Search engines serve as a valuable tool for people to search for all kinds of information on the web. But in order for your content to show up in top search engine results, it needs to be crawlable. In this post, we’ll be discussing how search engines work, the role of crawl budget in SEO, and how to maximize your crawl budget.
Understanding Search Engines
Search engines can crawl billions of pages and present the best quality search results to users based on their specific search query. In simple terms, a search engine comprises multiple processes that work together to pick up content. This is where website owners use SEO (Search engine optimization) to improve their content’s visibility and drive traffic to their site.
The mechanisms involved in Search Engines are:
- Web Crawling:- Bots continuously scans the internet to discover new pages and gather data to help index the page accurately.
- Indexing:- It is the process of saving and recording information collected in the crawling process. Good quality content is stored in the index of the search engine. If a website has been indexed, it will be displayed as a result of specific queries.
- Ranking:- Sorting content from most relevant to least relevant, hence providing the best possible answer to every user’s query.
Do you want your site to be displayed on the search engine result pages? Then you need to make sure that its contents are visible to search engines. This is a crucial part of SEO, and neglecting this can cause your investments in digital marketing services to go down the drain.
To prevent your website from being overlooked, it’s important to keep a check on your website’s crawl budget. A majority of web owners don’t need to worry about this, except those who fulfill the following conditions. This includes owning a website with more than 100,000 web pages that regularly update, a medium-sized website that updates web pages daily, or those that consist of redirect links.
But first, what is the crawl budget?
What is the Crawl Budget?
The web can be imagined as a never-ending space that hosts content, so it exceeds the capacity of search engines such as Google to crawl and index every website. Hence, search engines establish limits for spending time crawling through a website. A site’s crawl budget is defined as the amount of time and resources a search engine utilizes for crawling a website.
According to Google, two main factors help to determine a site’s crawl budget. Both are defined below:-
Crawl Capacity Limit
Googlebot wants to crawl your site without burdening your servers. Hence, it calculates the crawl capacity limit, which determines the maximum number of simultaneous parallel connections Googlebots can make for crawling on your site, alongside the time taken for retrieving data. This enables the presentation of high-quality content on your site without exhausting your servers.
Factors that affect the crawl capacity limit include the responsiveness of your website. The quicker the response times for brief periods means higher crawling capacity. Otherwise, if server errors occur, then the crawl capacity limit drops, causing less crawling of your site. Site owners can also control the capacity limit through the search console.
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The amount of time Google spends crawling on your site depends on the site’s page quality, frequency of updates, size, and relevance, as compared to other websites. Factors that affect the crawl demand are:-
- Placement of URLs:- During the crawling process, Google will try to access all the URL links placed on your webpage unless instructions have been provided. If duplicate or unwanted links (unnecessary) are present, more crawling time goes to waste. This can cause a negative effect.
- Recognition:- Popular sites on the web are crawled a greater number of times for keeping the index up to date.
- Updating frequency:- Search engines increasingly crawl sites that make consistent changes.
In short, low crawl demand means that Google will crawl your site less often. Even though the Googlebot remains within the crawl capacity limit, low crawl demand affects the crawling rate.
Ways to Enhance Crawling Efficiency
1. Refine Your URL Inventory
Google advises website owners to use adequate tools for instructing Googlebots about sites that should or shouldn’t be crawled. If Googlebot finds URLs taking longer crawling times and are irrelevant to the index, Google may quit crawling your site and decrease the crawling budget.
2. Eliminate Duplicate Content
Duplicate content wastes crawling time and prevents your site from being indexed. Therefore focus on creating original and authentic content, which can increase the chances of getting your site indexed.
3. Prevent Crawling of Unnecessary URLs
Pages that shouldn’t appear in search results but are important to users should be blocked for crawling. Examples include infinite scrolling pages that copy content onto different links, filtered versions of a page, etc. If such duplicate content can’t be eliminated, then block such URLs through the robots.txt file or the URL Parameters Tool (for blocking duplicate content).
Robots.txt:-This file can be found in the root directory of your site. They’re useful for instructing search engines which URLs on your web page should or shouldn’t be crawled. URLs of private pages such as admin and login pages shouldn’t be mentioned in this file. Not only does it prevent them from showing up in search results, but it also prevents them from being accessed by hackers.
Google advises using password protection or noindex tags to prevent important URLs from being crawled or indexed.
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URL Parameters Tool:-This feature helps prevent search engines from crawling duplicate content pointed out by multiple URLs. For example, (example.com/shirts?style = casual, half-sleeve and example.com/shirts?style = casual & style=half-sleeve). Such URLs may have negligible differences from the original URL due to the use of various parameters. If they exist on your website and are direct to the same content, then these links can cost precious crawling time.
Examples of such URLs can be found on various e-commerce stores, as they use URLs of different parameters to redirect web traffic to their product recommendation pages. With different models of products, such sites require to use URLs with some common parameters. Hence, using a URL parameters tool for blocking sites that contain a common URL parameter may result in various important pages not appearing in search results.
Google has established a set of requirements that a website needs to fulfill for using the tool.
- The website should consist of more than 1000 pages.
- If you notice a large number of duplicate pages being indexed by Google in the Index Coverage Report, which differ by only URL parameters.
4. For Deleted Pages Raise 404/410
404 signals Google not to crawl a specific URL that it’s familiar with. Blocked URLs remain a part of the crawling process and can be recrawled once unblocked.
5. Fix soft 404 errors
A 404 error shows up when a URL directs to a page that doesn’t exist. Search engines will repeatedly crawl such URLs, causing wastage of precious crawling time and budget. Sometimes, pages required for indexing stimulate a 404 error. This may occur because the page has been moved to a new site. Hence it needs to be redirected to the new URL. Google provides an in-depth guide for tracing and fixing such errors.
If a web page has been relocated to a new URL permanently, connect the old URL with the new URL by using the 301 redirects. In case of temporary changes, 302 redirectsare preferred, which sends web traffic through a specific route to the destination page.
6. Regularly Update Sitemaps
Sitemaps provide details about your website’s pages, including the content, and search engines such as Google scan them daily. So, mention all the contents in your sitemap that you want Google to crawl.
7. Use Shorter Redirect Chains
If you’ve moved a site to a new URL, make the redirecting process easier by using smaller chains for faster loading times. Otherwise, it can increase crawling times and decrease the crawling budget. For example, if you’ve shifted your website from its original URL to a new URL, and had to shift it again, link the original URL directly with the current new URL.
8. Increase Your Site’s Responsiveness
Quicker loading and response times mean more crawling time to scan for URLs containing rich content from your site.
9. Ensure Googlebot Doesn’t face any Availability Issues on Your Site
Making sure your site’s available 24/7 doesn’t increase the crawling budget. However, it enables Google to increase crawling on your site. To review the Googlebot’s crawling history for your site, Google provides the Crawl Stats Report, which shows the account of any issues or errors faced.
An integral part of SEO is to make your site crawl-worthy. If the main website, along with other URLs, is in working order, the higher the chances of all your pages get crawled. This requires improving and maintaining your site’s crawl budget.
Check for any duplicate URLs to eliminate duplicate content and repair any availability issues identified from the Crawl Stats Report. Use shorter redirect chains for your URLs while shifting your website temporarily or permanently to a new website link. Through these steps, you can enhance your website’s crawling budget.
Also Read: 7 Reasons Why your Business needs SEO