Submitting Your Website to Search Engines: Here's How (and Why)
by Anders Hjorth | Updated Aug. 5, 2022 - First published on May 18, 2022
Website submission to search engines is such a 90s thing to do, but it seems to have stuck in the SEO documentation. The major search engines will find your site without submitting your URL to them, in almost every case.
You may submit sitemaps or URLs for faster indexing, but the primary purpose is to improve the way your site is indexed and correct errors after an incident. However, there are other places and reasons to submit your site that will indirectly help you rank in search engines.
What are the benefits of submitting your website to search engines?
Back in the day, you would submit your website’s URL to each search engine. SEO industry pillar Brett Tabke, who founded the Webmasterworld forums and the Pubcon conferences, built a tool for this. His tagline for the tool made me laugh: You will submit.
The search engines would crawl a site from your submitted URL and then follow all the links they found. If someone offers to submit your site to search engines for a fee today, it’s snake oil. So what benefits do you still get from submitting a site?
Indicate the right place to start
By submitting your sitemap URL, you direct search engines to the right place to start crawling your website and also indicate what website content you consider the most important. This can be important if your homepage doesn’t link to essential parts of your site. Any crawl obstacles your site may have can be overcome by using a sitemap.
Faster update when an incident is over
You have restructured your site which used to time out from server overload and caused crawlers to report errors on your site. But you’ve remedied that and your site is now ultrafast and ready to be recrawled. Resubmit the URLs that created the errors to recover your visibility in the search engines. It may be faster than waiting for the next crawl of those URLs.
Submit to directories
Submitting your site to business directories can be interesting because it might just drive qualified traffic, and it could be a source of backlinks, which will help you rank. Prioritize the directories with a human reviewer, and avoid the ones requiring a fee to be in a directory that has no real traffic.
How to submit your website to search engines
You can either submit the URL of an entire sitemap or individual URLs to search engines. And then you can submit your site to places that will have an indirect effect on your SEO. This is typically done via a webmaster tools interface which confirms the site owner.
1. Google Search Console
You don’t really add a site to Google anymore, as it will be found when a link points to it. But Google provides an interface to see how your site is crawled, indexed, and ranked in which you can also control URL submission. Prove you are the site owner via a code you insert in the site, then log in to the Google Search console. You can see crawl errors, searches you appear for, and clicks generated.
You can also submit your sitemap. When you submit an individual URL with the URL inspection tool, it checks the index status, the user-agent information, allows for an HTML view of the rendered URL, and if it is not indexed, indexes it.
2. Bing Webmaster Tools
The Bing search console is called Webmaster Tools. The interface provides the same functionality as the Google Search Console and also allows you to submit URLs to include in the Bing index.
As Microsoft has various backfill relationships with other search engines, being indexed by Bing can generate search results in more than one place. To qualify for Bing Webmaster Tools, you need to prove you are the site owner.
3. Google My Business
Get your business on the map. Create a Google My Business account to indicate the location of your business and appear on Google maps. A Google My Business listing can also appear in regular search results and makes sense for all businesses for whom a physical location is important.
4. Yandex webmaster tools
Yandex is an important search engine in Russian- and Turkish-speaking countries. It’s not an English language search engine and not one you should spend time on if those markets are not relevant. This doesn’t mean you can’t set up a webmaster tools account and have your site indexed. Who knows, Yandex might go global one day. Yandex has even made its interface in English for you.
5. Baidu URL submission
Before we go any further, check whether you have Chinese language content and would have any reason to rank in Baidu. If not, no need to proceed. If your site is in Chinese, and you are not indexed in Baidu, set up an account here.
You submitted your site to Google My Business to appear on Google maps. A Yelp listing will increase your chances to rank in Google maps as it validates the authenticity of your business address. It’s essential for local SEO.
What to do if your website isn’t indexed
My site isn’t indexed in search engines. Or is it? Let’s go through a few steps to check what is going on:
- Is it really not indexed? First, you need to check. Let’s check on Google by searching for “site:www.yourwebsiteurl.com.” If there is no trace of your site, move to the next step.
- Did you allow it to be crawled? Check your “robots.txt” file to verify whether a disallow directive is telling search engines not to index your site. This unfortunately happens way too often. Simply type the following URL in a browser: www.yourwebsiteurl.com/robots.txt. If there is a “disallow” statement in the file, then you need to dive a little deeper to check whether it is disallowing all crawling or only parts of the site which shouldn’t be indexed.
- Your site isn’t indexed and you didn’t disallow crawling, yet the search engines didn’t find it? This is rarely the case, but it’s possible and means the search engines haven’t found a backlink pointing to it. You will need these backlinks to rank anyway, so do some PR and concentrate on becoming visible on the internet. Tell the world about your site. Submit the site to web directories for your business activity, and why not suggest it be covered by local press or blogs? Hey, did you link to your new site from your social media profiles? That might do the trick for initial discovery.
- And now that you are on your way to being indexed, set up your webmaster tools and search console accounts to monitor the way the site is crawled and indexed. It will help you understand where you are and what you can do to improve your visibility and website traffic.
Submission is often an answer to the wrong question
Search engines are amazing services capable of identifying, crawling, indexing, and ranking the best information on the internet -- that's why using an SEO tool to optimize your content is so important. You appear in search engines when you are visible on the internet in general -- not the other way around. If you publish great content and other sites link to your site, you will be visible in search engines for queries relating to your content.
Submitting your URL is rarely the answer to that question, but it can be useful in certain situations if your site has had incidents or if it isn’t crawled well.
Expert-picked business credit cards with rich rewards and perks
Cash back, travel rewards, 0% intro APR financing: all of these can be great credit card perks for business owners. But how do you find the right business credit card for you? There are tons of offers on the market today, and sifting through them to find the right one can be a big hassle. So we've done the hard work for you.
About the Author
We're firm believers in the Golden Rule, which is why editorial opinions are ours alone and have not been previously reviewed, approved, or endorsed by included advertisers. The Ascent does not cover all offers on the market. Editorial content from The Ascent is separate from The Motley Fool editorial content and is created by a different analyst team.