How Do Search Engines Find Your Website?

As an online business owner, you’re primarily focused on running your enterprise, so you may not understand just how search engines work. You do know that ranking well on Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) is key to consumers finding and visiting your site, and that a process called Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is key to making that happen but know little beyond those facts. That is understandable, but a bit more background knowledge about how search engines find you will provide insight into what Search Engine Optimization (SEO) does and why a solid, customized SEO campaign is mandatory for business success. In this post, we’ll cover how search engines work, what search engines are ‘looking for’ when they visit your website, so you can allocate your marketing budget to ensure that your site visitors become repeat customers.

As examples, we’ll use eCommerce sites and Google, the mac daddy of all search engines, to demonstrate our points. Know that Google uses two methods for finding and reading your site: your sitemap and its proprietary software known as a web spider, crawler, or bot. Periodically, Google’s bots will visit and crawl your website. These bots will download a copy of a webpage and take note of its content. What is the bot looking for? Google will search websites looking for markers that indicate compliance with current SEO best practices which favor an ‘enhanced user experience’. Page content must meet certain criteria, and on and off-page optimization initiatives will also be examined for completeness and value. Otherwise, web pages containing products and information you want prospects to find will never be indexed or rank well on SERPs.

Another way Google ‘finds’ and indexes site pages is via the sitemap, essentially your site’s roadmap or table of contents. It is important that every new page is added to the sitemap and this text or XML file resubmitted to Google. Be aware that the landscape is ever-changing and that over time Google’s criteria for determining the quality of your site’s optimization has changed markedly. For instance, in the last year alone, the search engine announced that going forward, mobile-first indexing, page load time, and crawl budget rank were important criteria in determining a number of factors impacting ranking and other critical site metrics.

What do these terms mean? Mobile-first indexing is Google’s way of acknowledging that the majority of users access the internet via mobile devices. It does not place a high value on websites that ignore the needs of most online searchers (read: ‘consumers’ to eCommerce sites). An example of this is a non-responsive site that is too difficult for mobile users to access and negotiate since, in lieu of using both hands on a keyboard, most searchers primarily use fewer digits and sometimes a stylus on a digital graphic keyboard. Also, text and images that fit a large flatscreen cannot be accommodated by handheld devices.

Page load time speaks to the time it takes for a page to build on-screen. Users’ patience has declined over the past decade from five seconds to three. At which time, if they are still waiting, your potential customers will leave your site, likely for your competitors’. Crawl budget rank impacts larger websites with large catalogs and many individual pages. Google searches websites but has a limit to the number of pages it will crawl/index in a site visit. So it is important to know what your site’s crawl budget is and not to exceed it.

For these as well as for other search engine criteria, as an online business owner you need to ask yourself: has your site moved with the times to reflect not only these important site criteria but all current best practices as well? Active Web Group, a leading, full-service digital marketing agency, can be of assistance to determine where your site strengths are, and which aspects need updating and improvement. We know and employ current SEO best practices to benefit our clients’ websites and assist them to fulfill their business goals. To learn more, contact us at (800) 978-3417.