How Does Google Crawl Websites?

Technical SEO , SEO

When most people think about search engine optimisation, their thoughts linger on keywords and content. Few understand the importance of understanding your crawlability budget and how it helps not only get your pages indexed but also updated with your new and fresh content.

A business needs every advantage in this digital age. You’re competing for customers, leads and valuable search page space. Your competitors are doing everything that they can and so should you.

We’ve created a guide to help you understand what a crawl budget is, how it’s important for SEO, and how often does Google crawl websites. Let’s get into it!

What Is a Crawl Budget?

Have you ever wondered how Google and other search engines index pages for them to appear on the search results page? Each search engine has “bots” or “spiders” that scour the Internet examining web pages, indexing them and ranking them for various search queries. Google defines this term as “the number of URLs Googlebot can and wants to crawl.”

The goal of a search engine is to provide the searchers with the best possible results for their queries. They do this by crawling website pages and evaluating the content. The bots crawl pages, make copies, and index those pages on the search engine. The below illustration puts things into more perspective.

Image Credit: Crawl Optimizer

Why crawling is important for your website?

According to Google, it’s normal if not all of a website’s pages are indexed since they are billions of pages on the web and it’s inevitable that some sites will be missed. Google offers a checklist for webmasters on how to make sure your website will appear in search results and is being indexed.

A quick tip to check if your page is indexed: Go to your website’s URL and type in and hit enter. If something like the below appears on Google then you’re good to go. If not, you might want to use the URL inspection tool to index your page/website through Google Search Console.

So hopefully by now, you should be able to know the difference between indexing and crawling and what it means for your website. Ultimately, the goal is to have any important page than you want to rank for to be crawled and indexed in Google’s database in order to rank for search queries.

Also, it’s worth noting that if you make changes to your page, search engines won’t record it until the page is crawled again with the new updates. Until then, it keeps the previously indexed page.

Small sites with few pages usually don’t have to worry about indexing, but large sites with thousands of pages need to optimise their crawl budget to maximize their visibility within Google.

Crawl Rate Limit and Crawl Demand

A crawl budget can further be broken down into two areas: crawl rate limit and crawl demand. The goal of the bots is to crawl the site, but not impact the user experience. For example, they don’t want to crawl your site so often that it may lead to timed out servers and cost your customers to leave your website.

The crawl rate limit is the number of parallel connections the Google bots can have to crawl the site. The rate limit isn’t a set-in-stone number and can change based on several factors. If the site response is fast, then this increases the limit. If the site is low, then it can decrease the crawl rate to make sure customers can access the site easily.

You can also set a limit in Google Search Console, but keep in mind increasing the crawl rate doesn’t mean your site will be crawled more. It simply limits the number of requests it makes so your site doesn’t slow down.

The crawl demand is how popular the URL is in searches and staleness. Staleness is keeping URLs from sitting too long uncrawled in the index. Certain major events such as total site migration can increase crawl demand as Google tries to index all the new pages.

Why is Crawling Important in SEO?

You can have the best content available that satisfies all of Google requirements for expertise, authority and trustworthiness, but if it isn’t indexed, no one will see it. Large sites with thousands of pages can exceed the crawl budget, which means the search engines only crawl a portion of the pages and not all of them.

This leads to pages that don’t get indexed. The only way for customers to see those pages would be to visit the site and get to them organically. In a perfect world, we would love for all users to find out website like that, but let’s be real…

There are certain factors that can affect your crawl budget when Google is trying to index your pages. For example, a website with a lot of duplicate content, faceted navigation, low-quality spam content, redirect chains and loops etc. all take up from your crawl budget.

Also, don’t be surprised if you recently added several pages and they are not appearing in search results. Google may not have crawled or indexed them yet. You can speed up the process a bit by submitting a particular pages for indexing or resubmitting your sitemap through Google Search Console, but this may take days or weeks.

How Does Google Crawl Websites?

Now that you understand what a crawl budget is and how it can impact your SEO, lets examine the method that Google and other search engine use to crawl websites.

In order for Google to index pages and provide searchers with the best possible results, it needs to know what pages are on the Internet. Since there isn’t a single repository for all web pages, Google must constantly seek out pages and add them to the index.

Image Credit: eCreative Works

The bots have several methods of finding new pages. They can come across them while crawling other pages on your site or following a link from a known page to an unknown page.  Website owners can submit a sitemap that Google can crawl.

A sitemap is a document that lists all the pages on a website. You can submit the sitemap to Google Search Console.

Once Google bots find the page, it copies the page and analyzes the content, images, video files and code to understand what the page is about and its value.

Now that the page is crawled, analyzed and indexed, it needs to be ranked for various keywords. When a person puts in a search query, Google uses its vast index to find the best fit for their query using their complex algorithm.

How to Get Google to Index Your Site Faster?

There are many factors that Google uses to determine crawling. If you want Google to index your pages, then make sure you follow some of these best practices.

If you create a new page, then visit Google Search Console and ask Google to crawl that page specifically (as mentioned previously) and index. If you want to increase the chances of Google crawling your site and more of your pages, then improve the overall site speed by compressing photos, CSS files and JavaScript.

A faster site and can handle more crawl requests from Google bots and thus have more pages crawled.

You can also make your site architecture easier for Google to crawl. Google bots don’t want to deep dive 10 clicks into your website to index your important pages. If it takes more than three clicks to get to a rank-worthy web page, then Google might have trouble finding it.

You need to streamline your site design keeping all pages above that limit. There may be times when this is unavoidable but try to reduce it as much as possible.

Crawl errors happen when the Google bots crawl your site and run into a problem. Google Search Console provides you with information related to crawl errors and gives you an opportunity to fix them.

They can range from server errors where the bots couldn’t access specific pages to 404 errors.

We talked earlier about the importance of crawl demand, but if your URLs are considered thin content or low value, then it decreases the chances of Google bots crawling it or even worse..flagging it!. Low-value pages include those with duplicate content, soft errors, hacked pages and spam content.

If you want to intelligently use your crawl budget, then improve the popularity of your pages by creating great content that is easy to navigate.

Don’t Underestimate the Importance of Crawl Budget

Search engine optimisation is complex, and Google doesn’t make it easy by changing the rules every now and then. While keywords and content are important, don’t forget to optimise your crawl budget. Your site is filled with great information and great products, but it’s worthless if people can’t see it.

One of the most important aspects is regularly looking at your Google Search Console. This is a free and invaluable tool that can help improve your crawl budget and get your pages indexed. You can see how many times Googlebots crawled your site over a given time period and adjust your crawl rate.

With so many websites out there and fierce competition in nearly every niche, a business needs to maximize its chance for leads, customers and conversions by any means necessary. Make sure to make optimising your crawl budget a factor in your SEO efforts.

I could write another 10,000 words about crawl budget, but I’ve got another 1,000 emails to get it. At StudioHawk, we love talking all things SEO-related so feel free to reach out to us to find out how we can help.