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The All-Encompassing Guide to Website Crawlers

the all-encompassing guide to website crawlers

Do you know one of the secrets to online success? It’s website crawlers. I’ll go into detail about what they’re in a minute. 

However, for now, I’ll tell you that unless a site crawler visits your pages, you’ll find it hard to gain online traction.

Although a site crawl is an automated process, you can still do your bit to help the bots.

As I’ll explain, you can make your site more accessible by improving page loading times and submitting a sitemap, and that’s just a start.

Ready to learn more? Read on.

What Is A Website Crawler?

A site crawler is an automated script or software that trawls the internet, collecting details about websites and their content. Search engines like Google use webpage crawlers to discover web pages and update content. Once a search engine completes a site crawl, it stores the information in an index.

There are two different ways bots can crawl a website. A site crawl evaluates the entire site, or webpage crawling indexes individual pages.

You’ll also hear site crawlers called spiders or bots or by more specific names like Googlebot or Bingbot.

Why Site Crawlers Matter For Digital Marketing

The purpose of any online digital marketing campaign is to build visibility and brand awareness, and that’s where site crawlers come in.

In addition to giving sites and pages visibility through content indexing, a website crawler can uncover any technical SEO issues affecting your site. For instance, you might have bad redirects or broken links, which can negatively impact your rank in the SERPs.

The best thing about the whole process is that you don’t need to wait for a URL crawler to visit your site to find these issues.

You can use a site crawler tool to find any potential technical SEO problems and address them to make indexing easier for the bots.

This part is crucial because if a site crawler can’t access your site to index your pages, they won’t get ranked, and you won’t get the online visibility you’re looking for.

How Site Crawlers Work

As this chart from AI Multiple shows, web crawling is a five-phase process:

the process of web crawling flow chart

It all starts when a site crawler checks a website’s robot.txt file, a method website owners use to communicate with web crawlers.

Bots crawl your website by fetching the HTML code of the seed URL, extracting information such as links, text content, and metadata. If your website uses JavaScript code, the bots execute it to extract important information.

However, a site crawler only crawls some of your site’s pages at a time; search bots use a crawl budget to determine how many pages to crawl at any one time.

The bots then store information in a database for retrieval (indexing). Data collected for indexing includes page titles, meta tags, and text.

When a searcher enters a query, the search engines produce a list of search results or SERPs from these indexed URLs.

How to Make Your Site Easier to Crawl

You can introduce several best practices to make indexing your website easier for website crawlers. Here are some web crawling tips you can implement today.

First, it helps to understand how Google sees your website.

Then, work through the suggestions I’ve listed below.

Submit Your Site Map to Google

One way to help search engines crawl your site is by submitting a sitemap. A site map enables bots to understand your site’s structure and content. They also let search engines like Google know which pages/files you consider important.

Search engines also use site maps to find information, like when you last updated a page or the type of content.

Site maps improve navigation, making it easier for website crawlers to find new content and index your pages.

You can use XML, text, or RSS for your site map, and you can use tools to automate creation.

Then submit your site map via the Google Search Console. You can also view search stats in the console.

Remember to update your sitemap if you change your website’s structure or content.

Improve Page Load Speed

Slow page loading times could cost you customers, making your site difficult to index, but there’s an easy fix.

Do a quick speed test (you’re aiming for two to three seconds of loading time.)There are several free tools out there to help you check your page load speed, such as Google’s PageSpeed Insights

This handy tool analyzes the speed of mobile and desktop devices and scores the outcome with a rating between 0 and 100. The higher the score, the better, but it also provides suggestions for improvements.

What if you don’t measure up?

Well, you can:

  • Optimize video and image sizes
  • Minimize HTTP requests
  • Use browser caching
  • Host media content on a content media system
  • Fix broken links

It could also be worthwhile looking for a new web host. One test found it was possible to reduce response times from 600 – 1,300ms down to 293ms with a different host. 

Perform A Site Audit

Need a quick way to spot website performance issues and make your site more crawlable? Then, perform a site audit.

A site audit helps you optimize your website for the search engines so the bots can understand it. Finding website errors and fixing them improves the user experience, too. It’s a win-win. 

However, an audit also highlights any technical issues that may impact the crawlability of your website. For example, broken links, duplicate content (which can confuse search bots), and slow-loading pages.

You can use a crawl or site audit tool for this part, and I make some suggestions later in this article.

I’ve got an SEO analyzer tool, which you can use for a site audit, too.

Update Robots.txt.

A robots.txt file is a text file on a website server. It gives website crawlers instructions for which parts of your website to index and which parts you want the bots to ignore. It looks like this example from AI Multiple:

robots.txt file

This file stops your site from getting overwhelmed by crawler activity. You can use robots.txt to prevent specific types of content from being visited by web crawlers, like photos and images. If you need to locate your robots.txt file or check if you have one, I’ve got an article to help you.

You’ll want to regularly update this file to ensure it’s accessible to search engines.

Improve Your Site Structure

Website structure might sound overly technical, but, really, it’s not. When you break it down, website structure is just how you organize your content, pages, elements, and links.

While a logical, easy-to-follow website structure is necessary for a good user experience, it’s also essential for a website crawler.

Why?

Because it makes it easy for bots to index your site.

You can improve your website structure by including site maps, using site schema, choosing a URL structure, etc.

Fix Crawl Errors and Broken Links

You should include checking for crawl errors and broken links as a regular part of your website engines.

report of crawl requests by response and by file type

Managing these issues enables website crawlers to navigate and index your content easily.

When there are crawl errors on your website, they can stop bots from indexing your website correctly.

For example, broken links can stop a site crawler from reaching affected pages and impact indexing. They also impact crawl efficiency, slowing down website crawlers.

 Common Site Crawler Tools

Want to boost your SEO? A site crawler tool finds any technical issues that may prevent your site from getting indexed. Here’s a list of free and paid site crawler tools.

Netpeak Spider

website homepage for netpeak spider

This tool lets you complete in-depth SEO audits and is suitable for small and large sites. You can use the Netpeak Spider to scrape your site, too.

Netpeak Spider is a paid site crawler that spots common problems, like broken links, content duplicates, and image errors, and you can integrate it with Google Search Console.

Other features are:

  • Reports to help you reduce SEO issues
  • Crawl settings management
  • XML site map validator

Pro members can also use Netpeak Spider for multi-domain crawling to crawl multiple sites simultaneously. 

Pricing varies from $7 monthly – $22 monthly (paid annually).

Lumar

website homepage for Lumar

Lumar (formerly Deep Crawl) gives insights into your website domains and crucial site sections in a single platform.

You can measure technical SEO, website health, and website accessibility. Once you’ve checked your site, you can investigate the report and fix any site issues.

Features include:

  • Lumar provides the fastest crawler available, with 450 URLs per second for non-rendered and 300 for rendered links
  • Lumar monitors to identify changes and track your website’s health
  • Customizable website crawls
  • Simplified task management

Pricing is available on request.

Screaming Frog

website homepage for screaming frog

You can use this free site crawler tool to crawl small and large websites, enabling you to analyze the results in real-time.

Use the tool to schedule audits, generate XML sitemaps, and compare crawls to see if anything has changed since your last one.

Screaming Frog audits for SEO issues; you can audit and download 500 URLs for free.

Features include:

  • Broken links finder
  • Discover duplicate content tool
  • Review robots and directives
  • Crawl Javascript websites
  • Crawl depth analysis

There’s a free version with limited features. The paid version is $259 annually.

Semrush

website homepage for semrush

Use Semrush’s free site crawler to audit your site and optimize it for users and search engines.

The tool checks for 130+ common issues and produces reports on your website crawlability and site indexability.

Just enter your domain name, set the crawl parameters, and get a report detailing your website health score and a prioritized list of site issues.

Features include:

  • Technical analysis of your website crawlability
  • Hreflang implementation
  • Speed and performance testing
  • On-page SEO checker

FAQs

How do I emulate a crawler on my website?

A simple way to emulate a site crawler is using the Chromebot technique. It’s a no-coding option that lets you configure Chrome settings to mimic a non-rendering Googlebot site crawler.

How do you identify if a web crawler is crawling your site?

You can do a regular search. Put your URL into Google and see if the pages appear. Alternatively, look in your webserver log and find the user agent field.

Conclusion

You need to optimize your website, and not just for visitors. You must also be ready for the website crawlers looking for new content to index.

If you want your site to rank, you have to ensure your site is accessible and you implement best practices, like setting up a site map and having an easy-to-understand website structure.

These web spiders are fundamental to indexing your content, making them imperative to your SEO strategy.

And there’s no need to let the tech side intimidate you. You can use a website crawling tool to check for common tech errors, which may be making your site inaccessible to web crawlers.

You can also use web crawlers to create a user-friendly site that works well for visitors and search engines.

What is your site crawler strategy? 

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