How do you submit a website to Google? Well, that’s easy. How do you get it indexed, and indexed fast? There are a handful of tricks I’ve found that get the job done in a remarkably short time.
And now I’m going to show them to you, ’cause hey, why not?
You can follow along with this easy guide. (And to make it easy, I’m not getting any backlinks.)
Step 0: Your Website & The Basics
Let’s get some stuff out of the way.
First, while these tricks usually work for me, there is no guarantee they will work every time. Google is finicky and it can depend on a lot of different factors that none of us have control over. Even the engineers at Google don’t have total control over the rankings anymore, y’know – they’ve transitioned it to an inhuman, robotic AI. So if it’s taking you too long to get indexed, go and watch Will Smith in I, Robot. It’ll be cathartic.
How to submit bullets to Google’s AI. (Fox Pictures)
Anyway, just don’t blame it on me, ok?
This guide is about getting a site indexed by Google, but it works equally well for whether we’re talking about one whole website (a collection of pages on the same domain), or just one great new post on a pre-existing website.
Much of this guide also applies if you’ve just completed a big redesign and want your new site indexed in place of the old one.
And don’t forget, your site needs to be crawlable. If Google can’t access your website, then it will never be able to index it!
We’ll get to a point eventually where Google will straight-up tell you if that’s a problem, but save yourself the extra work and make sure the page isn’t disallowed in the robots.txt file, that there’s not a <meta name=”robots” content=”noindex” /> tag in the head, and that your page isn’t built entirely in Flash or something dumb like that.
All good? Great!
I’m going to do this alongside you, right now, with an absolutely brand new website. I’m literally registering the subdomain after I type this. You can see that nothing for this new website is currently indexed by doing a site: search on Google for the domain.
Now let me build a quick website on that domain.
THIS IS A DESIGN MASTERPIECE
After I took this screenshot, I realized that I should turn the last two words of the paragraph – the title drop – into a link, pointing at this very same page we’re on. Just a hunch, but I’d bet Google will follow that link and assign this page a little extra relevance with that phrase. Really, really not a lot, but again, we’re playing for keeps on any small amount of points.
Great. We got our site. Let’s get to work on the actual steps.
Step 1: Verify Your Website with Google Search Console
You should be doing this anyway – it’s mandatory for a website owner.
Google Search Console↝, formerly “Webmaster Tools”, is free and easy to use. I won’t go into even close to all the uses here, but I’ll give you what you need for submission to Google.
Click to add a new property, and do so.
Verify your website any way you want with the options it gives you. I usually prefer to download the file and upload it to the root domain, but for you it probably won’t make any difference.
Once you’ve completed this, voila! You’re now looking at a control panel that’s mostly empty, because you’ve just started. First, we want to go over to the Sitemaps section.
Step 2: Submit an XML Sitemap
Do you have an XML sitemap? Make sure you do. I’m not going to get into building an XML sitemap in this post, but make sure you’ve got one and it works.
Here’s mine. Yours will have more pages!
Back to Search Console. Go to the Sitemaps section on the dashboard.
Click anywhere on that header there. You can also access this on the sidebar under crawl.
Click the red “Add/Test Sitemap” button in the upper right-hand corner, and type in the address of your XML sitemap.
Hit Submit. It may process for a moment or two depending on the size of your sitemap, but soon you’ll get a confirmation.
Now, wait a second. Take a deep breath. I have occasionally found that if you click to the next step too fast, you’ll sorta “beat Google” in the sense that you’ll try to get there before its databases finish updating. So just wait two seconds. Inhale. Exhale.
Then click “Refresh the page.”
Obviously, yours will have more than just one page, but it will be the same otherwise.
Google doesn’t always act on these right away. You can’t make it immediately index every URL you just gave it, and most of the time it will never index every URL delivered to it in XML sitemap format anyway. But I like to increase my odds a bit by immediately running a test on it.
Click where it says /sitemap.xml in the blue text there, an inch under the greyed out Resubmit button. (If your file is called something different, it’ll be that filename instead.)
This view gives you details on a specific sitemap file, rather than just all of them.
Oddly enough, it looks like in my case, Google’s already processed the file. That doesn’t usually happen so fast. Maybe it’s because they’re not very busy right now, or maybe it’s because I only had one URL in my sitemap.
Anyway, click on the “Test Sitemap” button on the upper right-hand side. It’ll process for a few moments, and then…
This is another instance where you take a deep breath, and then click View test result. Sometimes it’ll immediately have a number of pages indexed, but whatever – there’s nothing more you can do with an XML sitemap in Google Search Console, unless this test found errors that you’ll need to fix. Let’s move on.
Step 3: Be Aware of Google Index Status
There are three ways to try and know how many pages of your website are in Google’s index.
- Going to google.com and typing in “site:yoururl.com“. A site: search will give you a huge ballpark number that may fluctuate wildly day to day and will never be precise or accurate. However, it’s the only one you can do without needing any sort of behind-the-scenes access to a website, so it works on competitors too. While the number never means a lot, it does at least give you a vague idea. And for smaller websites with only a handful of pages, the number may be more reliable.
- The sitemap section in search console. This is nice and can be useful for many things, but it only really tells you how many of your pages that you submitted via XML sitemap it has registered. If it finds other pages on its own, it doesn’t count those for this total. So it’s not always best to use this number.
- The best option is going to the sidebar in Search Console, under Google Index, to Index Status. After a few days, it’ll even give you a graph!
Not looking good for me yet!
That being said, this is often a 2-4 days behind, so it probably won’t alert you in real time. And unfortunately, it still isn’t completely accurate. Sorry.
We can’t modify anything from here, but a lot of people don’t realize this even exists. You can also switch to Advanced mode later on if you need to diagnose any issues, but for our purposes now, Basic is fine.
Step 4: Fetch & Render As Google
Next up is getting Googlebot to directly crawl our site and report back on it. We’re staying in Search Console for this – under Crawl, click Fetch as Google.
This tool does a lot of useful things that we’re basically going to ignore right now. Make a note to come back and poke around in here later.
Your website should not only have an XML sitemap, but also an HTML sitemap. This is really important and basic and vital but I see a lot of people doing it wrong, or not at all, so I’ll eventually have to make a post about it I guess… but for now, let me just say that a good HTML sitemap has to follow these rules:
- Above all, it needs to be a good user experience. This is a page for the user’s benefit. Even if you think your website’s navigation is clear as day, plenty of users may not!
- This page needs to list out every single page you want indexed, with links pointing at canonical versions of the pages.
- Though for very large sites, every page is impractical. If you have hundreds of pages, then prioritize.
- Pages that you don’t want indexed, that you either block via robots.txt or include a meta noindex command in their head codes, can still be linked on the HTML sitemap too. User benefit, remember?
- In general, the links should all use your desired anchor text for each page you link to.
- This page shouldn’t include a bunch of other media or photos or text or whatever. A heading, some organizational subheadings, a line or two of text, and maybe a picture of a map or something if you really have to. That should do.
- This page should be linked to in the global footer on every other page, especially the homepage.
My example website doesn’t have an HTML sitemap, simply because it is one single page. If you can count every page you have on one hand, then you don’t need one either, so long all the pages are linked. But even then, it still wouldn’t hurt.
Here’s an example sitemap – the Corporate Charm sitemap, in fact. Pretty self-explanatory, right? And the URL makes sense too, at corporatecharm.com/sitemap/. I’m a little biased here, but that’s absolutely perfect and could not be improved upon in any way.
Let’s pretend my new site has a sitemap. The Fetch as Google page on Search Console is exactly where you want to type that URL in:
NOTE: If you’re launching one new post on a pre-existing site, don’t worry about the sitemap. Instead, put in the URL of the new post itself.
Click Fetch And Render and let it do its thing for a few moments.
You’ll see the little thing spin around under Status while it’s pending. This can take a couple minutes, don’t be alarmed.
When it’s done, you should see this:
If it says “Partial”, that’s probably ok too, don’t worry. But if it says something like “Redirected” or “Blocked”, then there’s something else going on. The page won’t get indexed until you fix it.
Assuming it’s good, click the Submit to index button.
Google gives us two interesting options here.
If you’re just submitting a new post, click on the first choice. You only care about that one URL right now, so there’s no reason to crawl anything else. So, tell Google to just crawl that URL. You get 500 a month, which is usually far more than enough.
If you’re submitting a new site and you entered in your HTML sitemap, click the second one. Google crawls the HTML sitemap, and then will crawl every single link on that page. And since you linked every important page, it will pick all of them up. Just like that.
You only get 10 per month, so if you do this a lot, you may want a second Search Console account. But you probably don’t have to worry about that now.
When you make your selection and hit Go, a confirmation will appear in the table between the status and the date. Congratulations! You’ve submitted your crap to Google.
Step 5: Don’t Neglect Bing
Personally, I love Bing. And it’s got over a quarter of US market share, and that’s been growing. Do you want more than 25% of your potential audience to miss out on you?
I don’t think so. So go to Bing Webmaster Tools↝.
Microsoft accounts are free, and you can use any email. (Plus, if you search with Bing while you’re logged in, they will quite literally pay you.) Sign up and log in.
Bing Webmaster Tools makes it easy and fast. The service actually has some upsides over Google Search Console, so this is worth doing for more than just one reason. But that’s another post – for now, enter in your URL to verify it.
The very next page has one blank field, and that’s where you enter in the URL of your XML sitemap. You can leave the dropdown set to “All Day” unless another option really applies to you.
Click the Add button. Bing will have you verify your ownership of the site in the exact same methods that Google did – usually a line of code or a file to upload in your root directory. Complete this in whatever way works easiest for you and proceed.
You’ll be taken to the Bing Webmaster Dashboard, and there’s a lot of interesting stuff to look through here, but really, you’re done with Bing now. Congrats, you’ve submitted to Bing! Often it’ll take longer for Bing to process and start indexing your website, so it’s good to get this out of the way now, sooner rather than later.
Step 6: Submit to International Search Engines
Most of us can feel free to skip this step, but if you’re concerned about your search presence in places like Russia, China, or South Korea, you’ll want to use the webmaster tools for these locations’ main search engines too.
Yandex is one of the best things on the Internet, and their webmaster tools – conveniently offered in English – are no exception.
Submit your site to Yandex at https://webmaster.yandex.com/ ↝.
Baidu is a force to be reckoned with online, and basically the only thing you need to worry about in China. Their webmaster tools are called ZhanZhang.
They don’t offer an English version, but your browser can translate well enough for you to feel your way through it. Submit your site to Baidu at http://zhanzhang.baidu.com/ ↝.
Naver is a quirky and fun little search engine, and a much different experience than Google. If you’re in South Korea, you’ve gotta be on Naver.
No English version here either, but you can manage. Submit your site to Naver at http://webmastertool.naver.com/ ↝.
Step 7: Ping Your Website
“Ping” has a few meanings, but in this case it means to broadcast a short alert at various sites on the Internet. You’ll in effect be ringing their doorbells and leaving a flyer that says “I’ve updated my website!”
A word of caution about pinging. It can be spammy. If you have a site that’s tripping a lot of spam signals already, this isn’t going to help. Pinging too often also really personally rubs me the wrong way. There are services out there that do it for you daily, but I don’t want that at all – though maybe some kind of news aggregator would.
I don’t ping when I’ve added a new page. I only ping when there are big new differences to a website, such as a redesign, or when the website is itself totally new. If you’re at all worried that this may backfire on you, skip this step and do not ping.
I usually use Ping My URL↝. This page itself always looks horribly spammy, but it gets the job done. I’ve only had it work for root domains, too, so just paste that into the main box. Ignore the ads, do not copy any link onto your site, do nothing of the sort – just mouse down and click Submit.
If it opens a new tab or window for an ad, close the ad. Then just do something else for a while. It’ll take some time to make all these pings. You can do other stuff online, but don’t try to run two different pinging operations in separate tabs – I’ve found that messes up both of them.
Is It Working Yet?
After just a couple hours, yes! I’m already showing up for a site: search.
That’s great! In just that short of time, for a website that didn’t even exist 3-4 hours ago, we’ve already made Google aware of it. This is something that you can easily show an employer if you want to prove you’re making progress.
I’m skipping ahead in time now to a few days later, and I’m seeing this:
Look at that – the first two of the four photos there are mine. And my webpage is #2.
This is of course not done on a logged in search, it’s incognito mode, etc. No tomfoolery here. You can search it yourself and see.
And remember, no backlinks were used either. Not that some good authoritative relevant backlinks wouldn’t help, of course, but I wanted to avoid them entirely for this.
“Come on, Ethan. You picked a keyword phrase that had no competition! Of course you’ll rank!”
I mean, yeah. But ranking wasn’t the point of this post. All I wanted to have happen was to be indexed fast. The ranking thing is a nifty little bonus, but I’m not trying to tell you that if you make a page like this for the term “car insurance” you’ll be #2 in a week. That should be obvious; this is about fast and effective indexation and anything else is just a nice bonus.
“That’s not fair, Ethan, you did yours on a subdomain, not a brand new domain!”
This is valid criticism. The subdomain may have helped give me a little boost. However, I think this is something that again effects ranking more than indexation. It’s a subdomain, and subdomains take a lot less influence from their domains as subdirectories do. So if this did help me, the help was extremely minor.
I’d wager that by having your usual social media channels – Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and maybe a Tumblr – all include links back to your website in the proper and regular places, you will be able to get more of a boost from that than I got from the subdomain. Because it’s really, really tiny. You should be fine.
“Okay, Ethan. I did everything you said here, but it’s still not working. What gives?”
Again, I can’t guarantee this! In fact I will say that it probably will not work every time. Google is finicky. Your market may be stiffer. Your site may be different. A million things could go wrong. Sometimes it happens fast, sometimes it happens slow.
I do know that completing the steps above give you the best possible chance. And with SEO, sometimes that’s the best you can hope for.
Do you have any other tips that should be added here? I’d love to hear them. If so, comment. Thanks!
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