web crawlersBryan Miller

6 minute read

Web Crawlers and Indexing the Web

Published 2021-08-02T06:00:00 by Bryan Miller

If you’ve been working on optimizing your website for search engines, you likely know about some of the things you can do to optimize your website’s content while also performing techniques like link building. However, you may never have heard about web crawlers and their importance when it comes to search engine optimization. A web crawler is a special computer program that’s able to automatically search for documents on the internet.

Web crawlers are designed to be automated programs that can perform repetitive actions, which allows for web browsing to be immediate. Search engines like Google use these crawlers to browse through the internet and create an index. Once this index has been created, any internet user who types in a search query on sites like Google or Bing will be provided with instant search results. The only way for search engines to provide users with results is for the pages to be indexed before any searches are made.

To understand exactly how a web crawler works, think of a web crawler as a librarian. When new books get sent to the library, a librarian will assign the book to a specific category before indexing and eventually cataloging the book. From here, visitors to the library can search for a specific book on the computer or look under the category that the book is a part of. Web crawlers work in the same way by indexing and cataloging every web page so that these pages can be called up when someone enters a related term on Google.

Keep in mind that web crawlers are also commonly referred to as bots, spiders, and robots. If you’re wondering how web crawlers help with SEO, it’s first important to understand that web crawlers aren’t able to instantly catalog and index every web page at the same time. Google and other search engines tell the web crawler how often it can browse the internet to find new pages to index. If you want your web pages to be indexed as quickly as possible, it’s important that these pages are optimized for search engines. Otherwise, it may take some time for your pages to be properly indexed. This article provides an in-depth look at web crawlers and their importance to your SEO efforts.

How Does Search Indexing Affect Web Crawling?

search indexing

A key component of web crawling involves search indexing, which is the basic act of making sure that Google and other search engines can recover web pages immediately after a user types in a search query. If a web page hasn’t been properly indexed, search engines won’t be able to find it. In the event that a page on your website is never indexed, you likely wouldn’t receive much traffic to that page. Once a page has been indexed, the search engine will know exactly where to go to retrieve the page in question.

When a search engine needs to obtain an indexed page, it will look at the text on the page itself as well as any metadata that has been included with the page. Metadata is designed to tell search engines like Google what the web page is about, This data usually comes in the form of a meta description and meta title. Even though the search engine can view this information, it isn’t visible to users.

When a page has been indexed with a search engine, nearly every word from the page will be added to the index except for words like “the”, “a”, and “an”. Once an internet user searches for a word or term that’s used within the web page, the search engine in question will go through the index of every web page that contains those words. The most relevant pages will then be displayed to the user.

Web crawlers work by first scanning through an extensive list of known URLs. While crawling through these pages, the tool will also identify any hyperlinks that are found within the pages, which will be scanned afterward. Because of how many pages exist on the internet, this process could continue indefinitely. To avoid this issue, the tool uses several different factors to determine which pages to scan through. Once crawlers find a web page, they automatically index the page while also taking note of the freshness of the website as well as any keywords within the page content.

Relationship Between Web Crawlers and SEO

seo and web crawling

To understand the relationship between SEO and web crawlers, there are two things to consider, which include crawl budget management and blocks for web crawlers.

Crawl Budget Management

If web crawlers go through your website on a regular basis, it’s likely that some of your web pages will rank well on a search engine results page. Better SERP rankings will invariably result in more visibility for your website, business, and brand. It’s important to understand that web crawlers have a set budget they must adhere to in accordance with guidelines used by the search engine. No website receives an unlimited amount of crawling from Google. The crawl budget set by Google tells the web crawlers which web pages they should scan, how often they should crawl, and the amount of server pressure that’s deemed to be acceptable.

If this budget wasn’t put in place by Google and every other search engine, your website would be overloaded by crawlers and visitors, which would invariably worsen site performance and create issues with your brand reputation. If you want to make sure that your website runs smoothly, it’s possible for you to change the crawl rate limit and look into your website’s crawl demand. Having access to the crawl rate limit gives you the opportunity to control how often web crawlers look through your website for new content to index.

In the event that you’re experiencing a slowdown on your website and believe that web crawlers are creating these issues, changing the crawl rate limit through the Google Search Console should result in better performance.

As for Google demand, this is the exact level of interest that Google and all of its users have in your website. If you find that interest is low, this indicates that web crawlers won’t go through your website as often. Web crawlers scan through the most popular websites more often than the rest, which is why proper search engine optimization can help you improve how often web crawlers scan the pages on your website.

Blocks for Web Crawlers

While it’s definitely important for many of your web pages to rank well on search engines like Google and Bing, it’s not necessary for all web pages to show up on SERPs. If you want to make sure that web crawlers don’t look through irrelevant, sensitive, or redundant pages on your website, you can block the web crawler from scanning certain pages. The easiest block to implement involves the noindex meta tag, which is designed to keep search engines from ranking and indexing a specific page. You should only use this type of block for internal search results, thank you pages, and admin pages.

Another type of block you can implement is the robots.txt file. Before you use this blocking technique, keep in mind that web crawlers can choose not to obey the robots.txt file. However, it can be useful when you’re trying to keep your crawl budget in check. Now that you understand two ways that web crawlers are important for SEO, your optimization techniques should be even more effective at producing results.

Applications for Web Crawlers

data for web crawling

Web crawlers can have many applications, all of which you should be fully aware of. The primary goal of any web crawler is to build an index. These tools serve as the base for all search engines. When a web crawler is put to work, it will search through the internet to identify content that can be displayed to users. It’s possible for crawlers to have a specific focus, which could be something like focusing on content-relevant websites while indexing. There are also some additional applications that web crawlers can be used for, the primary of which include:

  • It’s possible for web crawlers to be used for data mining. The crawler can collect postal and email addresses through publicly available information.
  • Crawlers can provide news sites and similar information hubs with pertinent data.
  • Price comparison portals have the same functions as web crawlers and are designed to search the internet for information on various products. The collected data and prices can then be compared in an instant.
  • Different web analysis tools were created to use crawlers to collect page view data as well as information about outbound and incoming links.

While Googlebot is the most widely known web crawler, some additional crawlers that have proven to be popular include:

  • DuckDuckBot
  • Bingbot
  • Exabot
  • Alexa Crawler
  • Baiduspider
  • Sogou Spider
  • Yandex Bot

If you want to make sure that your web pages rank well on search engines like Google, understanding how web crawlers work is imperative. By properly optimizing your website navigation and overall structure, web crawlers may view your website as more important, which will further increase how often these tools look through your site. With the right optimization techniques, you should see substantial improvements in site visibility and traffic in no time.

Bryan Miller

Bryan Miller

Bryt Designs

Bryan Miller is an entrepreneur and web tech enthusiast specializing in web design, development and digital marketing. Bryan is a recent graduate of the MBA program at the University of California, Irvine and continues to pursue tools and technologies to find success for clients across a varieties of industries.

Subscribe to our newsletter



Ready to make something great?

Let's chat about how we can help achieve your web goals

Let's Chat

Bryt Designs

Web Design, Development, & Search Marketing Insights