Google is the king of search engines. But in order for you to take advantage of its widespread influence, you’ve got to make sure Google knows your site and the pages therein exist. And for that to happen, Google bots have to crawl your pages while working within your site’s crawl budget. We break down what a crawl budget is and how you can optimize your site to make the most out of your crawl budget.
What is Crawl Budget
Your website is allowed a certain number of pages that Google’s spiders will “crawl” over. This number is important, because in order for your site and its pages to show up on Google’s SERPs, they have to be indexed, and therefore crawled, by the search engine.
In the words of Google’s Gary Illlyes, (W)e define crawl budget as the number of URLs Googlebot can and wants to crawl.
There are two main factors that make up your crawl budget: crawl rate limit and crawl demand. According to Google, the crawl rate limit is the maximum fetching rate for a site. It represents the number of parallel connections Google might use to crawl the site, plus the time it waits between each fetch. The crawl rate can fluctuate based on the crawl health, determined by how fast the site responds.
The crawl demand is how much the site is sought out from Google’s index. If the site is popular and constantly updated, it will be crawled more often. If the converse is true, the crawl demand will be less. When crawl rate and crawl demand are combined, you get your crawl budget.
While Google itself says that crawl budget won’t necessarily affect your ranking in the SERPs, unless your pages are indexed, you won’t show up at all. But should site builders be losing sleep over crawl budgets?
The general consensus is “No.” But that’s only because most sites aren’t going to exceed their crawl budget and because Google is a master at crawling web pages. After all, indexing is what the site is built upon. Even with that knowledge, crawl budget isn’t a ranking factor. So should we neglect our crawl budget entirely? Not at all. You should pay special attention to your crawl budget, especially if you run a huge site, you recently added a ton of pages, or if your site has a lot of redirects.
Top 5 Ways to Optimize Your Crawl Budget
It doesn’t make sense to know how to improve your SEO and neglect it, even if you know crawl budget isn’t a ranking factor. When it comes to organic search, every index counts. Below are five tips to help you optimize your crawl budget.
As you probably know, link building is an essential factor in any successful SEO strategy. But links are also crucial in optimizing your crawl budget. Your internal linking is going to play a big role in which pages are crawled by Google. Pages with many internal links get much more attention than pages with fewer or zero internal links.
Your most important pages should have plenty of internal links. If you have a page that you know has been recently crawled or brings in a lot of organic traffic, be sure to link to those pages from other pages on your site. As new pages are crawled or become especially popular, take that into consideration and adjust your internal link structure accordingly.
Improve Site Speed
Pages with slow load times signal to Google’s crawlers that the pages can’t handle the request, and the bots aren’t able to index as many pages when they load slowly. If Google perceives this, they might decrease your crawl budget. Ideally, your pages will load within one second. Any loading times over two seconds are a cause for concern and are almost certainly affecting your crawl budget.
Apart from having a negative effect on your crawl budget, slow loading times give your users a horrible experience, which ultimate results in fewer conversions.
Update Your Sitemap
Your sitemap is like a roadmap for your site that both users and search engines use to determine how your site is structured. When you initially build your site, you should include a sitemap. But the common mistake is forgetting to update your sitemap as you add pages to your site.
After updating to include new pages, you should make sure there are no redirects, broken pages, or non-canonical pages on your sitemap. This will only slow down the crawlers and eat your crawl budget.
HTTP redirect codes (redirects, for short) are ways for sites to send both users and search engines alike to a different URL than the one they originally entered or searched for. Redirects are quite common in larger sites, but long redirect chains pose a real problem for Googlebots trying to crawl your site.
When Google is crawling your site, they seem to allow no more than five (though some sources say two) redirect chains per crawl. So if you’ve got a needlessly long redirect chain, you’re wasting Google’s time, and the chain is eating up your crawl budget.
Additionally, redirects aren’t good for your site’s authority. Every time a user has to use a redirect, it’s estimated that your site loses about 10 percent of its authority. In order to stay at the top of the SERPs and to ensure your crawl budget is utilized to the fullest, avoid redirects whenever possible.
Allow Crawling in Robots.Txt
Lastly, and maybe the most important way to optimize your crawl budget is by managing your pages with robots.txt. In short, robots.txt is a text file webmasters create to instruct web crawlers—like those on Google—how to crawl pages on their website. Robots.txt can be managed either manually or by using website auditor tools. It gives you the option to choose which pages you want crawled, and which pages you want to leave out of the running. This allows you to specify which pages are going to take up your precious crawl budget.
You want Googlebots to crawl and index only the most important pages. You can create robots.txt and optimize them in a variety of ways so that your crawl budget fits perfectly in line with your SEO strategies.
If your site has hundreds, thousands, or even millions of pages, your crawl budget is something you need to manage. But optimizing your site and your pages doesn’t have to be a burdensome task. The five tips we’ve outlined above are great steps to take when you want to get every ounce of efficiency out of your crawl budget when Google’s indexing your site.