Search engines are machines that are designed to meet search intent by providing the best available answers to user questions. They exist to discover and organize information on the internet based on the pages and websites visible to them. Google’s web crawling function scours online data and feeds results to the machine so that they can be indexed and ranked for relevance on search engine results pages (SERPs). That said, if you want your page or website to appear on SERPs, you have to give search engines something to crawl.
In this article, we talk about how web crawlers work, how crawling fits into SEO, and what you can do to improve your results.
How Does Google Search Work?
To have a better grasp of web crawlers’ search engine behavior, we should understand how Google Search itself generates web page results. The three steps that Google follows are crawling, indexing, and serving.
A Google website crawl is basically the search engine using bots (also called spiders) to discover new and updated content through a network of hyperlinks. The discovery process is not limited to a webpage and can include videos, images, PDF files, etc., provided that they have links on them. The networking can start from a known page (like a home page) or via a sitemap.
After a page is found, Google then tries to understand what it’s about and stores the information into a massive database (Google index). This process is called indexing.
Whenever a query is entered into the search box, Google then finds the highest quality answers, ranks them by order of relevance, and then serves them as a list called SERPs. The pages that appear on this list are ranked based on whether they offer the best answers while considering other ranking factors like language, location, and device used (mobile or desktop).
How to Ask Google to Crawl Your Website
When you create a new website, Googlebot (the generic term for both its desktop and mobile crawler) will discover it eventually. This bot mimics a user’s behavior on the computer or smartphone and crawls forward via a natural progression of hyperlinks that move from one page to another. What does Google crawl? The bot sifts through text, images, videos, PDF files, and more—so be sure that all the content on your pages is properly optimized.
You do not pay Googlebot to crawl your site or do it faster. Whoever tells you otherwise is providing false information. However, you can help Googlebot discover and index your website more quickly from your end via three steps:
1. Create a sitemap. A sitemap is a document that you, as a website owner or developer, prepares for search engines, providing directions for crawling. This file is uploaded to your root directory. You can use websites like xml-sitemaps.com to generate a sitemap or, if you are a WordPress user, you can install the Google Sitemap Generator.
2. Go to Google Webmaster Tools to submit your website for consideration and your sitemap.
3. Go to the Webmaster Tool URL to ask Google to index your site. Search engines will try to crawl and index every URL that comes its way, so if a URL is a non-text file (like a video, audio, or image file), it will likely not be read if it does not have a relevant filename and metadata. Although the data extracted is limited from such file types, what the bot finds can still be an indexing and ranking factor.
How to Improve Site Crawling
How long does it take Google to crawl a website? It depends on the number of pages your site has and the quality of the link network. The conservative estimate is 3 to 4 weeks for sites with fewer than 500 pages, 2 to 3 months for those with under 25,000 pages, and as long as one year for those with over 25,000 pages. Google’s crawl rate only goes as fast as the quality (no broken links and error pages) and the number of hyperlinks on your pages.
Verify if your site is crawlable.
The first thing you need to do to improve site crawling is to verify that search engines can reach your site’s pages. Google accesses the web anonymously and will be able to spot all the elements of your page if everything is in order. To check if it’s easily crawlable, type your URL into the Mobile-Friendly Test Tool.
Create a solid home page.
Note that if you request Google to crawl your page, start with the home page, which is the most important part of your website. To encourage the bot to crawl your site thoroughly, ensure that your home contains a solid navigation system that links to all the key sections of your website. As long as you have a solid link path that starts from the home page, your website should be good to go.
Be wary of links that violate the guidelines.
Another tip to improve site crawling is getting your page linked by a page that Googlebot is already aware of. Fair warning, though. Links that appear in the comments, ads, and similar locations that do not adhere to the Google Webmaster Guidelines will not be followed.
Is Google the Only Web Crawler Search Engine?
Google is, perhaps, the most popular and comprehensive search engine out there, but it’s not the only one. Preparing your website to be crawled by other major search engines ensures that your pages are consistently listed on the first page of search results, no matter where the reader enters a query.
Bingbot, Bing’s web crawler, operates the same way as Googlebot in following both internal and external links on desktop and mobile versions of websites. It uses several user-agent strings to do so. Bing crawls your website using the sitemap submitted using the Bing Webmaster Tools Sitemap tool, via the Bing URL or Content Submission API, and traditional, high-quality links.
Bing also has another crawler that specifically targets ads, called AdIdxBot. Review Bing’s Webmaster Guidelines to ensure that your pages adhere to the search engine’s rules.
DuckDuckBot is DuckDuckGo’s designated web crawler that moves the same way as Googlebot and Bingbot. You’ll know when the crawler is from DuckDuckGo by looking at its list of IP addresses.
Yahoo! was THE search engine of choice many years ago, but it has since been eclipsed by Google as the go-to for queries. Yahoo’s web crawler is called Slurp.
How Web Crawler Search Engines Fit Into SEO
SEO efforts are designed to help websites gain visibility online. It is the search engines’ web crawling, indexing, and ranking tools that are responsible for finding the right pages that will satisfy a query. How do crawlers fit into the SEO narrative? Without crawlers to scour online data and verify that certain content exists, all optimization efforts will be in vain.
If you need help in making sure your web pages are being crawled, whether by Googlebot, Bingbot, Slurp, DuckDuckBot, or any other spider, get in touch with us. Our team of technical SEO experts will work with you to gain better visibility online and rank high in SERPs.