IndexNow: When To Update Search Engines With Your Content Changes

Crawlers. In the ever-evolving landscape of SEO, they’re a necessary evil.

A critical component in ensuring that your content is discovered, indexed, and ranked by search engines.

However, the traditional approach to SEO often involves a passive stance – waiting for search engines like Google to crawl your site on their own schedule.

This can lead to delays in your content being found and ranked, affecting your site’s visibility, and ultimately, its success.

IndexNow: The Universal Protocol For Content Updates

One powerful tool ecommerce sites, news outlets, weather services, blogs and other digital entities are using to communicate their content changes to search engines is IndexNow.

This free, open-source protocol helps maintain your relevancy and position in search engines by allowing you to proactively notify them of the new, updated, or removed content on your website.

However, the effectiveness of IndexNow relies on the ability to identify what qualifies as a significant update to your content. It’s crucial to understand that not every change on your website is important enough to necessitate a notification to search engines.

Instead, focus on substantial content changes that genuinely enhance your website’s value as these updates won’t improve search engines’ ability to index your pages or the ranking of your content.

According to Fabrice Canel, Principal Product Manager for Microsoft, Bing, “To reduce server load and conserve resources, IndexNow should only be updated for meaningful changes.”

For example, a minor tweak in a blog’s footer or a slight adjustment in a stock price might not necessitate an IndexNow notification.

However, substantial updates like new product pages, updated pricing, a breaking news story, or a product becoming out of stock are prime candidates for IndexNow notifications.

Some examples of meaningful changes for several different industries would include:

1. Digital Retail

In a domain where timing can make or break a sale, IndexNow is a valuable tool to help ensure customers always have access to your most current and accurate product information.

  • Product Availability: Immediate notification of stock status changes helps avoid customer disappointment and bolster reliability and consumer confidence. For instance, if a hot-selling item runs out of stock, notifying IndexNow ensures that this information is swiftly reflected in search results, preventing customer frustration over unavailable items.
  • New Arrivals: Launching a new product? With IndexNow, the moment a new item hits your website, it can be indexed, helping capture the initial surge of interest and convert it into sales.
  • Dynamic Pricing: In a fast-paced online retail environment, prices fluctuate. Whether it’s a flash sale or a regular price update, IndexNow ensures that the latest pricing is immediately available to consumers, maintaining transparency and trust.
  • Reviews: While reviews lend great credibility to your products and customer service, it’s not necessary to notify IndexNow each time you receive one unless you have just listed a particular product or just started taking reviews. Consider reporting reviews incrementally from 1 to 10, then every two reviews from 11 to 20, and continue exponentially after that. This approach provides meaningful information without overwhelming IndexNow with excessive notifications.

Note: To avoid overloading servers with unnecessary updates, do not update constantly fluctuating inventory levels. A good rule of thumb is to monitor when inventory levels are low and promptly submit a deletion to IndexNow of the product once levels have diminished.

2. The Speed Of News

In the fast-paced world of news, where every second counts, IndexNow empowers news platforms to disseminate breaking stories with remarkable speed.

  • Stories and content updates: Whether breaking news, follow-up stories, or investigative reports – IndexNow should be notified of all of your new and updated news and article content on your website.
  • Corrections and Clarifications: If initial reports contain inaccuracies or require clarification, it’s vital to update search engines immediately. IndexNow’s quick indexing ensures audiences are informed with the most current information.
  • Outdated information, errors, and clutter: It’s important to remove content from indexing that is inaccurate or negatively affects your website’s SEO. This could include duplicate content, low-quality or thin content, or articles with outdated information.

3. Dynamic Websites

For sites with moderate to extreme fluctuations, it can be especially difficult to know when to notify IndexNow to strategically ensure content remains current in search engine results. While each site is different, here are some tips on when to consider updating IndexNow:

  • Financial Market Websites: Update at critical intervals, (such as the end of trading hours), the release of significant financial news, stock updates, or market analysis.
  • Sports Scores and Statistics: Update scores and significant event information based on the importance and action of the game, especially during and immediately after games. However, leave out time left and other momentarily important information.
  • Auction Trading Sites: Notify whenever new items are listed, sold, or when auction statuses change, or any information that ensures users have access to the most current information.
  • Travel Sites: For sites with price fluctuations per day of the year, notify IndexNow if the default price change when customers visit your site from search engines.
A graphic with three types of website content updatesImage from author, April 2024

Best Practices For When Not To Notify

  • It’s crucial not to flood IndexNow with notifications for the same URL in a short timeframe. Even if a piece of content becomes exceptionally popular and garners numerous views quickly, avoid notifying it too frequently. This can cause search engines to mistrust your content, resulting in lower rankings.
  • Timing is crucial when notifying IndexNow. However, some CMS platforms may have a lag between the time you make your changes, and when they are reflected on the web server. If you are experiencing this issue, it is best to notify IndexNow only after your content is live to avoid search engines from indexing dead links or outdated content prematurely.
  • It’s equally crucial to notify IndexNow when content is updated or removed. Neglecting to notify IndexNow when you add, update, or remove content can result in search engines serving outdated information to users, leading to poor user experiences, and potentially negatively impacting your site’s ranking.
  • If your CMS has seamless integration with IndexNow, you’re in good hands. However, if you’re coding and handling APIs yourself, follow these best practices to make the most of this powerful tool.

Note: Keep in mind that not all websites are created equal, and the way you interact with IndexNow can vary depending on your Content Management System (CMS) or coding approach. Some CMSes like Wix or Duda have direct integration with IndexNow, while others like WordPress have a free Open Source IndexNow plugin that handles IndexNow notifications for you. If your CMS has seamless integration with IndexNow, you’re in good hands, as we work with them to ensure the highest quality and accuracy of submitted URLs.

Changing Content Intelligently

Having better online visibility isn’t just about having a website.

It’s about your latest content being found. With these guidelines, you’ll ensure that your content is not just changing but changing intelligently for better search engine visibility.

Visit IndexNow/bing to learn more.

Co-authored by: Valerie Wells, Product Marketing Manager, IndexNow

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Featured Image: BestForBest/Shutterstock

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