Posted Monday, September 20, 2004
At one time or another you may have used a submission tool, or submitted by hand and then wondered why you had not been indexed. Unfortunately, there are many reasons that may delay or prevent you from being indexed by a search engine. There's rarely one simple answer for why you're not being found. Fortunately, there is generally an explanation and a way to correct the problem if you know what to look for.
Below are the Top 21 reasons we've compiled over the years as to why you may not be finding your Web site or Web page in one or more search engines:
1. INDEX TIME: First, make sure you've allowed enough time to become indexed. The amount of time to allow is sometimes listed on the search engine's submission page. Unfortunately, the engine's own advertised times are often inaccurate or out of date. WebPosition's Submitter report and WebPosition's URL Verification report will both tell you how much time you should allow before being concerned about not being indexed. Average index times often range from one to eight weeks depending on the engine. Some engines like AltaVista and Inktomi offer paid options if you wish to be indexed more quickly.
2. ALREADY INDEXED: Be sure you're not already indexed but just don't know it. Unfortunately, none of the major engines are kind enough to e-mail or notify you as to if and when you've been indexed.
In addition, you cannot simply do a search on a keyword that applies to your Web site and expect it to pop up at the top. In fact, you must take pro-active steps to optimize your pages for each search engine. If you don't, it's very unlikely you'll find your Web site except on the most specific of searches.
The method to determine if a page or domain has been indexed varies from one engine to another, and in many cases, it's difficult to tell for sure whether your pages are in fact in there. Never assume that you're not indexed just because you searched for a bunch of keywords and you never came up in the first few pages of results. You could be there (i.e., indexed) but be buried near the bottom.
In addition, it's not very practical to check the status of a number of pages on each major engine each week. Fortunately, WebPosition Gold has a URL verification feature in the Reporter that makes this process much easier. Each time you run a mission, it will report which URLs exist and do not exist in each engine. If you're using WebPosition and are not finding your URLs after submitting, be sure to see this page for common pitfalls to watch out for:
3. MISSING PAGE: Make sure you have uploaded the pages to your site before submitting them. This one will seem obvious to many people, but submitting a page that does not exist or submitting with a subtle typo in the URL is a goof we might all make at one time or another. If you're using WebPosition's Submitter, there's a checkbox on tab 2 labeled "Verify that each page exists on Web site before submitting." This option defaults so that WebPosition will verify that all your URLs are valid and actually exist before submitting them. This is important since not all search engines will notify you if the URL does not exist when you submit.
4. ROADMAP FROM HOME PAGE: Some engines have been known to drop pages that cannot be traveled to from the home page. HotBot has been rumored to do this. You may want to consider submitting your home page that links either directly or indirectly to your doorway pages. Think of your Web site as a series of roads (i.e., links) from one page to another. If there's no road from your home page to the page you want indexed, a search engine may decide the page is unimportant or of low-quality. You could submit the page directly, but the engine may reject it or may drop it at a later date when it finds no "road."
5. EXTERNAL LINKS: Some search engines such as Google and HotBot have been known to refuse to index Web sites that do not have any other Web sites linking to them. Or, they may index your home page but refuse to index any other pages until you achieve at least one or more links from another domain. Or, they may index you for awhile but then "prune" their database later of all Web sites that did not achieve any external links within a certain period of time. However, do not worry! You simply need to establish some links and when that's done, resubmit both your pages and the pages that link to you. Once you have links to your Web site, it becomes much easier to get indexed, stay indexed, and to achieve top rankings.
To check your link popularity and for tips on how to increase the links to your Web site see our free service at:
6. FRAMES: If you have content inside HTML frames, this can cause problems with submissions. For example, the search engine may index the main content of the page, but not the surrounding menu frame. Visitors to your site will then find some information but may not see the associated menu! It's generally best if you can create non-framed versions of your pages. You should then submit the non-frames versions of your pages, which can of course link to your framed Web site. Alternatively, you can enter your relevant text within the NOFRAMES area of a framed page that most search engine spiders will read. However, don't expect to achieve high rankings while optimizing the NOFRAMES area. Optimizing a NON-framed page will often achieve better results.
7. SPIDER BLOCKS: Search engine spiders cannot index sites that require any kind of registration or password. A spider cannot fill out a form of any kind. The same rule applies regarding indexing of content from a searchable database. That's because the spider cannot fill out a form to query that database. The solution is to create static pages that the engines will be able to find and index without performing a special action on your site. Depending on the database system you have, there are utility programs out there that help you do this, as well as companies that can assist you.
8. FREE SITES: Many engines no longer index pages from free web sites or they limit the number of pages they will index from these hosts. Sometimes they will get too many "junk" submissions from free web site domains such as Geocities or others. Therefore, some engines choose not to index anyone from some of these domains. Or, more commonly, they limit the number of pages they will accept.
It's always best to buy your own domain name (very important) and place it on a respected, paid service to avoid being discriminated against. The free traffic you can generate from the search engines is just too valuable to be sacrificed for the small savings a free hosting service provides. In addition, free hosts are often unreliable or force you to display banners that send valuable visitors away from your Web site soon after arriving. That can cost you sales.
9. GUILT THROUGH ASSOCIATION: If your Web site shares the same IP address as many other Web sites on your host's Web server, then you may find your IP quietly banned from something another Web site on the same server did! It's always best to ask your hosting service if your domain name has its own unique IP assigned to it. If not, ask them to move it to its own IP to avoid the potential of having your submissions ignored because of something that a site sharing your IP did. We've heard from many people who tried everything to be indexed only to find it was a snap once they changed hosting services.
10. SUBMISSION LIMITS: Make sure you're submitting within the recommended limits. Some engines do not like more than a certain number of submissions per day for the same domain. If you exceed the limit, you may find that all your submissions are ignored. Fortunately, WebPosition's submitter will warn you regarding current limits and help keep you within them. Some submission consultants feel it is dangerous to submit more than ONE page a day to an engine for a given Web site. For those who wish to be ultra-conservative in their approach, the WebPosition Submitter includes a checkbox to limit submissions to one URL per day per engine.
12. NON-INDEXABLE CONTENT: It's important to know the types of content that the average search engine cannot index. Most engines cannot index text that is embedded in images. Text that appears in multimedia files (audio and video) will not be indexed. Most engines cannot index information that is generated by Java applets or in XML coding.
13. LARGE PAGES: If your site has a slow connection or the pages are very complex and take a long time to load, it might time out before the spider can index all the text. For the benefit of your visitors and the search engines, limit your page size to 50K or less. In fact, most Webmasters recommend that your page size PLUS the size of all your images on the page should not exceed 50K-70K total. If it does, many people on dial up connections will leave before the page fully loads.
14. DEEP LINKS: If you submit just your home page, don't expect a search engine to travel more than one or two links away from the home page or from the page that you submitted. Over time they may venture deeper into your site, but don't count on it happening quickly. You'll often need to submit pages individually that appear further down into your site or create more direct links from the home page (either visible links or hidden links). This way the search engines can find them. Visible links are preferable, but when that's not practical, there are methods to create links that won't be seen by the average visitor:
The technique of submitting one page that then links to multiple other pages you want found is called creating a "hallway page." In many cases, this will not only get you indexed in cases where they are ignoring you, but it will often improve your rankings. That's because many engines assign "bonus points" to pages they find on their own versus pages that were specifically submitted to them.
15. UNRELIABLE HOSTS: If your Web site fails to respond when the search engine spider pays a visit, you will not be indexed. Even worse, if you are indexed and they pay a visit when your site is down, you could be removed from their database! Consequently, it pays to have a reliable hosting service that is up 99.5% of the time. However, at some point a spider is going to hit that other 0.5% and end up yanking your pages by mistake. Therefore, it pays to keep a close eye on your listings and resubmit when needed.
16. SPAM: If you have ever used any questionable techniques that might be considered an overt attempt at spamming (i.e., excessive repetition of keywords, same color text as background, or other things that the WebPosition Page Critic warns you about), an engine may ignore or reject your submissions. If you're having trouble getting indexed in the expected amount of time, make sure your site is spam-free.
17. REDIRECTS: If your site contains redirects or meta refresh tags these things can sometimes cause the engines to have trouble indexing your site. Generally they will index the page that it is redirecting TO, but if it thinks you are trying to "trick" the engine by using "cloaking" or IP redirection technology that it can detect, there is a chance that it may not index the site at all.
18. PROPER DIRECTORY SUBMISSIONS: If you're submitting to a directory site like Yahoo, Open Directory, Looksmart, or others, then a human being will review your site. They must decide if the site is of sufficient "quality" before they will list it. I recommend you read the submission guide on the directory tab of the WebPosition Submitter. It contains tips on how to improve your chances of obtaining a good listing in these directories. Getting listed in major directories first can help you get listed elsewhere.
19. INDEX TIMES CAN FLUCTUATE: WebPosition will tell you the average index time of each search engine. However, this is only an average. Sometimes engines will index sites every 30 days fairly consistently and then suddenly stop indexing most sites for several months. This can be frustrating, but it does happen. Generally a major engine will not go more than three to four months without refreshing its index. If you're wondering if others are experiencing trouble getting indexed on a particular engine, try asking around. You can often find valuable real-world feedback on a search engine discussion forum such as the one at:
20. PAGE LIMITS: If you have many pages indexed but are having a hard time getting new ones recognized, be aware that there are limits. Each search engine will only spider so many pages of your Web site. This may range from a few dozen or three or four hundred depending on the engine. Some people have even been successful in getting far more pages indexed depending on the engine. Google is one engine that tends to crawl deeper into your site. However, how deep they go may depend on factors like your link popularity. Sites with higher link popularity are deemed "worthier" of more thorough indexing.
21. RANDOM ERRORS: Last but not least, sometimes the engines just lose submissions at random through technical errors and bugs. After all, they are managing a database of hundreds of millions of pages. Therefore, some people like to resubmit once or twice a month for good merit in case they do lose a submission. Certainly if you've followed all the "rules" and are still not listed, by all means, re-submit! Sometimes a little persistence is all that's needed.
TIP: Once your page achieves a desirable ranking, it's best not to continue submitting it. You risk the engine re-evaluating the page and possibly reducing your ranking.
If any of the above scenarios apply to your submission, you should take the appropriate actions and then re-submit. If that still does not work, you should consider e-mailing or calling the search engine and asking them politely why you have not been indexed yet. Sometimes they will reply back with "Sorry, there was a problem with our system and I've now made sure you'll be indexed within the next couple days." Or, sometimes they'll tell you why you were not indexed so you might correct it. In other cases, they will ignore your e-mail and you'll have to keep e-mailing or calling them until they respond. Still, it's definitely worth the effort to get your site listed with the major engines. This assumes you also take the time to optimize your pages so you'll achieve top rankings.
About the Author
Robin Nobles is the Director of Training of the Academy of Web Specialists, which teaches online training in search engine marketing. She is also a trainer with Search Engine Workshops, which presents on location workshops in search engine marketing at various locations across the country. Please visit our site for more information about online training and other resources.