To get any love at all from the search engines first they need to know you’ve got a live and kicking website. We all know that the search engine travel through links between websites to discover new content but what is less obvious is what they do with the link information after they have the new content. The first job for any webmaster is to get their website into the search engine database, what we call ‘secondary indexation’ because the secondary index is where your pages will be before they get upgraded into the primary index and the true fight for rankings can begin.

It is estimated that Google only show about 30% of the known internet is keyphrase searches. The other 70% exists in the background of Google – in the secondary index. The secondary index is made up of a lot of different types of content – very new domains live there, penalised websites live there too, duplicate and low value content is thrown in and also undertrust content is there.

If you brake that down into two parts you get content that is put there on purpose and content that is put there by accident. The secondary index is the purgatory of the search engien world- if youve done wring your there as penance, and if you aren’t perfect your there as holding until you make it to the big house.

Here is a straightforward guide to first diagnosing if you’re in the secondary index and second to moving from the secondary index to the primary and starting to get rankings for keyphrases.

Am I in the secondary index?

  • Search for the name of your website and search for your brand terms
    • Do you appear?
    • How many of your pages are returned?
    • Do you have sitelinks?

Sitelinks for Apple, an example

TIP: If you have site links there you aren’t in the secondary index – sitelinks are given to trusted websites for closely related terms and never to sites in the secondary index.

  • Do a “site:” search.
    • How many results are returned?
    • Is the homepage the first result?
    • If your homepage isn’t showing up at the top then there could be issues, you could be penalised, have internal link issues or poor architecture.

If you are seeing pages when you do a “site:” search but nothing when you are searching for brand terms or long tail keyphrases searches then you can be confident that you are in the secondary index.

Moving out of the secondary index

To move out of the secondary index you need to be a trusted resource – if can be for a single web page or for your entire domain. It is more efficient to become a trusted domain then try and search engineer individual pages because if you are a trusted domain all future pages.

  • Pick a page – search for the full url of the page
    • Does it show up?
    • Using the same page search for the full title of the page
      • Does it show up?
      • If the URL shows up but the title doesn’t your title might be too competitive.
      • Copy a passage of text from a page and search using parentheses. Do additional pages show up? If so you might be suffering from duplicate content issues.
      • Try adding a link from your other pages to this test page. Check the cached version of the page for a date, wait for the cached page to be updated and then re-run the tests. Does the page now appear for the title?

Cached button, an example

If not:

  • Make the title more specific
  • Create a new page with bunch of letter than don’t make a word, something like “shdfnasjlbndua”. Add unique content to that page, launch it and wait of that page to get indexed. Does your page show up for the meaningless title now?

Understanding the amount of the content that sits in Google’s secondary index is an important indicator to show the health of your website. Check out 4 SEO reports that go further.

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