Congratulations on your new WordPress website! So, you’ve sorted out your website hosting, you’ve designed and built the site according to your vision. You’ve done the hard work, so you must be eagerly waiting for visitors to flock in now. Well, before that can happen, you need to make sure people can find your website first. There is some work to do so search engines can find, index and rank your new website. But no worries, we have some tips that will help you get your website indexed by Google faster. Keep on reading!
Why should you want your website indexed by Google?
It’s pretty simple, you won’t have many visitors if people can’t search for your website. Google is the biggest search engine out there with a whopping 92% market share. People search for things and discover new websites every day through Google. And did you know that 51% of a website’s traffic comes from organic search? That means more than half of your website traffic could come from Google. You definitely don’t want to miss out on that amount of traffic. So, getting Google to index your site is the first step to having a search presence. Of course, if you want to get a lot of traffic and sales, you need to produce high-quality content and user-friendly pages.
Search engine basics: Crawling, indexing and ranking
First, it’s always useful to have some basic knowledge. So, let’s quickly discuss how search engines work. Take Google for example. For Google to serve your website to its users, there are 3 steps it needs to complete: crawling, indexing, and ranking. Let’s go through some key terms and definitions you should know:
1: Crawling: The process of using ‘crawlers’ to follow hyperlinks on the web to discover new pages. When crawlers get to a page, they gather information about that page and follow links to other pages. Then they report back what they found to the search engine.
2: Indexing: The process of storing billions of web pages in a huge database called ‘index’. After crawlers report back to Google what they found, Google tries to understand the page by looking at the page content and other data around the website. All of such data is stored in the search index.
3: Ranking: The ever-on-going process of sorting through hundreds of billions of web pages in Google search index to find the most relevant results for a search query.
It’s important to note that indexing and ranking are not the same. Google needs to ‘index’ your website first, then the ranking process begins. Once your website gets indexed, Google algorithms determine whether your website has good, relevant content for a particular search query. We don’t know exactly how search algorithms work. However, we do know that search engines love engaging, high-quality content and user-friendly, up-to-date pages. So, if you really want to rank high, focus on creating good content that people want to read!
We’ve discussed how search engines work, so let’s discuss how you can help search engines find you quicker.
The right tools to get your website indexed by Google
Getting your site properly indexed might sound complicated, but this is much simpler if you’ve got the right tools at your disposal. In this article, we want to introduce you to Google Search Console and the Yoast SEO plugin.
Google Search Console (formerly known as Google Webmaster Tools) is a free tool that helps you monitor your site’s presence in Google’s index and search results. Regarding website indexation, you can use it to monitor crawling, index errors, and security issues. If you don’t have an account, go to Search Console and log in with your Google account.
Yoast SEO is a WordPress plugin to help you optimize your site’s content for search. It is one of the best tools you can use to improve your search presence. There is a premium version with more advanced features, but the free version is also very powerful. Other than helping you optimize website content, Yoast also adds additional functionalities and settings to your website setup. One particularly useful function of the plugin is XML sitemap generation. Let’s dive deeper into the XML sitemap.
What is an XML sitemap?
Basically, an XML sitemap is a file that lists your website’s important pages. It helps search engines find and crawl all of those pages. In addition to that, a sitemap also helps search engines understand your website structure and speed up content discovery. So, you can think of an XML sitemap as a treasure map for search engines like Google. It gives Google directions to all your important pages and tells Google when your pages get updated.
Why do you need an XML sitemap to get your website indexed?
As we mentioned earlier, search engines discover new pages by sending out crawlers to follow links. When you create a new website, it is likely that you don’t have any links pointing to your site. Even if you manage to get some external links, your internal linking structure might not be good yet. So crawlers may land on one page, but can’t manage to get to others because there are no links to such pages. That means that not every page will be crawled and indexed.
A simple solution to this issue is to create a sitemap and add it to Google Search Console. And that’s exactly why Google included an XML sitemap section in Google Search Console. Google wants to know about all the pages on your website, to see if your website contains useful information to answer its user’s search queries.
Another essential thing to note is that creating and submitting a sitemap is not something you do just once. As you keep adding pages and updating old ones, your site will evolve. Hence, your sitemap needs to evolve with it. This is to ensure that Google always has the updated version of your site and can crawl and index your site as efficiently as possible.
Getting your website indexed by Google
You’ve got the right tools and knowledge about website indexation, now it’s time to do it.
1. Create an XML site map
WordPress can generate an XML sitemap without any additional plugins. To access the default XML sitemap, simply add ‘/wp-sitemap.xml‘ at the end of your domain name and hit enter. So, if your website URL is ‘https://icecream.com’, then your sitemap can be found at ‘https://icecream.com/wp-sitemap.xml’.
Even though WordPress can generate an XML sitemap by default, this sitemap is very basic. It lacks support for certain types of content, as well as some features like ‘last modified’ for a page. Hence, we recommend using the Yoast SEO plugin to generate your sitemap as it is more advanced. It’s good to know that the Yoast plugin automatically turns off the default WordPress XML sitemap. This is to prevent any conflicts resulting from having 2 separate sitemaps. If you turn off the XML sitemap feature in Yoast, the default WordPress sitemap will be enabled automatically.
When you install the plugin, Yoast SEO automatically creates an XML sitemap for your website. To find the sitemap, navigate to the ‘SEO’ tab in your WordPress admin area. Then select the ‘Features’ tab.
By default, the XML Sitemap bar should be ‘On’. Clicking on the question mark icon will show you some links. To view your sitemap, click on the ‘See the XML sitemap’ hyperlink. Your XML sitemap is an URL, and it may look something like this:
2. Setup your Google Search Console account
To add your sitemap to Google Search Console, you need to create an account and verify your site’s ownership. Yoast SEO can also help with verifying your site’s ownership. You can find the detailed guide on verifying website ownership here.
3. Submit your sitemap to Google Search Console
In Google Search Console, look at your left navigation bar. You should see the ‘XML sitemap’ tab under the ‘Index’ section. There, you can add your sitemap URL and submit it to Google. If you update content on your site, your XML sitemap will be updated automatically as well.
And….that’s it, you’ve submitted your sitemap to Google Search Console and prompted Google to find your new website. Google states that crawling can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, so your site might not be indexed right away. And not all pages in your sitemap will be crawled and indexed at the same time. But no worries, just be patient and you’ll find your website on Google in no time!
Request Google to re-index individual pages
You can also ask Google to crawl individual pages instead of your whole site. If you’ve recently made changes to a page on your site, you can request Google to re-index that page. In Search Console, just copy and paste a link in the URL inspection tool – the search bar on top of the page. Google will retrieve data from its search index. If the URL is on Google, you’ll see a confirmation box with a ‘request indexing’ button. There’s a quota in place here, so you should really think about the important pages for your website and just submit those.
Speed up your website indexation through external links
As we mentioned earlier, Google uses crawlers to follow links to discover new pages. If Google finds a link to your page from another website, it can follow that link and crawl your page. And if you have internal links from that page going to other pages on your website, those pages will be crawled too. Hence, it’s quite important for your new website to have external links pointing to it. Again, this will help Google to find and index your site faster. And you don’t need to receive links from popular websites as well. You can just ask your friends to refer to your website on their personal blogs or websites. That also works!
Final thoughts: Getting your site indexed on Google
Getting your website indexed on Google is the first step to having a successful website. If people can’t search for your site, you won’t see much traffic coming in. Next to that, you should keep a regular eye on how your site is crawled and indexed. This is to quickly identify issues and fix them before they cause issues with your search presence.
So, it’s great that you can find your website on Google now. The next step? Try to win the ranking game by creating high-quality content that both Google and your users want to read!
If you have questions about any aspects of website building, website management, you can access our knowledge base where you’ll find straight-to-the-point answers. And our team of WordPress experts at Blue Sky is available 24/7 to help with any concerns you have.