
  • Publish new content on a regular basis to keep your site fresh and interesting to search engine bots. Search engines value fresh content more than old, stale material, so make sure you’re keeping up with the latest trends in web publishing
  • Make sure you are not blocking crawlers from viewing, or from indexing your content. This means checking your no-index tags as well as robot.txt
  • Ensure that your content is high-quality and is not duplicate content
  • Do not use any black hat SEO tactics on your website as Google may penalize you and not index your pages

How to get a page to be indexed faster?

Getting your pages indexed faster will help your website performance over the long run. This is extremely important for new sites as it takes significantly more time to get content ranked at the beginning of your website’s life. Most SEO experts believe it takes at least eight months before a new website will see any significant organic traffic.

Therefore, In order to help your website and pages get indexed faster and thus ranking faster, use the following four tips. 

1. XML Sitemaps:

XML sitemaps are a way to document the pages on your website and make them easily searchable by Google and other search engines. By creating XML sitemaps, you can ensure that your pages are indexed quickly and easily. 

There are plenty of plugins that will help you create a sitemap on WordPress. After you have created the sitemap, make sure that you submit it to Google Search Console

2. Request Indexing With Google Search Console: 

If you want your pages to be indexed faster by Google, then you can request indexing using Google Search Console. To do this, follow these steps:

  1. Open Google Search Console and sign in (or create an account if you haven’t already).
  2. Find the search bar at the top of the page that says ‘Inspect any URL’
  3. Enter in the URL you want to request indexing for
  4. A URL inspection page will pop up, you will want to locate and click on the ‘REQUEST INDEXING’
  5. Google will check to see if the page is indexable and if it is, will add it to a priority queue to be crawled and indexed
  6. Finally, check back in a few hours or after a day to see if the page was crawled and indexed or not

3. Use Bing’s IndexNow tool

Bing’s IndexNow tool is a great way for you to get your page indexed faster. It allows you to submit your pages for indexing and monitors the progress of the submission. If there are any issues, Bing will notify you immediately.

4. Bing Webmaster Tools

Another great way to get your page indexed faster is through Bing Webmaster Tools. This tool allows you to track the status of your website and see which pages are getting the most traffic. You can also use it to diagnose problems with your website and correct them accordingly.

What is search engine ranking?

Crawling and indexing pages are essential to becoming ranked, but much of these two activities goes unseen. It isn’t until a page gets ranked that the real work begins.

Ranking can be defined as the particular search engine positioning a piece of content or page is after it is published. The article will get listed at a certain ranking for various queries that it has relevant information to and which it can provide insight to. A page that gets ranked #1 on SERPs will have the most exposure and typically receives the highest amount of traffic compared to the other articles and information pieces.

The precise process of getting ranked on Google is unknown. However, there are commonly agreed upon best practices that have been shown to influence ranking. There are over 200 different ranking factors and the search algorithm is changing upwards of a thousand times a year. 

Why is having a good search engine ranking important?

Having a good search engine ranking is important because it helps your website be found when people are looking for information about specific topics. When someone conducts a search on the web, their computer looks through all the websites that are listed in the search engine results page (SERP). This page lists all of the websites that have been indexed by the search engine – which means that the search engine has found and stored copies of those websites.

The higher up on this list your website appears, the more likely it is to be found when someone conducts a web search for information about a specific topic.  As a result, you may reach a wider audience than you would if your website were not ranked well in Google or another major search engine.

There are three main factors that contribute to a good search engine ranking: content, link building and metadata. 

  1. Content is what you put on your website, and it’s the most important thing you can write about because it’s what people will click on to see if they’re interested in what you have to offer. The better the quality of your content, the higher your site will rank. 
  2. Links are how other websites link to yours, and they’re important because they show that you’re reputable and respected by other people in the online community. The more links you have pointing to your site, the better your rank will be. 
  3. Metadata is information about your site that’s not visible to users but is used by search engines to determine how important it is. This includes things like the title tag and description tag, both of which are vital for helping users understand what your website is all about immediately.

How to rank faster:

To rank faster a website needs to ensure that its content is fully optimized for search engines. This means producing high-quality and following the techniques of writing content for SEO. 

To ensure that content is high-quality, content writers need to focus on the search intent of the particular keyword they are targeting. To do this an E.A.T. (Expertise, Authority and Trustworthiness) approach should be used. The EAT concept comes from Google’s Search Quality guidelines and it became well known after the Medic Update in 2018. E-A-T is one factor that Google uses to evaluate the overall quality of a web page

To rank faster, make sure your content meets the following standards:


This means that you must have knowledge and experience that is unique to your subject matter. If you’re writing about a topic that you don’t know much about, then make sure to do thorough research and develop a deep understanding of the topic.


Your content must be well-written and authoritative. This means that its information and data should come from a credible source. You also need to make sure that your sources are reliable, so use reputable sources when possible. Moreover, make sure to use correct grammar and punctuation, and avoid spelling mistakes. 


Your content must be relevant and helpful, which will help build trust between you and your readers. They’ll know that they can rely on it to provide accurate information and that it won’t lead them down a false path.

What are Ranking factors?

The process of ranking a page is not a clear cut undertaking. There are multiple contributing factors. Although we may not know everything that goes into ranking a web page we do have a good idea of the factors that make it more likely to rank.

First thing is that Google is constantly learning and getting better at answering queries better. Therefore, the factors that contribute to getting a website ranked include:

  • Context: Relates to search query 
  • Layout: SERPs will display different results depending on the searcher’s intent
  • Time: Places importance on the time period the query is related to

More about these can be seen in their respective sections below.

1. Context:

The search engine will consider multiple points of context in relation to different types of queries. For example, it will take into account the social, historical, and environmental factors in relation to the current time period, position of issue, and overall query type.

2. Layout: 

Depending on the type of query, search engines will display different types of content. For example, a query for how to make lasagna, will display results of large photos containing recipes for lasagna. On the other hand, if you search for ‘How to repair a flat tire’, you will be presented with a video instead.

To rank better, it is important to understand search intent, and what type of content Google will display.

3. Time:

Time refers to the amount of time between the particular event occurring, and when the page was indexed. For example, if someone searches for the ‘Write Brothers’, the search will be populated with high domain authority sites. This is because it is a historical event and not something current.

Another example is someone searching for ‘events near me’; it will populate the page with content that is ‘fresh’.

Search engines will look for different information depending on the ‘time frame’ the search falls in, is it current? Or is it historical? Depending on the answer, Google will search different indexed pages and content.

Takeaways: Crawling, indexing and ranking:

The three step process to getting a page discovered by thousands of people may seem simple – Google will conduct the crawling process, then it will index the page, and finally it will be ranking it. Done! Easy right?

Actually not so much. There are actually multiple intricacies within each step that adds up to a complicated web of robot spiders deciding which websites to put where.

It is easy for websites to get stuck somewhere in the process if the mechanisms in place don’t meet certain requirements. For example, if the page is getting blocked by robots.txt code and no-index protocols, the page will never be read and thus indexed.

Having a basic understanding of how to go from publishing new content, to getting ranked is important for your business and its bottom dollar. Make sure to consistently check Google Search Console. Search console will allow you to see the status of individual pages, and to ensure that they are indexed properly.

Have a page indexed, but struggling to get it ranked or drive traffic to it? Check out our how to increase website traffic blog to get started. Or have a look at our SEO services and see how we can partner together!

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