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I find one of the first things a client will do when their new site goes live is search for it on Google*. People are surprised, however, to find that immediately after their site’s launch the brand new web pages are nowhere to be seen. Why is this?

*Note: throughout this article I am referring to Google rather than search engines in general. This is because Google accounts for the vast majority of search engine traffic and it is far more advanced and sophisticated than any other search engine. My ethos with search engines is optimise for Google and the other, lesser search engines will follow suit.

To understand why this is the case it is first necessary to discuss how search engines work. Search engines are huge indices of web pages. They don’t just store information, however, they also hold information about how different web pages link to one another. When one page links to another, a search engine counts it as a ‘vote’ for that page. All votes are not equal either; a search engine will look at the context of the page (the relevancy of the subject matter) and the quality of the web page (how many pages have already ‘voted’ for that).

When you enter a search term in Google a marvel of modern science actually takes place in the blink of an eye. The search term is sent to Google which then queries an index of billions of web pages. Using a very complex version of the ‘voting’ procedure described above, Google will return a handful of pages it thinks are most relevant to your search. So why am I telling you this?

Well, because of the volume of information searched and the way in which it’s linked together it is not possible to search in realtime. So search engines have special automated programs called ‘spiders’ that ‘crawl’ the web, indexing web pages. The spiders create a copy—or snapshot—of the page periodically. So when you conduct a search on Google, Google is actually searching the snapshot (which is held on its own servers) rather than what’s on your site.

As an aside, Google has actually started returning some results in realtime but generally speaking you can forget about that as it mainly applies to live feeds on high profile news and social networking sites.

This brings us round to the point in question: why can’t I see my recently launched site in Google? Hopefully, you can answer the question yourself now. Google can’t see it because it hasn’t indexed it yet.

How do you get your site to appear? If it’s a brand new site (on a new domain) you can let Google know your site is live but submitting the URL to them. If you’ve used me to build your site I’ll have already done this on your behalf. If you’ve redesigned your site and are relaunching it on a domain already indexed by Google you can just sit back and wait for Google to reindex it.

How long does all this take? I’ll answer that with a question: how long is a piece of string? As a spam prevention mechanism, Google is never too quick to start listing new domains so the important thing is to be patient. It can take weeks or even months. You can speed the process up by getting quality, relevant links to your site. How do you do that? Well, that’s a big topic in its own right and perhaps I’ll tackle that another time…

I hope that sheds some light on the matter. If you need help getting your website on Google call me on 07843 483 078 or get a free quote online.

Tim Bennett is a freelance web designer from Leeds. He has a First Class Honours degree in Computing from Leeds Metropolitan University and currently runs his own one-man web design company, Texelate.