Google’s Indexing Process: When Is “Quality” Determined?

In a recent video, Google’s Gary Illyes, a search team engineer, shared details about how the search engine assesses webpage quality during indexing.

This information is timely, as Google has steadily raised the bar for “quality” content.


Quality: A Key Factor in Indexing & Crawling Frequency

Illyes described the indexing stage, which involves analyzing a page’s textual content, tags, attributes, images, and videos.

During this stage, Google also calculates various signals that help determine the page’s quality and, consequently, its ranking in search results.

Illyes explains:

“The final step in indexing is deciding whether to include the page in Google’s index. This process, called index selection, largely depends on the page’s quality and the previously collected signals.”

This detail is especially relevant for publishers and SEO professionals struggling to get content indexed.

You could be doing everything right from a technical standpoint. However, your pages won’t get indexed if they don’t meet a certain quality threshold.

Further, Google has previously confirmed that high-quality content is crawled more frequently, which is crucial for staying competitive in search results.

One of Google’s goals for the year is to conserve crawling resources by prioritizing pages that “deserve” to be crawled, emphasizing the urgency of meeting Google’s quality standard.

Signals & Duplicate Content Handling

Illyes touched on how Google analyzes signals.

Some signals, like the rel= “canonical” annotation, are straightforward, while others, such as a page’s importance on the internet, are more complex.

Google also employs “duplicate clustering,” where similar pages are grouped, and a single canonical version is selected to represent the content in search results. The canonical version is determined by comparing the quality signals collected about each duplicate page.

Additional Indexing Insights

Along with the insight into quality assessment, Illyes shared these notable details:

  1. HTML Parsing and Semantic Issues: Illyes discussed how Google parses the HTML of a webpage and fixes any semantic issues encountered. If unsupported tags are used within the < head> element, it can cause indexing problems.
  2. Main Content Identification: Illyes mentioned that Google focuses on the “main content or centerpiece of a page” when analyzing it. This suggests that optimizing the primary content of a webpage is more important than incremental technical changes.
  3. Index Storage: Illyes revealed that Google’s search database is spread across thousands of computers. This is interesting context regarding the scale of Google’s infrastructure.

Watch the full video below:

Why SEJ Cares

As Google continues prioritizing high-quality content in its indexing and ranking processes, SEO professionals should be aware of how it assesses quality.

Knowing the factors influencing indexing, such as relevance, quality, and signal calculation, SEO professionals know better what to aim for to meet Google’s indexing threshold.

How This Can Help You

To ensure your content meets Google’s quality standards, consider the following actionable steps:

  1. Focus on comprehensively creating content that addresses your audience’s needs and pain points.
  2. Identify current search demand trends and align your content with these topics.
  3. Ensure your content is well-structured and easy to navigate.
  4. Implement schema markup and other structured data to help Google better understand context.
  5. Regularly update and refresh your content to maintain relevance and value.

You can potentially increase your indexed pages and crawling frequency by prioritizing quality, relevance, and meeting search demand.


What does Google’s ‘index selection’ process involve?

The index selection process is the final step in Google’s indexing, where it decides whether to include the page in the search index.

This decision is based on the page’s quality and various signals collected during the initial assessment.

If the page doesn’t meet the quality threshold set by Google, it risks not being indexed. For this reason, the emphasis on generating high-quality content is critical for visibility in Google’s search engine.

How does Google handle duplicate content, and what role do quality signals play in this process?

Google handles duplicate content through a process called “duplicate clustering,” where similar pages are grouped. Then, a canonical version is selected to represent the group in search results.

The canonical version is selected based on the quality signals associated with each duplicate page. These signals can include attributes like the proper use of the rel=”canonical” tag or more complex factors like a page’s perceived importance on the Internet.

Ultimately, the chosen canonical version reflects Google’s assessment of which page is most likely to provide the best value to users.

Featured Image:, April 2024. 

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