What Happens When a Search Bot “Crawls” Your Site
You may have heard of search engine bots or spiders “crawling” your website, and for the sake of all of us who are shuddering because that immediately makes us picture hundreds of spiders à la Aragog and crew from Harry Potter, let’s clear up what that actually means because I can assure you it involves nothing as chill-inducing as that.
But actually…the arachnid analogy works moving forward so…sorry ’bout it.
There’s the reasons why the Internet contains the word “net,” or why website contains the word “web”—It all connects and branches out like a web. Think of all the strings as the links on a website and the nodes—where they connect—as the actual pages of the website.
A search engine bot will read the information it finds at each “node” (web page) and then travel every single link on that page to other pages and so forth. And if that sounds like a lot, it is. Search engine spiders index MILLIONS of pages per day to keep a nice catalogue of information from which the search engines can draw to respond to the MILLIONS of search queries per day.
What are search engine spiders looking for?
Search engines will index all the words found on your page, which is why waaay back in the day, people would try to “trick” the search engines by keyword stuffing (literally just stuffing the same word over and over again all over a page to try to get it to rank highly for that word). These days, search engine algorithms are much smarter than that, so don’t even try! You will get severely punished.But this isn’t just words within the body text of the page in question. These spiders also take note of which words are in the title of the page/post, the URL, words within a link, and any meta tags on the page. Likely words in these locations are more important to the overall message than the body text.
This helps the search engines categorize what your website is about so that they can list you as a result when people search for your topic(s) of authority.
Where does this page link to and what sorts of sites/pages link back to it? Not only does this help the spider move throughout the web (it cannot access pages that aren’t linked), but it also helps calculate your domain authority (if a bunch of super legit sites are linking to your website, then you’re probably pretty legit too).BUT! The search spider remembers these links, so if you delete a page or a post on your website, make sure that you create a 301 redirect to close up that hole (either to related content or just back to your homepage).
Multimedia content is great for your website, but search spiders cannot “see” it. Instead, they rely on surrounding text and alt text to determine what the image/video/audio clip is about.
Your site should be easy to navigate. This is as much for the search engines as it is for your humans. Make sure your key website content is easy to find. This goes along with links; do not be afraid to link to your own content within your blog posts/pages.
Embrace the spiders
These search engine spiders are a GOOD thing for your website. You WANT them to crawl your site often so that they’re always keeping an accurate catalogue of your site to keep you in the forefront of the search engine’s “mind.”
So the best way to do this is to keep updating your website content! If a search spider crawls your site and sees that everything is exactly the same as the last time they were there, they aren’t going to come around as often. But if you’re updating your content more frequently, the search spider will see that they need to check in more often to update their index on the latest and greatest (that’s you!).
We have more similarities to spiders than you think
The moral of the story: If your human visitors are having a hard time navigating and understanding your site, the search engines will too. Go through your website as if you’re one of your visitors:
How much does that navigation menu make sense? Can you easily find those key “about,” “blog,” “services,” etc. pages?
Are you leading people throughout the site with links? Don’t just rely on that navigation menu. If you reference another blog post or another page with more helpful information, link to it! You should be encouraging movement throughout your website.
Can you determine within seconds what your website’s main topic of authority is? If your subjects are all over the map, not only will your human visitors be scratching their heads, but the search engines are going to have a hard time figuring out how to categorize and index your site.