I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t consider myself a “technical” person. In fact, the technical aspects of marketing are usually the hardest for me to deal with.
When it comes to technical SEO, understanding how the process works can be difficult. But it is important to get as much knowledge as possible in order to optimize our websites and reach a larger audience. One tool that plays a huge role in search engine optimization is none other than the web crawler.
This post will tell you what web crawlers are, how they work, and why they should be crawling your website.
What is a web crawler?
A web crawler – also known as a web spider – is a bot that searches and indexes content on the Internet. Essentially, web crawlers are responsible for understanding the content of a web page so that they can pull it up when requested.
You may be wondering “Who runs these web crawlers?”
Web crawlers are usually operated by search engines with their own algorithms. The algorithm tells the web crawler how to find relevant information in response to a search query.
A web spider crawls and categorizes all the web pages on the internet that it can find and is instructed to index them. This is how you can tell a web crawler not to crawl your website if you don’t want search engines to find it.
To do this, upload a robots.txt file. Essentially, a robots.txt file tells a search engine how to crawl and index the pages on your website.
For example, let’s take a look at Nike.com/robots.txt for visual learners.
For Nike, it used its robot.txt file to determine which links on its website were crawled and indexed.
The following was found in this part of the file:
- The web crawler Baiduspider was allowed to crawl the first seven links
- The web crawler Baiduspider was not allowed to crawl the remaining three links
This is beneficial to Nike as some of the company’s pages are not intended to be crawled and the illegal links don’t affect the optimized pages that help them rank in search engines.
Now that we know what web crawlers are, how do they do their job? Let’s see how web crawlers work below.
How do web crawlers work?
A web crawler discovers URLs, scans and categorizes web pages, and then adds hyperlinks on any web page to the list of web sites to be crawled. Web crawlers are intelligent and can determine the meaning of any website.
A search engine’s web crawler will most likely not crawl the entire Internet. Rather, it decides the importance of any webpage based on factors like the number of other pages linking to that page, page views, and even brand authority. A web crawler therefore determines which pages should be crawled, in which order they should be crawled and how often they should crawl for updates.
For example, if you have a new web page or changes have been made to an existing page, the web crawler takes note of this and updates the index. Or, when you have a new website, you can ask search engines to crawl your website.
When the web crawler is on your page, it looks at the copy and meta tags, stores this information and indexes it for Google to search for keywords.
Before starting this whole process, the web crawler will look at your robots.txt file to see which pages to crawl which is why it is so important to technical SEO.
When a web crawler crawls your page, it ultimately decides whether your page will appear on the search results page for a query. Note that some web crawlers may behave differently than others. For example, some may use different factors to decide which web pages to crawl most importantly.
Now that we’ve covered how web crawlers work, let’s discuss why they should crawl your website.
Why is website crawling important?
If you want your website to rank in search engines, it needs to be indexed. Without a web crawler, your website will not be found even if you search for more than one paragraph straight from your website.
Simply put, your website doesn’t exist unless it’s crawled once.
To find and discover links on the web across search engines, you need to empower your website to reach the audience it is intended for by crawling it – especially if you want to increase your organic traffic.
If the technical aspect of this is confusing, I get it. That’s why HubSpot offers a website optimization course that puts technical topics in plain language and guides you on how to implement your own solutions or discuss them with your web expert.
Extend your reach with web crawling
Web crawlers are responsible for searching and indexing content on the Internet for search engines. They work by sorting and filtering web pages so search engines understand what each web page is about. Understanding web crawlers is only part of effective technical SEO that can vastly improve your website’s performance.