Written by Edwin Toonen –
One of the most important aspects of SEO is ensuring your content is crawled and indexed by search engines. In fact, without your content in the index, your website won’t be able to generate traffic from search at all. But indexing isn’t always a fast process. There are a lot of factors affecting how fast search engines index your website. What if there’s a way to get your content indexed faster? Well, that’s where IndexNow comes in.
The importance of indexing for SEO
Before people can search for your content, search engines must crawl and index your web pages. After your content gets indexed, then the ranking process begins.
Search engines start by sending out crawlers to follow hyperlinks to discover new content (and update old content). After crawlers discover a page, they report to the search engines what they find and index it. While indexing, search engines read and analyze the content, media, tags, and more on that page. Search engines store all this information in a vast database known as the ‘index.’
Why we need IndexNow
In today’s competitive online space, indexing your content is crucial for securing a high ranking in search engines. The faster your content is indexed, the faster it is ranked, and the more likely it will appear correctly in the SERPs. Of course, you need outstanding content to rank, but that’s another story.
But here lies the problem: you can’t control how fast search engines index your website. It may take a few days or weeks before a search engine crawls and indexes your new page. This all depends on many factors like the size of your website, its authority, how complex it is, etc.
Imagine that you own an online store selling clothes, and you have some new arrivals for the upcoming season. You update your store with the latest products, but it’s not until two weeks later that you see the changes on search engines. Meanwhile, you may have lost traffic and potential sales to your competitors. Nobody likes it when this happens.
So to streamline this process and increase the speed of indexing, Microsoft and Yandex came together and created a new protocol called IndexNow.
What is IndexNow then?
IndexNow is an open-source protocol that allows web publishers to inform participating search engines about the latest updates on their websites. Simply put, it is a simple ping to tell search engines that a URL and its content have been added, updated, or deleted. Then search engines can quickly send bots to crawl, index, and reflect the changes.
What makes IndexNow different?
Search engines obtain index data in two ways: pull and push. Traditionally, search engines visit your site to crawl web pages and ‘pull’ data to the index.
Push indexing is when you or your CMS notifies search engines about new changes on particular URLs. The IndexNow protocol follows push indexing, which is different from the traditional ‘pull’ model. You don’t need to rely on search engines coming to your website to look for what’s new. Instead, you will ask them to come to you when there are changes to your content.
Here’s what’s truly impressive about the IndexNow protocol, though. When you submit any URLs via the IndexNow API to a participating search engine, those URLs will be submitted simultaneously to all the other search engines using the protocol. And when you inform the IndexNow API about an update, it will automatically alert the participating search engines.
Which search engines are participating in the IndexNow protocol?
Microsoft and Yandex were the first two search engines fully participating in IndexNow. Together, they announced the IndexNow protocol in October 2021. As of June 2022, the list of participating search engines includes Microsoft Bing, Yandex and Seznam.
Google is currently not a part of this initiative, citing that its crawling mechanism is very efficient and that the company has continued to improve its crawling efficiency. However, Google did confirm that the company would be testing the IndexNow protocol. So we might see Google joining the protocol in the future.
How does IndexNow benefit you?
The IndexNow protocol has the potential to facilitate the evolution of indexing from pull to push. You won’t have to wait for search engines to come and pray they pick up the right changes. Instead, you can direct them to the actual changes and tell them to crawl and index just that.
But the primary benefit of IndexNow is still eliminating the time between updates being made and search engines discovering them. That means your content can be indexed faster across all the participating search engines. Not to mention, it helps streamline the process of finding new content, making the web more efficient while reducing energy usage.
Search engines use a lot of energy on crawling activities, but they are not exactly efficient. They may crawl a page multiple times a day, even when there’s nothing new on the page. This is a waste of energy. With the IndexNow protocol, search engine bots won’t have to perform exploratory crawls to determine whether a page has been updated. This reduces unnecessary site load, reducing energy consumption and enabling servers to work more efficiently.
IndexNow integration in Yoast SEO
There are a few things you must do to configure your website to use the IndexNow API. But if that sounds complicated to you, worry not because there are workarounds. At Yoast, we’re launching an integration with IndexNow in Yoast SEO Premium. It will be activated automatically, so you can start using IndexNow immediately on your website. We’ll ping IndexNow whenever you publish or update your content. You don’t have to do anything — it all works silently in the background. We will launch this feature in the next update of Yoast SEO Premium, so stay tuned!