Physical brick-and-mortar storefronts spend a lot of time planning how strategically to position their products to grab eyeballs and get more footfalls. This works in the digital space too – with the only difference being you need to ensure the search engines can find your content, products, or services. This is called the crawlability of your website, i.e., making your website easily crawlable by search engine spiders. But what is crawling and why is it important for search engine optimization?
Let’s understand here.
What is Search Engine Crawling?
For search engines like Google, the foremost priority is to provide the most relevant results for search queries. And they do this by scouring the Internet for high-quality and related content. The content can be in any form – a web page, an article, news, a PDF, an image, a video, etc. Irrespective of the content format, search engines use “links” to discover content. This process is called crawling.
To help you understand this, let’s discuss how Google crawls websites or content.
For a specific topic, product or service, Google starts by using a web crawler (Googlebot) to fetch a few relevant pages. Googlebot will then follow the links on these pages to fetch new URLs or content. The process continues until there are no new pages to crawl or links to follow. This is called search engine crawling. The web crawler adds all these URLs to Caffeine, which is Google’s new index of all discovered URLs.
Now that you know what is crawling, you’d wonder what is the difference between crawling and indexing. The process of storing and organizing the URLs fetched during the crawling process is called indexing. When a searcher seeks information, product or service, Google will retrieve the URLs that are the best match for the search query and show them in the SERPs based on their relevance to the search query. This is called ranking.
Ways to Improve Your Website’s Crawlability
To show up in search engine result pages (SERPs), a website first needs to be visible to search engines. This is the most challenging part of organic SEO – if your website cannot be found by search engines, there is no way it will rank in the search results.
Here’s how to make search engines crawl your website:
1. Avoid using long URLs
In learning what is crawling, it is important to understand that search engine crawlers love simple and dynamic URLs. But when these dynamic URLs get more complicated and longer, it may become difficult for search engines to crawl them. So, if your URL is anything like this, it may not get crawled easily:
So, whether you are using static or dynamic URLs, make sure to keep them short, simple, and relevant.
2. Carefully design the site architecture
Your site architecture should be such that it provides a seamless experience for a bot to navigate from one page to another using links on your website. These include links in your website content, the navigational menu, and the footer. For a good website architecture, keep the following points in mind:
- The most important web pages should have more quality links. However, the number of links on a particular page should be reasonable
- An important aspect of understanding what is crawling is to ensure that your website is easy & quick to navigate. The number of clicks needed for a user to get from one page to another should be minimum
- Ensure all your web pages include at least one link
- All web pages should be reached via links from other findable pages. The referring links may include either images, text, or alt attributes related to the target page
3. Use XML maps
For better crawlability, submit a sitemap file or XML map with links pointing to vital pages on your website. It is also important to include a page that has a human-readable list of links that point to these pages. This is known as the site map page or the site index. Using XML maps or sitemaps can facilitate website crawling, providing search engines with all data about your URLs, subpages, updates, and more.
Using inappropriate XML sitemaps, robots.txt blocking, long dynamic URLs, or excessive use of Flash may prevent search engines from crawling your website. Therefore, it is crucial to understand what is crawling and use proven crawlability practices to help search engines discover your site. Better crawlability and indexing can help improve SEO for website.
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