What Are The Differences Between Crawling And Indexing In SEO?

                                                        Difference Between Crawling And Indexing In SEO
Difference Between Crawling And Indexing In SEO

According to Geeks for Geeks, crawling and indexing are two important concepts in Search Engine Optimization (SEO). 

When search engine robots go out to find new and updated content on the web, the process is known as crawling. What information they find is then stored and organized, this process is known as indexing.

Still, it is common for veteran members of the SEO community to wonder how Google differentiates between the two. What is the difference?

Understanding what is the difference between crawling and indexing in SEO leads to a truly effective SEO strategy.

What Is Crawling In SEO?

What Is Crawling In SEO

Crawling is the process search engines use to discover and access new or updated content on the web.  It involves search engine bots, known as "crawlers" or "spiders," browsing the internet and following links between pages. 

The main purposes of crawling are to:

  • Discover new web pages.
  • Identify changes to existing pages.
  • Refresh cached versions of pages and sites.

Crawlers start from a list of known pages and follow the hyperlinks on those pages, recursively exploring linked content and adding newly discovered URLs to the search engine's index.  The crawler visits each URL, analyzes page content, extracts key data and information, and stores this in the search index.

Some of the best-known crawler names include:

  • Googlebot - Google's crawler.
  • Bingbot - Microsoft Bing's crawler.
  • Slurp - Yahoo's crawler.

There are several types of crawls that search engines undertake:

  • Broad crawls - Crawls across the entire web to discover new URLs. Typically done less frequently.
  • Deep crawls - Thorough crawl of sites already known to the search engine, to check for new or updated content. Typically done more frequently.
  • Fresh crawls - Focused crawl of recently updated sites and pages, to identify new content faster. It’s an ongoing process.

What Is SEO Indexing?

What Is SEO Indexing

Most of the time, when we talk about improving SEO, we talk about arranging for your webpage to be added to the search engine’s index. 

But just what does the search engine indexing algorithm do?

SEO indexing refers to the process of search engines adding web pages into their index — the catalog or “library” from which the search engine gets the information to return web pages as a user requests them. 

When a search engine’s crawl finally finds your website, it follows links to discover new or updated web pages. Similarly, when a page meets the search engine’s criteria for inclusion, it will be included. 

What Is The Difference Between Crawling And Indexing?

Difference Between Crawling And Indexing

Nature Of Process

Crawling and indexing both play a key role in how search engines present your website, but they serve very different purposes.

Crawling is the process by which new or updated web pages are discovered. A search engine crawler (also known as a spider or bot) browses the web from page to page by following hyperlinks as well as following sitemaps.

  • Meanwhile, indexing is the more passive process of actually storing, categorizing, and ranking the websites and the web pages that have been crawled for relevance and quality.

Timing And Frequency

When it comes to timing and frequency, crawling and indexing are two parts of the same puzzle. Crawlers are constantly on the move to discover new and updated web pages. In other words, they run all the time. When a page is changed, or a new page is created, crawlers can find it on their next crawl. The indexing algorithm is a little different. It happens less frequently and in batches. While pages are crawled all the time, the index is updated less frequently because it’s a long and involved process.

Discovery Vs Storage

Crawling is the “exploratory” process. It involves search engine web crawlers following links between web pages. It also involves traversing the “web structure” of the internet to find the pages that the search engine already knows about — in its view — as well as pages that the search engine may not know about at all, leading to those being newly discovered.

Indexing has more to do with the “organization” part. As new pages are found, those are passed off to the indexing process. There, the pages are assessed for quality and relevance, and if they are reasonable, others have linked to them, etc. — they are added to the index.  This is a much more systematic process, akin to outlining a book and cataloging it.

The relationship between links and the two activities critical to ranking (crawling and indexing) is very different. As crawlers visit websites, they use links on those sites to discover other pages.  The software pays special attention to new sites, changes to existing sites, and dead links.  Indexing, on the other hand, is, to a large extent, based on external – not internal — links. 

For those new to SEO, you should know that since the introduction of the PageRank algorithm by Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, external links have been a huge ranking factor for search engines.

The number and quality of links from other websites to a page or an equivalent URL (e.g., to a domain or URL including a set of parameters that lead to the same content) are a huge part of how engines determine where webpages should rank in search results. 

And it continues that way today.

Search Engine Interaction

Crawling and indexing deal with different parts of a search engine The indexing. Crawling is how the search engine interacts with websites. The indexing algorithm is how the search engine interacts with users.

The index is like a searchable database of web pages and content. Crawling populates this database, while indexing maintains it. The index would have no data if crawling never took place. Users could not search the crawled data if indexing never took place. 

Impact On SEO Visibility

Getting crawled and indexed by search engines is critical for visibility and search engine optimization rankings in search results.

  • More frequent and thorough crawling can directly improve a website's visibility in search engines.
  • But even getting crawled isn't a sure ticket to a strong search engine optimization ranking. The website also needs to be properly indexed.
  • Indexing makes the actual content on a page available for matching against search queries.

In sum, crawling expands the potential SEO visibility of a site, while proper indexing realizes this potential in the form of higher rankings for targeted keywords.

So in summary:

  • Crawling = discovering and analyzing new web pages and content

  • Indexing = storing and retrieving web pages and content

How To Check For Crawling And Indexing Issues

Check For Crawling And Indexing Issues

Here are some effective ways to check for crawling and indexing challenges:

Utilizing Search Engine Webmaster Tools

Search engines like Google and Bing provide webmaster tools to help website owners monitor crawling and indexing status. 

Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools offer insights into:

  • SEO crawl errors and warnings
  • Indexing statistics like total indexed pages, indexing rate,, etc.
  • Site performance like page speed, traffic sources, top landing pages, etc.

Analyzing Server Logs

Any sudden drops in crawl rate, as seen in log data, could indicate technical problems causing them to be unavailable. Server logs record SEO crawl errors and response codes for bot visits, as well.  SEOs can watch for 4xx and 5xx errors that show bots are being prevented from crawling specific pages by a technical problem. 

Repeated errors for the same URLs signal that a bot is facing significant crawl ability issues on a site and that they need to be investigated and fixed.

Checking The Robots.txt File

The robots.txt file controls which pages search engine bots can crawl and access on a website. Any errors in this file, like blocking access to important pages, can inadvertently impact crawling and indexing.

Website owners should periodically review their robots.txt file to ensure proper accessibility.

Monitoring Crawl Budget

Search engines assign the SEO crawl budget based on factors like site size, server capacity, site performance, etc. 

You can optimize crawl budget allocation by:

  • Submitting an XML sitemap - Helps focus crawlers on important pages first.
  • Improving site speed - Faster sites get crawled more frequently.
  • Fixing crawl errors - Crawlers spend less time on problematic pages.
  • Removing irrelevant pages - Reduces the site size for more focused crawling.
  • Using canonical tags - Avoids crawling duplicate or thin content.

Identifying Indexation Issues

One of the most common problems related to indexation is duplicate content. This occurs when search engines identify multiple pages with identical or very similar content. 

As a result, search engines may choose to index only one version of the page, leading to suboptimal visibility for the others.

Using Fetch As Google Or Bing Fetch Tool

The “Fetch as Google” and “Fetch and Render as Bing” tools simulate how search engine bots access and view pages on your site. They’re crucial in finding any crawlability or indexation issues that might exist. When you submit a URL through one of these tools, it shows you what the page looks like to Google or Bingbot. It’s good for investigating page rendering and finding any technical hang-ups that might hinder proper crawling and indexing.

Checking Meta Robots Tags

When adding meta robot tags, it is important to be strategic and selective about which pages or content to block. Overly restrictive blocking can prevent relevant pages from being indexed. 

Some common meta-robot tag directives include:

  • noindex - Prevents a page from appearing in search results
  • nofollow - Prevents search engines from following links on a page
  • noarchive - Prevents cached versions of a page from being displayed in search results

Meta robots tags are typically placed in the <head> section of a web page. For example:

<meta name="robots" content="noindex">

Monitoring Page Speed And Accessibility

Slow page speeds or accessibility issues can negatively impact crawling and indexing in the following ways:

  • Long page load times frustrate bots and may cause them to time out before fully crawling a page. 
  • Accessibility issues like broken links, missing alt text, faulty navigation, etc., make it difficult for bots to crawl the site efficiently.

To monitor and optimize page speed and accessibility:

  • Use tools like Google PageSpeed Insights, WebPageTest, and Lighthouse to analyze page load performance. 
  • Check accessibility with tools like WAVE, aXe, and Accessibility Insights. 
  • Identify any broken links, improperly structured HTML tags, lack of alt text, etc.

Tips For Improving Crawlability And Indexability Of A Website

Once you have identified what is the difference between crawling and indexing in SEO, here are 5 tips to ensure your website shines in the search engine spotlight:

Implement Schema Markup

Some benefits of implementing schema markup include:

  • Richer search snippets
  • Enhanced visibility
  • More featured snippets opportunities

When adding schema, focus on markup for your main content types first. For example:

  • Articles - Use Article schema with headline, description, author, dates, etc.
  • Products - Use Product schema with name, description, brand, price, images, etc.
  • Events - Use Event schema for details like location, dates/times, images, category, etc.

Optimize Website Load Speed

A website's load speed can have a major impact on how efficiently search engines can crawl and index its pages. It also negatively impacts user experience, causing high bounce rates, which signal to search engines that a page lacks value.

Several strategies can help optimize a website's load speed:

  • Compress images
  • Minify CSS, JavaScript, and HTML 
  • Reduce server response time 
  • Defer non-critical requests 
  • Lazy load below-the-fold images 
  • Remove render-blocking JavaScript

Utilize Breadcrumbs

Breadcrumbs help search engines more easily understand the architecture of a website. By following the breadcrumb trail, crawlers can more efficiently index all pages on a site. The keyword-rich anchor text in breadcrumbs acts as a signal to search engines about the page topic and content.

Broken links can have a detrimental effect on a website's crawlability and indexation. When a crawler encounters a broken link, it is unable to access the intended page and content. This not only limits the pages the crawler can discover and index but also reflects poorly on the overall quality and maintenance of the site.

Be Strategic With Internal Linking

Internal links are crucial for helping search engines crawl and index your site, as well as for improving the overall user experience. Strategically linking relevant pages and content on your site makes it easier for users to navigate and find the information they need. It also signals to search engines which pages are most important.

Optimize Your Website To Improve Its Visibility

Optimizing a website for search engines can greatly improve its crawl ability and indexability. 

Some key optimizations include:

  • Implementing XML sitemaps
  • Using descriptive internal anchor text
  • Structured data markup 
  • Optimizing page speed 
  • Eliminating duplicate content
  • Fixing broken links 

The key is constantly monitoring and updating optimizations over time. 

You can get Linkbot involved in it, which makes crawling smoother by automatically implementing an internal linking strategy (powered by AI). It further leads to quick indexing of a website without any problem!


What Happens First Crawling Or Indexing?

The answer is crawling. Before a page can be indexed, it must first be crawled by search engine bots. This means that if there are any issues with crawling, such as slow-loading pages or accessibility problems, it can greatly hinder how well your site gets indexed and ultimately affect its visibility in search results.

What Is The Difference Between A Web Crawler And An Indexer?

A web crawler, also known as a spider or bot, is a program used by search engines to scan and collect information from websites. It follows links on the internet and indexes the content it finds for future use in search results. On the other hand, an indexer is responsible for processing and organizing the information collected by the web crawler into a searchable index. This allows search queries to quickly retrieve relevant results without having to scan every single webpage on the internet.

Internal links are hyperlinks that connect different pages within a single website. They not only help users navigate through your site but also provide important signals to search engine bots about which pages are most important.

What Are The Different Types Of Crawling In SEO?

There are two main types of crawling in SEO: vertical and horizontal. Vertical crawling is the process of following links from a single webpage to its related pages, while horizontal crawling involves exploring different websites for new content.