Understanding how search engines crawl and index content in 2023

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What is search engine crawling and why is it important?

‘Crawling’ refers to the way search engine bots (known as ‘spiders) identify content on the web. In its most basic form, these spiders – such as Google’s – will take a few starting pages and scour them for links to find new content. By following these links, the spiders will be able to create a network of interlinking pages which it saves to a database. This database sets the foundation for what kind of content the search engines will show in their results pages.

If a site doesn’t have a solid foundation, it may hinder a search engine spider’s ability to discover new pages. This will prevent the pages from being added to or updated in a search engine’s database.


How do search engines index crawled content?

Once a search engine has compiled a database of websites and pages, it will process them with the intention of delivering them to users.

When an individual searches a query, the search engine will aim to deliver the most relevant content from its index to the user. This is evaluated on several measures, known as ranking factors.

Ensuring the content has been crawled and can be indexed is the first step to delivering appropriate content that’s valuable to the user.


Understanding crawl budget in 2023

Crawl budget is the term used for the allocation of resources a search engine spider, namely Googlebot, gives to a website. In theory, there’s a limited amount of time a spider will spend crawling pages, so if a site is large, spiders may prioritise important pages or limit the amount it crawls. The amount of resources the spiders allocate to your site will be dependent on a variety of factors and it is difficult to determine the priority Google will give you. However, for the majority of websites, crawl budget won’t be a limiting factor as the resource allocation will outweigh the size of the site.

There are two main scenarios where crawl budget should be considered.

  • Your site is significant in size.

Some sites require a large volume of pages, such as ecommerce sites that have thousands of products with unique variations, which need to be crawled. These sites should place greater strategy on optimising crawl efficiency.

  • Your site is adding unnecessary resource to crawlers

In some cases, the way a website is structured may lead to duplicate pages being generated endlessly, a significant number of unnecessary redirects, or a high volume of slow loading pages. All these issues can increase the amount of resources required. If this happens on a large enough scale, it can cause problems with crawl budget.


Methods to influence how search engines crawl and index content

Luckily there are a few ways to control how search engines crawl and index your site:

Robots.txt File
Robots Directives
Canonical Tags
Hreflang Tags
Using an XML Sitemap
URL Inspection Tool
Defining URL parameters in Google Search Console
HTTP Authentication


In this series we’ll show you to create a comprehensive SEO strategy, tackling core ranking factors across all aspects of SEO. We’ll help you build a tailor-made strategy that’s right for your business and build the confidence you need to push your business to the next level.

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