The way search engines like Google work is not that hard to understand. The so-called Google Index is the entirety of all Google recognized, i.e. crawled, and stored (=indexed), web pages. The SERPs are filled exclusively with pages from the index — a page that is not in the index will not be in the SERPs.
So it is important for you to know — you have to set up your website technically in such a way that the search engine crawlers are able to access and find all your pages, and be able to rank them accordingly.
Google seems to find all your pages?
Do you find all your important pages in the Google index? That’s great! Then Google seems to have no problem finding your pages. This is a good basis for your further SEO efforts, which in this case can focus a bit more on the content aspects, like content SEO and creating a positive user experience.
On the other hand, if it’s the case that you’re not found in the index, that’s also not a reason to panic per se at first.
Instead, let’s take a look at the 5 most common reasons why this could be:
1. Your website is still completely new and has not been crawled yet
In this case, it is recommended you to set up your website in Google Search Console. Ideally, you can also store your sitemaps for the search engines directly there. This usually speeds up the initial crawling a bit. There you will get much more insights and valuable information about your SEO efforts and the indexing status as well as crawling statistics of your website.
2. You forbid search engines crawling via robots.txt
Every website usually has a robots.txt file, which is located at your-domain.com/robots.txt. It is usually the first starting point for crawlers, if it exists, because here it is defined which pages may be crawled and which not.
So if you have the feeling that search engines don’t find your complete website or certain subpages, take a look at your Robots.txt, and check especially the “disallow” entries. Are these all rightly excluded from crawling? By the way, if you don’t have a Robots.txt, search engines usually crawl your pages without any restrictions.
3. You forbid the indexing of the pages via the robots tag ‘noindex’
The so called metatag “Robots” sounds similar, but should not be confused with the Robot.txt. Instead, you can integrate the Robots tag on each individual subpage and thus determine, among other things, whether these pages should be included in the index. So Robots.txt controls crawling and the Robots tag controls indexing.
The most common instructions in the robots tag are indexing guidelines:
- ‘index’ > pages may be displayed by search engines in the results.
- ‘noindex’ > pages may not be displayed by search engines in the results
And an indication of how links on this page should be handled:
- ‘follow’ > links may be followed
- ‘nofollow” > links may not be followed
So the default for your pages that should also show up in the search engines should always be ‘index, follow’.
4. Your website is not yet externally linked anywhere
As already mentioned, search engines crawl from link to link in order to cover the entire web. This means that they will only become aware of your website when it is linked externally, i.e. from other websites.
Always try to make your website as well-known as possible. Do you already have a network of friends and partners who are willing to help you? Ask them to link to your website and make them aware of it. In addition, you should always provide valuable content so that your customers and prospects are happy to refer to you and your website.
5. Your subpages are not fully linked
If you notice that basically pages of yours show up in the index but some are missing, this could possibly be related to insufficient internal linking. Even if search engines find your homepage thanks to external links, they may not find all pages because they are not internally linked or search engines cannot follow your navigation menus.
In the best case, sooner or later all other pages should be findable via internal links in your menus and texts from the homepage. So if it is the case that important pages do not appear in your index, you should check exactly that.