Google crawlers index every piece of content that you publish on your website. These crawlers are programmed softwares that follow links and codes and deliver it to an algorithm. Then, the algorithm indexes it and adds your content to a vast database. This way, whenever a user searches for a keyword, the search engine extracts and ranks related results from the database of already indexed pages.
Google assigns a crawl budget to every website and the crawlers execute your site’s crawling accordingly. You must manage and utilize the crawl budget to ensure intelligent crawling and indexing of your entire website.
In this post, you can learn about the tricks and tools to handle how the search engines bots/spiders or crawlers crawl and index your website.
1. Optimization of Disallow Directive for Robot.txt:
Robots.txt is a text file with a strict syntax that works like a guide for the spiders to determine how to crawl your site. A robots.txt file is saved in the host repositories of your website from where crawlers look for the URLs. To optimize these Robots.txt or “Robots Exclusion Protocol”, you can use some tricks that can help the URLs of your site get crawled by Google crawlers for higher rankings.
One of those tricks is using a “Disallow Directive”, this is like putting a signboard of “Restricted Area” on specific sections of your website. To optimize the Disallow Directive, you must understand the first line of defense: “User-agents.”
What is a User-agent Directive?
Each Robots.txt file consists of one or more rules and amongst them, the user-agent rule is most important. This rule provides the crawlers with access and non-access to a particular list on the website.
So, the user-agent directive is used to address to a specific crawler and give it instructions on how to execute the crawl.
Types of Google Crawlers Popularly Used:
Now, after learning about the bot which is assigned to crawl your website, you can optimize different sections of it based on the type of user-agent. Some essential tricks and examples you can follow to optimize the disallow directive of your website are:
- Use a full page name that can be shown in the browser to be used for disallow directive.
- If you want to redirect the crawler from a directory path, use a “/” mark.
- Use * for path prefix, suffix, or an entire string.
Examples of using the disallow directives are:
# Example 1: Block only Googlebot
# Example 2: Block Googlebot and Adsbot
# Example 3: Block all but AdsBot crawlers
2. A non-index directive for Robots.txt:
When other websites link to your site, then there are chances that the URL, which you don’t want the crawler to index, can be exposed. To overcome this issue, you can use a non-index directive. Let us see, how can we apply the non-index directive to Robots.txt:
There are two methods to apply a non-index directive for your website:
Meta tags are the text snippets that describe your page’s content in a short see-through manner that allows the visitors to know what is to come? We can use the same to avoid crawlers indexing the page.
First, place a meta tag “<meta name= “robots” content=” noindex”>” in the “<head>” section of your page that you don’t want the crawlers to index.
For Google crawlers, you can use “<meta name=”googlebot” content=”noindex”/>” in the “<head>” section.
As different search engine crawlers are looking for your pages, they may interpret your non-index directive differently. Due to this, your pages might appear in the search results.
So, it would help if you defined directives for pages according to the crawlers or user-agents.
You can use the following meta tags for applying the directive for different crawlers:
<meta name=”googlebot” content=”noindex”>
<meta name=”googlebot-news” content=”nosnippet”>
We all know about the HTTP headers that are used as responses to the client’s or search engine’s request for extra information related to your web pages like location or server providing it. Now, to optimize these HTTP header responses for the non-index directive, you can add X-Robots tags as an element of the HTTP header response for any given URL of your website.
You can combine different X-Robots tags with the HTTP header responses. You may specify various directives in a list separated by a comma. Below is an example of an HTTP header response with different directives combined with X-Robots tags.
HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Date: Tue, 25 Jan 2020 21:42:43 GMT
X-Robots-Tag: unavailable_after: 25 Jul 2020 15:00:00 PST
What is the most feared factor in SEO today? Rankings? Traffic? No! It is the fear of search engines penalizing your website for duplicate content. So, while you are strategizing your crawl budget, you need to be careful about not exposing your duplicate content.
Here, mastering your canonical links will help you handle your duplicate content issues. The word duplicate content is not what it means. Let us take an example of two pages of an e-commerce website:
For instance, you have an e-commerce website with a pair of identical pages for a smartwatch, and both have similar content. When the search engine bots crawl your URL, they will check for duplicate content, and they may choose any of the URLs. To redirect them to the URL that is essential for you, a canonical link can be set for the pages. Let us see how can you do it:
- Pick any one page from the two pages for your canonical version.
- Choose the one that receives more visitors.
- Now add rel=”canonical” to your non-canonical page.
- Redirect the non-canonical page link to the canonical page.
- It will merge both your page links as one single canonical link.
4. Structuring the Website:
Crawlers need markers and signboards to help them discover your site’s important URLs, and if you don’t structure your website, crawlers find it difficult to execute the crawl on your URLs. For this, we use sitemaps because they provide the crawlers with links to all the important pages of your website.
Standard sitemap formats for websites or even apps developed through mobile app development processes are XML sitemaps, Atom and RSS. To optimize crawling, you need to combine XML sitemaps, and RSS/Atom feeds.
- As XML sitemaps provide crawlers with directions to all the pages on your website or app.
- And RSS/Atom feed provides updates in your pages of the website to crawlers.
- As XML sitemaps provide crawlers with directions to all the pages on your website or app.
5. Page Navigations:
Page navigation is essential for spiders and even for visitors to your website. These boots look for pages on your website, and a predefined hierarchical structure can help crawlers find pages that matter to your website. Other steps to follow for better page navigation are:
- Keep the coding in HTML or CSS.
- Hierarchically arrange your pages.
- Use a shallow website structure for better page navigation.
- Keep the menu and tabs on the header to be minimal and specific.
- It will help page navigation to be easier.
6.Avoiding the Spider Traps:
Spider traps are infinite URLs pointing to the same content on the same pages when crawlers crawl your website. This is more like shooting blanks. Ultimately, it will eat up your crawl budget. This issue escalates with every crawl, and your website is deemed to have duplicate content as every URL that is crawled upon in the trap will not be unique.
You can break the trap by blocking the section through Robots.txt or use one of the follow or no follow directives to block specific pages. Finally, you can look to fix the problem technically by stopping the occurrence of infinite URLs.
7. Linking Structure:
Interlinking is one of the essential parts of crawl optimization. Crawlers can find your pages better with well-structured links throughout your website. Some of the key tricks to a great linking structure are:
- Use of text links, as search engines easily crawl them: <a href=”new-page.html”>text link</a>
- Use of descriptive anchor text in your links
- Suppose you run a gym website, and you want to link all your gym videos, you can use a link like this- Feel free to browse all of our <a href=”videos.html”>gym videos</a>.
8. HTML bliss:
Cleaning your HTML documents and keeping the payload size of the HTML documents minimal is important as it allows the crawlers to crawl the URLs quickly. Another advantage of HTML optimization is that your server gets heavily loaded due to several crawls by search engines, and this can slow down your page load, which is not a great sign for SEO or the search engine crawling. HTML optimization can reduce the load of crawling on the server, keeping the page loads to be swift. It also helps in solving the crawl errors due to server timeouts or other vital issues.
9. Embed it Simple:
No website today will offer content without great images and videos backing up the content, as that is what makes their content visually more attractive and obtainable for the search engine crawlers. But, if this embedded content is not optimized, it can reduce the loading speed, driving the crawlers away from your content that can rank.
With more focus on SEO and higher traffic, every website owner is looking for better ways to handle bot herding and spider wrangling. But, the solutions lie in the granular optimizations that you need to make in your website and crawling URLs that can make search engine crawling more specific and optimized to represent the best of your website that can rank higher in the search engine results pages.