Crawling is a fundamental part of SEO. Ranking at the top of search results all starts with making sure Google can crawl and index your content. When it encounters crawl errors and can’t properly open a page or move from one page to another, it’s unable to index the content. This will, consequently, cause your rankings (and revenue) to flop.
Whether you’re a complete beginner, an SEO expert, or a website developer, with a few tweaks and proper crawl budget optimization, you can guide Googlebot to regularly crawl and index your best-performing pages, and climb to the top of SERPs!
Crawl errors are issues encountered by search engines as they try to access your web pages, which prevent search engine bots from reading your content and indexing your pages. If they can’t do that, the chances of ranking for those pages? Close to none. Your main goal as a website owner is to make sure that the search engine bot can get to all pages on the site. Failing this process results in what we call crawl errors.
To successfully avoid crawl errors and own those rankings, you need to know what you’re up against, first. Google divides crawl errors into two groups:
You most definitely want to avoid these crawl errors, as they mean your entire website can’t be crawled. Site errors are all the crawl errors that prevent the search engine bot from accessing your website, with DNS errors, server errors (4xx, 5xx errors), and robots failure being the most common ones. Now, let’s see what kind of crawl errors might occur for specific pages.
URL errors refer to crawl errors that occur when Googlebot is unable to access and read a specific page of your website. URL errors differ from site errors in that they only apply to a specific page, not your site overall. Soft 404s, Not Found, Access denied, and NoFollow directives are the most common URL errors.
The most obvious problem with having crawl errors on your site is that they prevent Google from accessing and crawling your content. And, Google can’t rank the pages it can’t access. A high rate of crawl errors can also impact the way Google views the overall health of your website, as well.
When Google’s crawlers have lots of problems accessing a site’s content, they can decide that it’s not worth crawling very often. So, checking for crawl errors should be part of your site’s regular maintenance schedule.
If you publish a page on your website, will Google automatically index and rank it? Not necessarily! Let’s shed some more light on crawling first, before we dive deeper into the crawl budget, why it matters, and how you can optimize it for SEO.
For a page to show up in search results and drive traffic to your website, Google has to crawl it first. In Google’s own words, “Crawling is the entry point for sites into Google’s search results.” Search engines, thus, deploy a team of bots (also known as crawlers or spiders) that scan through the internet to find new and updated content. This process is called crawling.
The internet is vast, and since Google doesn’t have infinite time and resources to crawl every single page available on the web, not all pages will be crawled. So, they need a way to prioritize their crawling efforts.
Assigning a crawl budget (sometimes also referred to as crawl space or crawl time) to each website is how they manage. Crawl budget is essentially the time and resources Google is willing to spend crawling your website and, optimizing it could be key to your website’s growth.
The number of pages Google crawls on a website, aka your crawl budget, is generally determined by the size and ‘health’ of your site (how many errors Google encounters), and the number of links to your site (website popularity).
The equation is as follows: Crawl Budget = Crawl Rate + Crawl Demand. Let’s elaborate on that:
Ranking higher in the search results is the reason you perform SEO in the first place. If the number of pages on your website exceeds your site’s crawl budget – the remaining pages stay unindexed. Hence, they won’t rank or appear in search results. So, you want search engines to find and understand as many of your pages as possible, as quickly as possible.
If you’re wasting crawl budget, search engines won’t be able to crawl your website efficiently. They’ll spend time on parts of your site that don’t matter, which can result in important parts of your website being left undiscovered. You can probably already see what this leads to – wasting crawl budget and reducing it with crawl errors will end up hurting your SEO performance.
To be clear – neither crawl errors nor crawl budget are Google ranking factors. However, if a page cannot be indexed or rendered, it will not rank (or pass any link equity). Crawl errors can indicate whether this is happening on your site, which is what makes them an important SEO check and optimizing crawl budget an indispensable part of your SEO efforts.
Out of all the search engines, Google is the most transparent one when it comes to revealing the crawl budget for your website. However, instead of taking Google’s word for it, you might want to check for yourself. The best way to check your crawl budget and uncover any crawl errors is to compare the total number of pages in your site architecture with the number of pages crawled by Googlebot.
To quickly determine whether your site has a crawl budget issue, you can:
You can get insights into your website’s crawl budget for Google search engine if you have verified your site with Google Search Console.
Your server registers the logs of the events that happen on your website and constantly produces the log files. Check your server logs to see how often Google’s crawlers are hitting your website. You can check it manually or use professional log analyzer tools that provide you with data in an organized way so that it makes more sense.
Many factors can affect your crawl budget adversely. But if you were to check websites for crawl budget issues, you’d quickly see a pattern – most websites are suffering from the same kind of crawl issues:
Smaller websites focused on getting only a few landing pages ranking don’t need to pay much attention crawl budget. However, larger sites such as eCommerce sites, especially unhealthy ones, can easily reach their crawl limit and are most at risk of maxing out their crawl budget.
Your website’s crawl budget can fluctuate and is certainly not fixed. Crawl budget optimization is how you get on Googlebot’s good side – it’s the process of ensuring that the right pages of your website end up getting crawled and indexed by Google bots and are ultimately shown to searchers.
Ready for some insider tips on how to get the most out of your crawl budget?
Optimizing your crawl budget comes down to making sure no crawl budget is wasted. Essentially, fixing the reasons for the wasted crawl budget. It can be as much about increasing your crawl budget (getting Google to spend more time on your site) as it is about getting Google to spend the time crawling your site more wisely.
So, how can webmasters perform successful crawl budget optimization? Let’s take look at what you can do to maximize crawl efficiency:
Not all of your landing pages need to rank. The reason why so many enterprise-level websites waste their crawl budget is that they allow Google to crawl every landing page on their site. Knowing which pages have the strongest chance of ranking and converting is the key to making sure Google spends its crawl budget only on high-performing pages.
Be selective in whether or not a page deserves to eat up your crawl budget – keep directing crawlers to the pages that work hardest for your brand.
Search engines prioritize crawling and indexing the most valuable pages of a website. Strong internal links help Google connect relevant URLs and find important related content. Google focuses more on pages that contain a lot of internal and external links. Though backlinks carry more importance, it’s not always in your hands. Luckily, internal linking is completely in your control and serves the bot the most important pages and elements on a silver platter.
Your website speed is an important ranking factor as it directly impacts the user experience. Taking the context of crawl budget optimization, if your website loads faster – the crawlers can scan through more pages in less time. As a result, reduced load time and a higher response time mean more content from your website gets indexed and ranked.
Remember Google’s crawl budget formula? If Googlebot runs into a lot of errors while crawling your site, that could lower your crawl rate limit, and consequently, your crawl budget. You can increase your crawl budget automatically by fixing the crawl errors. Conduct periodic SEO audits of your website to find and fix the crawl errors to optimize your crawl budget.
Broken links or dead links are also one of the reasons a server returns a 404 error message. Since they are live on your website, Google bots scan these links using your crawl budget, but you gain nothing from it.
You can create Robot.txt files to guide the search engine bots on how to crawl various pages on your website and block them from crawling unimportant pages. This lets search engine crawlers spend more time on your valuable resources, index them and make the most of your crawl budget.
Search engines’ primary focus is to serve the users with the most valuable information out there. Just like duplicate content, thin, low-quality, or stale content doesn’t add any value to your users, crawl budget, or any SEO performance alike.
A straightforward site architecture makes the crawling process easier and faster which ultimately optimizes your crawl budget. Consider having a clear and linear site structure that helps crawlers reach any page on your site in less than a few clicks. Non-indexable pages and non-pages such as 3xx, 4xx, and 5xx URLs shouldn’t be included in your XML sitemap.
Tracking, optimizing, and increasing your crawl budget through minimizing crawl errors and other issues is the secret to success that can open up a wealth of opportunity — not only for your crawl budget but your site’s organic traffic and revenue, as well!
Crawl budget isn’t just a technical thing. It’s a revenue-making machine. So, make sure you bring the bots – and visitors – only to the good stuff, now that you know how!
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