Having a site structure that allows bots to easily crawl your site is as important as anything when it comes to search engine rankings. If you want to appear in a search engine, you need to be indexed. It’s as simple as that. But in order to understand how to get your site crawled, you must first have a full understanding of what website crawling is, and why it’s important.
What is Website Crawling
Search engines have their own web crawlers, which are internet bots that systematically browse the internet for the purpose of indexing pages. These web crawlers move rapidly from one page to another, reading every page and making copies of each page. These copies are stored in an index, along will all the other pages the crawler has read. References to getting your site “crawled” and getting your site “indexed” are referring to different pieces of the same process, and can be treated as synonymous by most. There are some situations when your site will be crawled but not indexed, although this usually just means that there was a delay or bug for the crawler, and they will return to the page to index them eventually. When a URL is crawled more than once, any changes will generally be overwritten in the index.
When someone uses a search engine, the search phrase is compared to the most recent index of each indexed page. The most relevant pages are selected by the search engine, with the best pages appearing at the top of search. Website crawling is the main way search engines know what each page is about, allowing them to connect to millions of search results at once.
Why is Website Crawling Important?
If you want to rank in search, you need to be indexed. If you want to be indexed, bots need to be able to effectively and regularly crawl your site. If an online hasn’t been indexed, you won’t be able to find it in Google even if you search for an entire paragraph that you copy-and-pasted directly from your website. If the search engine doesn’t have a copy of your page, it might as well not exist.
There are easy ways to get your site crawled once or twice, but all working websites have the structure in place to be getting crawled consistently. If you update your page, it won’t rank better in search until the page gets indexed again. Having your page changes reflect in search engines quickly is very beneficial for websites, especially since content freshness and date of post are also ranking factors.
Creating a site structure that allows search engines to crawl your site data efficiently is an important on-page SEO success factor. Making sure your site even can get indexed is the first step towards creating a successful SEO strategy.
Common Crawl Problems
Modern sites usually don’t use Flash for this very reason. Instead, a lot of crawl problems come from a lack of basic link structure that leads to particular pages being hidden. If you don’t have a sitemap, a page that isn’t linked on multiple parts of your website is unlikely to be found by a crawler.
Large sites without a robot.txt page may also experience issues due to their crawl budget. A crawl budget is the amount of pages a search engine will crawl each day on your site, and is based on site authority. Smaller sites don’t normally have this issue, and almost all sites with proper navigation aren’t effected by this, either. For sites that aren’t getting every page crawled, the efficiency can be improved by using a “robots.txt” file. This tells crawl bots which pages don’t need to be crawled. This can be used for login pages, or anything that you don’t intend your visitors to see. Currently, most recommend only disallowing pages used to login to the content management of your site. Otherwise, denying bots from certain pages won’t have any benefit unless your site is so large that you have to worry about a crawl budget.
How to See if Your Site is Getting Indexed
If your site is getting traffic, you’re probably getting indexed. If you’re unsure, the quickest and easiest way to find out is by using the “site:” search command. Search google for “site:yourdomain.com”. This will show every page that has been indexed for that domain. Note that there are no spaces, and you should include the “www” at the beginning. See this example for our site:
To get more specific information about whether your site is indexed, submit a sitemap to Google Webmaster Tools. This will show you plenty of information regarding any crawl or indexing issues facing your site.
How to Get Indexed Effectively / What is a Sitemap?
For effective indexing, make sure your site has an xml sitemap file and a robots.txt if necessary. These pages help create an internal link structure that allows search engines to fully index your site, and know which pages can be skipped. Robot files aren’t as important as they used to be, but they could help you in some situations. For help creating a robots.txt file, check out this article from Google.
An effective sitemap is much more important for search. While the robots file allows website owners to exclude links from search, an xml sitemap allows webmasters to list all the URLs to include in search. This allows search engines to be more efficient and intelligent when crawling a site.
To check for a sitemap on your website, add “/sitemap.xml” to the end of your domain. Most of the time, your sitemap will appear at that URL. If you receive a 404 error, you likely don’t have a sitemap. Different content management systems will have different ways of storing and creating sitemaps, however, so consult a user guide for your specific CMS. After you create or find your sitemap, submit it to Google Webmasters and Bing Webmasters. This is directly giving your site to the two main search engines, helping you get indexed. This is the easiest way to get indexed, and it usually won’t take too long to get crawled.
This was just the most basic level of creating a robot-friendly site structure. To benefit in search, make sure to utilize internal linking in your site, and have more links pointing towards your most important pages and highest quality content. This will help these pages get crawled more often. Remember that if you struggle to find a page when navigating your website, bots will be the same way. Having a sitemap allows your site to be organized for bots, show them when pages were last updated, and more.
While having an effective site structure that allows for efficient website crawling is an incredibly important SEO success factor, it is far from the only thing effecting your ranking in search. Find out what else you should do to get your site on the first page of search engines. For further help optimizing your site, request a competitive analysis to see how you stack up to your competition and how you can be the best in market.