As SEO has continued to evolve over the years and consultants are looking for the next big focus or buzzwords, indexing continues to be one of the most overlooked factors as it relates to both organic AND local SEO.
When a new prospective client contacts us and asks for an SEO audit, it’s almost guaranteed that if I spend 10 minutes in the SERPs (search engine result pages) I’ll find at least a handful of pages indexed that shouldn’t be included.
This is especially true when it comes to WordPress websites. Tag and category pages, archive pages, individual media pages, and other types of pages that WordPress creates as part of their back end structure continue to cause indexing issues, with SEO consultants overlooking these basic factors while focusing on content, link building, and other advanced SEO methods.
How Do I Know Which Website Pages Are Indexed in Google?
There are a few ways to figure out which pages on your websites are currently being indexed by Google. The first would be to dig into the SERPs themselves, if you do a “site:https://www.yourwebsite.com” search in Google you can get an actual look at what pages are being indexed.
If you perform that search and the majority of pages indexed are tag or category pages, you may want to consider reviewing which pages on your site Google is presenting to search engine users. One thing to look out for are potential 404/not found pages, if you see URL’s which you don’t recognize, click through the results and be sure to implement a 301 redirect for any URL’s being shown in Google’s index which are either removed, or which you plan on removing following your inspection.
Another way to have a better understanding of which pages are being indexed is to look at Google Webmaster Console. Go to the “coverage” page and you’ll get a better idea of which pages Google considers valid, and which pages are currently being excluded.
While in Google Webmaster Console, you should also dive into the sitemaps that have been submitted to Google. If you’re using a WordPress website, I highly recommend clicking through your XML sitemap to get a better feel for which pages, posts, and custom post types are being indexed. You’d be shocked if you knew how many times a website is developed using a pre-developed WordPress theme and demo content, and once the website is launched the developer or their SEO consultants forgot to remove the initial demo content from the website or from Google’s index.
Can Indexing Make a Difference For Google Local/Snackpack Rankings?
Indexing is the first thing we focus on for new clients. Below are local search engine rankings for a new client we took on 3 months ago, we’ve been working on improving website load times and Google My Business optimization, but our main focus has been removing duplicate and thin content pages created as a result of tagging and categorizing blog posts over the years.
Local rankings before we started (April 2020):
Local rankings in July 2020 following sitemap review and content indexing audit:
Now again, indexing isn’t all that we worked on, but following our initial audit it was identified as a primary focus.
If you went through a list of Local SEO ranking factors, I doubt that “duplicate content” and “indexing” would be in the top factors to focus on in order to break into the coveted Google Local “snack pack”.
Here are a few resources that are generally accepted by the SEO community in terms of what local SEO factors you should focus on to improve local rankings:
Generally accepted for years as one of the top surveys among SEO industry experts, the primary methods that survey participants said you should focus on to improve local rankings are fairly predictable
- Google My Business Signals (Proximity, categories, keyword in business title, etc.) 25.12%
- Link Signals (Inbound anchor text, linking domain authority, linking domain quantity, etc.) 16.53%
- Review Signals (Review quantity, review velocity, review diversity, etc.) 15.44%
- On-Page Signals (Presence of NAP, keywords in titles, domain authority, etc.) 13.82%
- Citation Signals (IYP/aggregator NAP consistency, citation volume, etc.) 10.82%
- Behavioral Signals (Click-through rate, mobile clicks to call, check-ins, etc.) 9.56%
- Personalization 5.88%
- Social Signals (Google engagement, Facebook engagement, Twitter engagement, etc.) 2.82%
A few mentions of indexing and cleaning up redirects, but I wouldn’t say that indexing was a primary focus as opposed to “well that’s a typical organic ranking factor, shouldn’t make much of a difference for local rankings.”
How Does the Google Local Algorithm Work? by Brightlocal
Once again, a respected SEO publication (and a vendor that we have used for years) but not many mentions of indexing or improving user experience by presenting more relevant, quality content in the SERPs.
Typical local factors such as “proximity” and “write more website content”, build citations, and traditional on-page factors such as page titles and meta descriptions.
Local SEO ranking factors in 2020 by The Hoth.
You can see on the left the table of contents:
- What Is Local SEO?
- Local SEO Ranking Factors
- How To Rank In Google Maps
- Local Citations
- Local OnPage Optimization
- Local Link Building
- How To Get Local Business Reviews
Typical local SEO factors, but no mention of improving which pages are being presented to search engine users.
Prove to Google That You’re Making an Effort
By only focusing on local ranking factors that will hopefully skyrocket you into the top 3 of the Local Snackpack results, you’re ignoring one of the most important Google ranking factors of the last few years: improving user experience.
If Google sees that you have tag and category pages, media pages, outdated archive pages with broken links, and duplicate content pages in their index, you’re not improving user experience for their search engine users.
To continue to be thought of as the world’s best search engine, it’s their job to provide a product that users are confident in. If you’re not adding value to their search engine index you’re going to have a hard time breaking into the top local search engine results even if your business name in Google My Business has keywords and your office is in the middle of downtown. Take the time to get a better idea of which website pages are being indexed, make the necessary adjustments and take the time to make an effort to prove to Google that you’re presenting users with relevant and valuable information that users are searching for.