Understanding Your Crawl Budget - Semalt Expert Opinion
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Your crawl budget isn't the first thing discussed when you're figuring out how to improve your SEO. However, it is something that is of great importance. You may have no idea what crawl budget is and might be asking, "does this mean I have to spare more money?" well, let's help you answer that by first explaining what we mean by a crawl budget.
What is a crawl budget?
Crawl budget is a term that was invented by the SEO industry. It indicates the number of related concepts and systems used by search engines when deciding the number of pages and which pages search engines will crawl on your website. You can look at it as the attention search engines give to websites, so if you thought that you're the one who determines your crawl budget, you were mistaken. In reality, search engines assign a crawl budget to a website, but when you're done with this article, you will have figured out how to tip the scales to benefit your website.
Crawl budget optimization is a series of steps that you can take with the intent of improving the rate or frequency at which search engine bots visit your web pages. The more often you get these boosts to visit, the quicker it gets into the index that the pages have been updated. As a result, you begin to enjoy more benefits of web optimization in shorter periods. Now that you see it this way, you're beginning to understand why your crawl budget is so important, after all.
Why do search engines assign crawl budgets to websites?
Search engines do not have unlimited resources, and whenever a search query is inputted, they need to spread their limited resources across several billion websites. To remain reliable, search engines are forced to prioritize their crawling efforts. By assigning a crawling budget to each website, they can create a scale of preferences to help them provide maximum useful search results in a short while.
Why is crawl budget so important?
For something that doesn't make it to the list of top SEO factors to consider, you might be wondering why we even bother discussing it. Well, your web crawl budget is important because, without it, Google doesn't index your website or your webpage; it would never rank.
This is where the crawl budget begins to bloom. If the number of pages on your website exceeds your site's crawl budget, you will have pages that won't get indexed. Although many websites do not have to worry about crawl budget, there are some cases you need to pay close attention to your crawl budget.
- When you run a big site: if you have a website with up to 10,000 pages (a standard e-commerce website), Google may find it difficult to find all those pages.
- If you've just added some new pages: if you've recently added a new section to your site, you need to keep in mind your crawl budget to know if they will all get indexed quickly.
- Lots of redirects: when you have too many redirects and redirect chains on your website, it eats up your crawl budget.
Why do people ignore their crawl budget?
To understand this better, you will need to see this official blog post by Google. As Google explains clearly, crawling in itself isn't a ranking factor. Knowing this alone is enough to deter certain SEO professionals from putting in the effort to improve their crawling budget. Many SEO professionals translate the "not a ranking factor" to "its none of my business." At Semalt, we do not think in such a way. All through our years in the SEO and web management industry, we have learned that SEO isn't just about making big changes but also making small, incremental changes and taking care of dozens of metrics. We also pay attention to make sure that those little things are optimized to give your website the best chance of getting ranked.
Also, Google's John Muller points that although the crawl budget isn't a crawling factor by itself, it is good for conversions and the website's overall health. With that being said, we believe that it is important we make sure nothing on your website actively hurts your crawl budget.
How to optimize your crawl budget
Allow crawling of your important pages in robots.txt
This is a natural first and important step in optimizing your crawl budget. This is also a no-brainer as you can manage your robots.txt by hand or using a web auditor tool. However, we advise you to go for the tool whenever possible. In this instance, using a tool is simply more convenient and effective.
You can simply add your robot.txt to your preferred tool, and it will allow you to allow or block crawling of any page on your domain in seconds. You can then upload an edited document, and that would be all. You can also do this by hand, but from experience, especially when dealing with a large website, using a tool is easier.
Look out for your redirect chains
We would like to consider this common sense when dealing with your website's health. Ideally, you can avoid having even a single redirect chain on your domain, but for really large websites, 301 and 302 redirects are something you should be prepared to encounter. On their own, it's no problem, but when you begin to have a bunch of these chained together, your crawling limit will take a blow. It can get so bad that at a point, search engine crawlers can simply stop crawling without getting to the page that you need indexed. Don't panic if you see one or two redirects; chances are they won't damage. Nonetheless, it is something that everyone should look out for.
Use HTML whenever you can
Avoid HTTP errors
HTTP errors eat a large portion of your crawl budget. 401 and 410 pages not only damage your user experience, but they also eat into your crawl budget. This is why it is important to fix all 4xx and 5xx status codes. In the end, it becomes a win-win situation. When fixing this error, it is wise you use a web tool. Tools like SE ranking and Screaming Frog are excellent tools we professionals use to audit your website and fix such errors.
Take care of your URL parameters
When designing your website, keep in mind that web crawlers will count separate URLs as separate pages, and therefore, you waste an invaluable crawl budget. You can stop this from happening by letting your search engine (Google) know about these URL parameters. By doing this, you save your crawl budget and avoid raising concerns about duplicate content.
Update your sitemap
Taking care of your XML sitemap is another win-win situation. This gives search engine bots an easier time understanding where your internal links are headed. You should only use the URLs that are canonical for your sitemap. You should also make sure that your sitemap corresponds to the newest version of robots.txt uploaded.
These tags are vital to web crawlers in order to analyze your localized pages. Telling Google about the localized versions of your pages as clearly as possible goes a long way in helping your web pages be indexed. When doing this, you should first use this code in your page headers:
Where "Lang_code" is a code for support language. You can also use the <loc> element for any given URL. By doing this, you can point to the localized version of the page.
So if you were wondering whether optimizing your crawl budget is still important for your website, Yes, it is. Crawl budget was, is and, most likely will be an important thing to keep in mind when building your site. We use these tips to optimize your crawl budget and can improve your SEO performance.