What is crawling in SEO (Search Engine Optimization)?

What is crawling in SEO (Search Engine Optimization)?

December 4, 2023

Crawling in SEO is a process when search engine bots aka web crawlers or web spiders enter into a website to discover the contents inside it. The contents could be anything, ranging from texts, images, videos, or other file types that the bots can access.

How Crawling in SEO Works?

There are three primary roles of a Search Engine:

Step 1: Crawling

This is a process where search engine crawlers explore the internet for content by looking through codes and contents for all the URLs they find.

Step 2: Indexing

Once the crawlers explore the contents, they store these contents in an organized way in a central database. This process is known as Indexing. The purpose of indexing is for the search engine to analyze and understand the content, and provide that information to readers in a ranked list. 

The index is a giant database containing information on all web pages crawled by the search bots. 

online marketing in India; Digital marketing in Mumbai; SEO services in Bhubaneswar, Mumbai, India;

Step 3: Ranking

Once web crawlers index a site page, they rank the pages based on several factors. Generally, Google judges a page against 200+ ranking factors included in their complex algorithm. This includes factors like keywords, quality of the content, site structure, user interface, and more. The goal of a search engine is to deliver relevant and high-quality information when a user enters a search query.

 Step 4: Constant Iteration

Search engines continuously check the user engagement of a website. They check the user signal of a webpage such as click-through rates, bounce rates, time spent by a user on a page, and more. That’s why search engines frequently change their ranking for a specific query. That means, a website ranking 1st may drop to 5th position, and a page ranking in 10th position, may take the top position, based on how well the user engages with the page.

At the same time, search engines frequently fine-tune their algorithms with changes in user behavior, technology, and the online landscape. They continue changing their algorithm with time, so the SEO strategies must also change. 

Different Types of Crawlers

Web crawlers are also known as spiders, robots, and ants. Their work is to visit a website and read the pages inside it, index those pages, and decide whether to rank them. 

Some popular web crawlers:

  • GoogleBot
  • BingBot
  • SlurpBot
  • DuckDuckBot
  • Sogou Spider
  • Facebook external Hit
  • AppleBot

During the crawling process, crawlers or spiders crawl different kinds of links. 

How Often Does Google Crawl Websites?

As per the Google Support Team, there is no definite timeline at which Google bots crawl and index a website or webpage. Sometimes, a page or site might be indexed or crawled overnight, while for some, (especially, small or newly established sites) can take months to be indexed.

What is Crawl Budget?

Yes, Google has a crawl budget- it doesn’t crawl and index each and every content or page on the internet. In fact, crawling of a page is not guaranteed and there are several pages that have never been crawled by Google crawlers or Googlebot.

Most SEO professional looks for the crawl budget of Google, which roughly translates to “how many URLs Googlebot can crawl within an assigned period for a specific website?” 

That means Google follows the idea that it should crawl as many pages as it can within a limited time. However, it doesn’t mean that more crawling is better for your website’s ranking. 

Attracting crawlers to crawl your site ten times a day doesn’t necessarily guarantee faster indexing or re-indexing of your content, rather it will put more load on your servers. As a result, you end up paying more for your server maintenance.

That means you should always focus on Quality Crawling to receive better results for your SEO efforts.

What is Quality Crawling?

“Quality crawling” means getting search engines like Google to visit your website more often.

To do this, you want to minimize the time between updating your pages and the next visit by Googlebot (Google’s web crawling bot). This gap between updating pages and visiting Googlebot is known as Crawl Efficiency

In simpler terms, you want Google to check your site quickly after you make changes or add new content. This helps your updated information get noticed and indexed faster in Google’s search results. 

How to check your website’s crawl efficiency?

Ideal Approach:

  • Check the database for the date and time when a page was created or last updated.
  • Look at the server log files to find when Googlebot last visited that page.
  • Compare these timestamps to see how quickly Google is crawling your updated content.

Alternative Approach:

  • If direct server log access is not possible, use the last mod date in XML sitemaps.
  • Periodically check the URLs using the Search Console URL Inspection API until it shows the last crawl status.

By quantifying the time gap between publishing and crawling, you can check the effectiveness of your optimizations. This metric helps you understand how quickly Google is picking up your new or updated content.

Faster crawling means your fresh content appears quicker on Google. If the crawl efficacy decreases (i.e., Google takes too long to visit important content), it delays the visibility of your updated information in Google search results.

Is there an app to boost a site’s Crawling Efficiency?

Over the years, there has been talk between search engines and partners on finding ways to improve crawling. The talk has been mostly around two APIs- IndexNow, and Google Indexing API

IndexNow is supported by Bing, Yandex, and Senzam, but not Google. However, you need to be a little cautious while using this API. If a major part of your target audience doesn’t use the search engines supported by IndexNow, then triggering these crawls won’t have any value to you.

However, Google Indexing API is not for everyone. Google clearly stated that the API should only be used for crawling pages related to job posting or broadcasting event markup. However, the talk of the town is different. 

Submitting non-compliant URLs (non-SSL-compliant) to Google Indexing API can increase the crawling rate. 

The logic is that, by submitting a non-compliant URL, you are only submitting a URL. Google will quickly crawl the page to see if it has structured data in it. If it has structured data, Google will index it. If not, it will ignore the URL. So, even if you use the API for non-compliant pages, it will only put an unnecessary load on your URL. 

If none of the abovementioned processes guarantees absolute results, then what is the alternative here?

Well, there is one!

You can try a manual submission in Google Search Console.

Manually submitting URLs in the Google Search Console increases the chance of indexing status within an hour. However, there is a limit. The crawlers will only crawl 10 URLs within 24 hours. So, obviously, if you have a scalable website with hundreds of pages, you must pick the ones you want to get crawled sooner.

Meanwhile, you can try to automate the URL submission, keeping the most important links as your priority. That means you need to hand-pick selective URLs for crawling and indexing.

How to Organically Increase Crawling Efficiency in Your Website?

There are various reasons why Google may not crawl or index your website, so the first thing you should do is fix those issues. Meanwhile, if everything is fine from your side, and yet no results, or you simply want to increase the crawl efficiency, here are the top 5 methods that absolutely work. 

Maintain your server for optimal responsiveness

Add a Screenshot from the Google Search Console

Keeping your server fast and reliable is super important. It should handle Googlebot’s crawling without making your slowing down your website or causing errors. 

Check-in Google Search Console that your site’s host status is good. It should say “host had no problems in the last XX days.

Also, make sure 5xx errors are below 1%, and server response times are consistently less than 300 milliseconds.

Remove unnecessary and redundant Content

When a significant part of your site’s contents are of low-quality, plagiarized, and old, it keeps search engines from finding new or recently updated stuff and makes the index too cluttered. Since Google runs on a crawl budget, there is a high chance the crawlers may not have enough time to crawl on your newly updated pages, instead, they will keep on indexing the same old content.

The quickest way to fix this is to go to Google Search Console and look at the pages that are “Crawled – currently not indexed.” 

If you find any errors, you can either fix them by combining the contents of two or more pages into one page or use a 301 redirect. 

If the contents are plagiarized or redundant, you should either replace them or remove them with a 404 error. 

Tell Googlebot not to crawl redundant pages

There are various ways to declutter your Google Index, including using rel=canonical links and noindex tags. With canonical links, you can redirect your non-functional or unnecessary links to healthy and relevant links. Meanwhile, with noindex tags, you can direct crawlers not to index the visited page. However, if both techniques work, it will still count in Google’s crawling budget. 

One way to completely stop Google from crawling a page on the first page is to use disallow tags in the robots.txt file.

Meanwhile, it is crucial to check your sitemap file as well. Check for pages that are “indexed, not submitted in sitemap”, or “discovered, not yet indexed” in Google search console.

Find and block non-SEO relevant routes such as:

  • Parameter pages, such as ?sort=oldest.
  • Functional pages, such as “shopping cart.”
  • Infinite spaces, such as those created by calendar pages.
  • Unimportant images, scripts, or style files.
  • API URLs.

Also, check your pagination strategy, as it can impact your crawling efficiency.

You can tell Googlebot when and when to Crawl

While you cannot explicitly tell Googlebot when to crawl your website through XML sitemaps, you can use XML sitemaps to provide information about the structure and content of your site, which can indirectly influence how search engines crawl and index your pages.

Here are some key points related to XML sitemaps:

Frequency and Priority Tags:

You can include optional <changefreq> and <priority> tags for each URL in your XML sitemap. 

The <changefreq> tag suggests how often the content at a particular URL is likely to change (e.g., “daily,” “weekly”). 

The <priority> tag indicates the priority of a particular URL relative to other URLs on your site.

Format

<url>

 <loc>https://example.com/page1</loc>

 <changefreq>daily</changefreq>

 <priority>0.8</priority>

</url>

Keep in mind that search engines might not strictly follow these directives, but they can provide some guidance.

Last Modification Date:

Include the <lastmod> tag to specify the last modification date of a page. This can help search engines understand when a page was last updated.

Format

<url>

 <loc>https://example.com/page1</loc>

 <lastmod>2023-01-01</lastmod>

</url>

Submitting Sitemaps to Google Search Console:

Once you’ve created your XML sitemap, you can submit it to Google Search Console. 

While this doesn’t directly control crawling, it provides a way for you to inform Google about your sitemap and monitor how your pages are indexed.

Support Crawling Through Internal Links

Search engines like Google use internal links to discover and index content on a website. Internal linking is a crucial aspect of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and can help search engine crawlers navigate and understand the structure of your site.

A logical site structure with contents arranged according to categories is a great way to optimize search engine crawling. Start with adding the most important pages in the navigation menu and footer for better indexing. 

Add an XML sitemap and check your robots.txt file, ensuring you mistakenly didn’t enter any pages inside it that you don’t want to block from search engine crawlers.

Understand crawl budget, ensure easy access to vital pages, and facilitate navigation through paginated content using rel=”next” and rel=”prev” tags. These practices enhance SEO and improve the visibility of your website.

Conclusion

Website crawling is foundational for effective SEO,. Optimizing crawl efficiency is a part of Technical SEO that helps with increasing your changes in ranking higher in SERP as well as serve as a crucial key performance indicator (KPI). For existing websites, assessing page indexation status provides valuable insights. Besides, improving your site’s organic performance, it also helps with Local SEO ensuring search engines can fully access and evaluate relevant website content.