Imagine a library. You are there on your lunch break to search for a recipe for dinner. You have limited time and you know you want to use ground beef since that’s what you pulled from the freezer to defrost. First order of business is getting to the shelf that holds the recipe books. Okay, seems easy enough, but how many books are there and which ones have recipes for ground beef? The most desirable process would be to know exactly what row to walk to, exactly what shelf to stand in front of, and exactly what book to select. Unfortunately it is also the most unrealistic scenario since there are probably 50 or more books that reference the words ground beef—some that use ground beef as a garnish, some that talk about the history of ground beef, and some with delicious, easy-to-cook ground beef recipes you just can’t wait to try—so your adventure must first begin with a search.

This library dates back to 1985 so your search will begin at the catalog drawers containing cards organized with the Dewey Decimal System for every book’s location. You stand in front of the small, wooden drawers and get ready to begin your tedious task when you think to yourself, I wish there were a faster way. Suddenly, whoosh! Just like that, a giant screen poofs between you and the catalog drawers and out pops a keyboard. Suddenly a cursor begins blinking. You think, oh great… I’ll just type in “hamburger meat recipes” and see what happens. Like magic, a list of book titles and their locations come up in list format with a book titled “Quick, Delicious, and Easy Hamburger Recipes” at the very top of the list! WOW you think as you write down the call numbers and begin your trek to the appropriate shelf.

What just happened there? While you were focused on the screen, behind it something amazing was taking place. A faster-than-a-speeding-bullet butterfly was softly flapping her wings waiting for you to type in your query so she could begin her task of flying through every single drawer with enormous speed and brush all the relevant cards with her wing.  Once marked, the book titles and their call numbers began grouping into a list format. When the last one was tagged the results were then displayed on your screen, with the most relevant book (as far as the butterfly could tell based on content and information) at the top of the list. All of this happened from start to finish with lightning fast speed.

This scenario conveys exactly what indexing is. Your computer is the small, wooden drawers, the search engine algorithm is the butterfly, the search results are the index cards, and the enormous database of the Internet is the library. If you were a website, you would be stored or “indexed” in one of those drawers and your card would be pulled if somebody typed in a search for what you offered (information, products, or images, just to name a few). You and the countless other “cards” that matched up to what was being searched for would then be listed in the search results with the most relevant of all (as far as the search engine can tell) being positioned at the top of the list.

Being indexed is a big deal and is fundamental to the success of your website being found in search engines. Though submitting your site’s information to search engines isn’t very difficult, there are ways to help make the indexing process smoother. One way to do it is by setting up a robots.txt file that tells the search engine’s spiders where it can go on your site. Within the robots.txt file you should include the location of your site’s XML sitemap file which lists all the pages on your site in a format that all major search engines can understand. While implementing this process, make sure that your robots.txt file isn’t configured to block your site from the search engines.

Becoming indexed may be one of the smaller “to-do’s” on your list when it comes to developing your website, but it is one of the most crucial.

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