Crawl Budget Guide For SEO: Why It’s Important And How To Optimize It For Google

Brandon LazovicMarch 30, 2021

Crawl budget is an often overlooked area of search engine optimization that can have serious implications for your website. 

If Google isn’t actively crawling or discovering new site pages, it won’t index them in the search results, which will hurt your keyword rankings and minimize opportunities for driving more organic traffic to your website. 

Read our latest guide to learn more about crawl budget, why it’s important for SEO, and how to optimize it for search engines like Google. 

What Is Crawl Budget? 

Crawl budget is a broad term that specifies how often Google crawls and indexes your site’s pages in a given period of time.

Website and navigation layout, duplicate content (within the site), soft 404 errors, low-value sites, website speed, 5xx error codes, and hacking problems are all factors that influence crawl budget.

This is one of the most surprising facts. It may be surprising because a website crawler may be active on a site for weeks or months while barely ever marking its pages as crawler-friendly.

Why Is Crawl Budget Important For SEO? 

Crawl budget (or crawl demand) is important for SEO for the following reasons: 

  • If a website isn’t crawled, it won’t appear for any search results on Google.
  • If a website has a large number of pages, Google will not be able to index them all due to crawl limits in place
  • for its search engine spiders. Google has a set crawl rate limit for websites - once it hits that limit, it’ll stop crawling your site pages and move onto the next website in its directory. 
  • Changes to a website won’t be quickly reflected in the SERPs because it requires Google to crawl your pages and discover the changes that were made.

A massive amount of duplicate content, such as large sites with thousands of articles, or ecommerce websites with millions of product pages, can be a huge drawback for websites that are suffering from crawling issues..

However, if your website is properly crawled, and you have a large amount of content on your website, Google will be able to index it. 

If you don’t have a huge amount of content, and you’re not on every platform that’s ranking for your keywords, you can get by with a smaller crawl budget.

Through search engine optimization, you can ensure that all of your website’s pages are useful and up to date, and can be crawled by Google and ranked for searches.

What Does It Mean to Optimize My Crawl Budget? 

Crawl budget optimization is the method of ensuring that search engines will crawl and index all of the site's relevant pages in a timely manner.

Like I mentioned, small websites don't normally have a problem with crawl budget optimization, but large websites with thousands of URLs do.

However, as you'll see farther down, the easiest approach to optimize your crawl expenditure is to adopt SEO best practices, which will also have a good influence on your keyword rankings.

A comprehensive crawl budget optimization plan will include things like setting a time frame in which to achieve a certain level of mobile-like speed and load times. You should also set and implement a crawl budget best practices for each piece of content, as this will ensure that the page you optimize is continuously crawled by search engines over time.

Looking to learn more about search engine optimization? Read our SEO beginner’s guide for everything you need to know about SEO and how to drive business results through search engines like Google and Bing. 

How Do I Optimize My Crawl Budget? 

Below we’ll walk through all the ways you can optimize the crawl budget for your website. 

Optimize Your Site Structure And Minimize Page Depth

The first step is optimizing your site’s navigation and overall structure. Make sure that your most important pages are linked within your navigation, as well as the homepage. 

You also want to reduce the page depth of the URLs on your website. 

Page depth is how many clicks it takes a user before they can navigate to that web page. Pages that are closer to the homepage, the more important they’re considered to be by Google.

Best practice is to ensure that your page depth is 3 clicks or less from the homepage. The further your web pages are from the homepage, the less likely it is that they will be crawled. 

Internal Linking

When it comes to crawling and indexation, search engines will choose the most relevant pages on your website.

Internal links are also a big factor for enabling Google’s spiders to properly crawl your website. 

Internal linking optimization that aids crawl budget entails:

  • Ascertaining that your site’s priority pages have a good amount of internal links pointing crawl bots to them.
  • From the homepage, you can access all of your most important pages.
  • At least one internal link points to every page on your website (to avoid what are known as orphan pages)
  • Having pages with no internal links renders crawling more challenging for search engine bots and wastes your crawl budget because it won’t be able to easily discover those pages.

A combination of pagination and infinite scrolling can help with improving your internal linking for your website to ensure that your web pages are being discovered and indexed by search engines.

Improve Page Speed Performance

Simply put, a fast-loading website allows the Googlebot to crawl more pages on the same domain in less time. This is an indicator to Google that you have stable website architecture, as well as a signal to crawlers that your site is worth visiting because it can offer a good user experience due to quick page load times.

A fast site speed encourages users to visit your website and make online transactions. This is because more users are able to see your products and services quickly, which is a key factor in increasing your traffic to your site.

The more that users can browse your web pages within a quick time frame, the higher the chances are that those pages will rank at the forefront of Google's Search Results. Page speed is also considered an important ranking factor in Google’s algorithm with their latest announcement of Web Core Vitals. 

Incorporating things like dynamic rendering and optimizing JavaScript-heavy scripts running on your website are vital for improving your website's page speed performance.

Minimize Duplicate Content On Your Website

Duplicate content is one aspect that can have a detrimental effect on crawl expenditure.

In this case, duplicate content refers to the same or quite close content that appears in several URLs on your website.

When related goods are classified in several categories on larger sites, or eCommerce sites with the same content, this is a prominent SEO issue because it signals to Google that it shouldn’t crawl your other product pages.

Duplicate material is also a problem for blogs. For instance, if you have many pages that target the same keywords and the content on those pages is identical, Google can consider this duplicate content.

Because of this, it makes Googlebot's task to crawl your site more challenging since it must pick which pages it should index.

Since the crawl rate cap could have been hit crawling and indexing redundant content, pages that are more important to the web may not be indexed.

Another way duplicate content can cause problems is when Google’s crawler treats websites differently in content preference.

In fact, Google is very strict in this respect. With some exceptions for particular types of sites, such as eCommerce or magazines, Googlebot will only allow the content on a website to match one or at most two queries to list in its search results (in what is known as keyword cannibalization).

If you have duplicate content that fails to match one of those queries, Googlebot can detect this duplicate content and eliminate it.

An example of such criteria would be:

  • Links in a page must be relevant to the web page itself and the context of the web page. 
  • Links that don’t meet this criteria cannot be crawled.

Reduce Thin Content Issues On Your Website

Another aspect that may affect crawl budget, similar to redundant material, is thin content.

Thin content refers to web pages with little or no content and have little benefit to the customer. They're often known as low-value pages or low-quality pages.

Pages with no text material, vacant pages, or outdated pages are all examples of pages that are no longer relevant to both search engines and consumers.

To get the most out of your crawl budget, optimize for and repair thin content pages by:

  • Getting rid of them
  • Enhancing and republishing their content to bring value to consumers
  • Block them from appearing in search results (through the use of noindex meta tags)
  • 301 redirect them to a separate, more useful page on your website.

Thin content often isn't worth the money or effort a web designer or content writer would put into it. In some cases, the efforts to increase your website's quality may cost more than you get in the end.

Nevertheless, you can still afford to invest in fine-tuning your website's content and content-seeking strategy.

When you do invest in it, however, you may be able to get a higher return on your investment by working with a website developer who has some SEO experience. They may be able to spend less of your precious budget, know what web pages to remove, or work around these inconsistencies.

Resolves URLs With 404 Error Codes

404 errors are a prevalent problem for crawl budget because Google is wasting resources trying to recrawl pages that are missing on your website. 

To minimize this, you want to 301 redirect any web pages that result in 404 error code statuses, or update any broken links on your website. 

To find 404 errors, you can either view these URLs in Google Search Console, or run a technical audit using the Screaming Frog tool. 

Resolve Crawling Errors On Your Website

Reducing the amount of crawl errors on your website  is another way to optimize your crawl budget. It's a waste of resources to spend time crawling for mistakes that shouldn't happen in the first place.

To locate and correct crawl mistakes, the best approach is to use the Google search console's "Index Coverage Report" (or crawl stats report in the legacy version of the tool).  You can identify any server errors within this report. 

Resolve 301 Redirect Chains

Another problem that can cause crawl budget issues are 301 redirect chains. 

Let’s say URL A points to URL B. But if URL B then points to URL C, Google is wasting resources crawling this redirect chain. 

You want to ensure that you don’t have 301 redirect chains occurring on your website. Again, you can use Screaming Frog to identify and pull a list of URLs that are suffering from 301 redirect chains. 

You also want to ensure that you don't have redirect loops occurring on your website as well.

Drive More Backlinks From Quality Referring Domains

Since search engines choose to frequently update their index with the most current content, popular URLs are crawled more often by search engines.

The number and quality of external links from referring domains can be considered one of the most important factors in determining whether a page is authoritative and should be crawled frequently.

Backlinks aid in the establishment of credibility with search engines, as well as the improvement of a page's PageRank and authority, which leads to higher rankings.

It's one of the most basic SEO principles that hasn't changed in years.

As a consequence, driving backlinks from other websites to your target pages encourages search engines to access those pages more often, increasing crawl budget.

Obtaining links from other websites is challenging, and it is one of the most difficult facets of SEO, but it can strengthen your domain and boost your overall SEO.

Finding reliable links isn't as easy as people think.

One of the factors that can adversely affect your site's search rankings is acquiring links from sites with low authority.

Search engines and other websites will never link to a low-quality page.

A link is only considered a backlink if the original author believes it is a relevant one. You cannot bid for link opportunities and then pay for them.

Many businesses who pay for link opportunities and feel that they are being exploited can be sure that they have lost a large piece of their overall SEO marketing link building budget.

Such practices rarely offer a solid return on investment.

Still, using a link building service provider is a good way to increase link building opportunities.

They will take on the responsibility of finding and executing a link building strategy. This allows you to spend more time on your core business.

Read our latest guide on linkbuilding for SEO for the top methods for driving backlinks to your website. 

Add Directives To Robots.txt File

Robots.txt files are great for telling Google which pages on your website you want crawled. When Google’s crawl bot hits your website, it will first look at your robots.txt file to determine which directives to follow before crawling your site pages. 

If you have low quality pages, or want to prevent others from being crawled or indexed on Google, you can add these types of directives directly within the robots.txt file, which will help with optimizing your crawl budget. 

Implement Canonical Tags

All of your site pages should have canonical tags. These are HTML tags you insert into the <head> section of your site pages and are mainly used if you have duplicate content, or slight variations of the same page. 

These tags basically tell Google that one URL is the “master copy”, and all of the other variant URLs should either be ignored, or pass SEO value to the “master copy”, which will help improve your keyword rankings for that page. 

Canonical tags are especially important on ecommerce sites that use URL parameters to filter products based on things like color, price, or year. 

Update Your XML Sitemap

It's also a smart idea to stop directing Google to pages with non-200 status codes.

Make sure you're linking to the live, preferred version of your URLs in your content to stop wasting your crawl budget. As a general rule, you should stop referring to URLs that aren't the content's ultimate destination.

For instance, you should not link to:

  • URLs that are redirected
  • 404 errors 
  • Non-canonical versions of your URLs

This is especially important in your XML sitemap. Google uses your XML sitemap to discover your site pages and check for things such as when that page was uploaded or last updated. 

If you’re XML sitemap contains any of the above URLs or status codes, you’re wasting valuable crawl budget. 

Update Old Content

If a page hasn't updated on the few occasions Google has crawled it, that page may no longer be crawled by Google because the search engine tries to avoid sites in their index that are stale (otherwise known as Google’s “freshness ranking factor”). 

Google prioritizes new content that’s frequently updated, not outdated pieces that haven’t been touched in years and may be unsatisfactory to searchers. 

Having fresh content helps keep your site relevant for new search results. It has the added bonus of helping your site rank better and keeping users on your web pages because it has the most up-to-date information.

Make sure you have an aggressive writing cadence (multiple articles per week) and that you’re updating your site pages as regularly as every 3-6 months. 

Read our latest guide on how to update old content for SEO. 

What Is Crawl Budget For SEO?
What Is Crawl Budget For SEO?

When a page isn't crawled, it won't turn up in Google's search results. Google would not be able to index any of a website's pages if it has a sufficient number of them. For websites, Google has imposed a crawl rate cap. You will ensure that all of the website's pages are useful and up to date, and that they can be crawled and rated for searches by using search engine optimization. You can get away on a smaller crawl budget if you don't have a lot of content and aren't on any site that ranks with your keywords.

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