Indexing vs Ranking: What’s the Difference, and Does It Affect SEO?
The terms indexing and ranking are often used interchangeably when discussing search engine optimisation (SEO). Some webmasters believe that anytime Google crawls a website, it is indexing and ranking that site. The truth, however, is that indexing and ranking are two unique processes with their purpose and characteristics.
Indexing refers to the process of adding a website or web page to a search engine’s results page. Whether Google, Bing or Yahoo, all search engines are essentially nothing more than directories of web pages hosted by other individuals and organisations. This directory of search listings is known as an index, and indexing occurs when a search engine adds a new listing.
You can check to see if your website is indexed in Google by searching “site:enteryourwebsite.com.” If it’s indexed, you’ll see a list of all indexed pages. If it’s not indexed, Google will return a “did not match any documents” message.
All major search engines, including Google, usually find and index new websites on their own. Even if you don’t build any backlinks or submit a sitemap, search engines will find your site through other web properties.
With that said, there are a few occasions when a search engine may not index a website. Google, for instance, may remove a website or web page from its index if it was found violating its Webmaster Guidelines. This usually only happens in extreme circumstances, and webmasters can submit a reconsideration request after correcting the violation.
There’s been some debate as to whether Google will index slow pages. If a page takes forever to load, it makes sense for Google to keep it out of its index as this promotes a better user experience. Google Webmaster Trends Analyst Gary Illyes recently shed light on this topic, saying that Google will still index slow pages.
Ranking, on the other hand, refers to position for which a website or web page ranks for a specific keyword. If you operate an e-commerce site that specialises in custom wedding bands, for example, it may rank high in Google’s search results, or index, for keywords like “custom wedding bands” and “personalised wedding bands.”
There are a few ways to identify your site’s rankings, one of which is to manually search for your target keywords. This involves going to Google and entering the keywords for which you want to rank. An easier way, however, is to use the Google Search Console. Formally known as Webmaster Tools, this free-to-use tool tracks a myriad of data regarding your website, including search rankings. Alternatively, you can use third-party software or tools to track rankings.
So, how do you achieve higher search rankings? This is done through SEO, which involves creating content, adding title tags and meta descriptions to pages, improving site speed, building backlinks and other optimisation processes. While you can always do this yourself, there are SEO services that take this burden off your shoulders.
A professional SEO company will work with you to help you achieve the highest search rankings for your site’s target keywords.