I’m pretty sure I stole this from another SEO, but because I’ve been using it as the first step of basic SEO testing for so long, I’ve completely forgotten where I got this. But today I was reminded of what a great little hack it is when a colleague asked me how I always know what Google sees when it indexes a page. Use this hack when when people ask “Is Google indexing this page?” or “Why does Google not index my content?” and they will think you have Google x-ray vision.
(Pro-tip: Usually when you have a page in a site with no other major indexing problems that is not surfacing in Google, it is a JS or AJAX issue and Google cache is the first step in diagnosing this problem)
Google cache is nothing new, but if you add it to your browser bookmarks you can immediately view what is happening in Google the moment someone IMs you a URL and asks “Why does Google hate this URL?”.
How to Add Google cache to your browser bookmarks to instantly view Google’s view of your page
- Right-click in your browser shell (under your URL field, usually) and, depending on what browser you are using, you will either have the option to “Add a bookmark” or “Add a page” or something similar. I’m using Firefox and Chrome on a windows machine in the examples below:
- In the location field (Firefox) or URL field (Chrome) enter:
- Add the bookmark to whatever browser you do most of your SEOing in and anytime you wonder what Google is seeing on a page just enter the page in your browser and then click your “Google Cache” bookmark window and you will see when Google last indexed the page, what URL Google indexed, and what that index looked like.
Viewing the URL in Google cache is a great way to determine if you have any weird redirect problems (self-inflicted or otherwise). Also, I usually click on the “Text-only version” of the page so that I can actually see if Google can see the words I think this page should be indexed under. This is another great way to diagnose rendering issues and/or text that looks like text but is actually images (basic SEO).
I’ve used a lot of SEO tools over the years, but this Google cache hack remains the standard first step in diagnosing Google indexing problems. And remember: spidering, indexing, and ranking are different things. If you do not see a cache for a page it does not mean Google has not spidered it, and if you see a cache for a page and you are still not ranking for what you think you should be ranking for, remember all this proves is that Google has a cache for your page — no promises were made. Also, the ranking you see is not necessarily the ranking everyone else sees for your page.