Tell me, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you think about ranking a website?
Content? Or maybe backlinks?
I admit, both are crucial factors for positioning a website in search results. But they’re not the only ones.
In fact, two other factors play a significant role in SEO – crawlability and indexability. Yet, most website owners have never heard of them.
At the same time, even small problems with indexability or crawlability might result in your site losing its rankings. And that’s regardless of what a great content or how many backlinks you have.
What are crawlability and indexability?
To understand those terms, let’s start by taking a look at how search engines discover and index pages. To learn about any new (or updated) page, they use what’s known as web crawlers, bots whose aim is to follow links on the web with the single goal in mind:
To find, and index new web content.
As Google explains:
“Crawlers look at webpages and follow links on those pages, much like you would if you were browsing content on the web. They go from link to link and bring data about those webpages back to Google’s servers.”
Matt Cutts, formerly of Google, posted an interesting video explaining the process in detail. You can watch it below:
Which brings us back to crawlability and indexability.
In short, both of these terms relate to the ability of a search engine to access and index pages on a website to add them to its index.
Crawlability describes the search engine’s ability to access and crawl content on a page.
If a site has no crawlability issues, then web crawlers can access all its content easily by following links between pages.
However, broken links or dead-ends might result in crawlability issues – the search engine’s inability to access specific content on a site.
Indexability, on the other hand, refers to the search engine’s ability to analyze and add a page to its index.
Even though Google could crawl a site, it might not necessarily be able to index all its pages, typically due to indexability issues.
So what are the most common factors that affect crawlability and indexability?
1. Site Structure
How you’ve structured the information on the site might play a crucial role in its crawlability.
For example, if your site features pages that aren’t linked to from anywhere else, web crawlers might have difficulty accessing them.
Of course, they could still find those pages through external links, providing that someone references them in their content. But on the whole, a weak structure could cause crawlability issues.
2. Internal Link Structure
A web crawler travels through the web by following links, just like you would have on any website. And therefore, it can only find pages that you link to from other content.
A good internal link structure, therefore, will allow it to quickly reach even those pages deep in your site’s structure. A poor structure, however, might send it to a dead-end, resulting in a web crawler missing some of your content.
3. Looped Redirects
Broken page redirects would stop a web crawler in its tracks, resulting in crawlability issues.
4. Various Server Errors
Similarly, broken server redirects and many other server-related problems might prevent web crawler from accessing all of your content.
5. Unsupported Scripts and Other Technology Factors
Crawlability issues might also arise as a result of the technology you use on the site. For example, since crawlers can’t follow forms, gating content behind a form will result in crawlability issues.
6. Blocking Web Crawler Access
Finally, you can deliberately block web crawlers from indexing pages on your site.
And there are some good reasons for doing that.
For example, you might have created a page you want restrict public access to. And as part of preventing that access, you should also block it from the search engines.
However, it’s easy to block other pages by mistake too. A simple error in the code, for example, could blog the entire section of the site.
The whole list of crawlability issues you can find in this article - 18 Reasons Your Website is Crawler-Unfriendly: Guide to Crawlability Issues.
How do you make your website easier to crawl and index?
I’ve already listed some of the factors that could result in your site expecting crawlability or indexability issues. And so, as a first step, you should ensure they don’t happen.
But there also other things you could do to make sure web crawlers can easily access and index your pages.
1. Submit Sitemap to Google
The sitemap will tell the Google about your content, and alert it to any updates you’ve made to it.
2. Strengthen Internal Links
We’ve already talked about how interlinking affect crawlability. And so, to increase the chances of the Google’s crawler finding all the content on your site, improve links between pages to ensure that all content is connected.
3. Regularly update and add new content
Content is the most important part of your site. It helps you attract visitors, introduce your business to them, and convert them into clients.
But content also helps you improve your site’s crawlability. For one, web crawlers visit sites that constantly update their content more often. And this means that they’ll crawl and index your page much quicker.
4. Avoid duplicating any content
Having duplicate content, pages that feature the same or at least very similar content, can result in losing rankings.
But duplicate content can also decrease the frequency with which crawlers visit your site.
So, inspect and fix any duplicate content issues on the site.
5. Speed up your page load time
Web crawlers typically have only a limited time they can spend crawling and indexing your site. This is known as the crawl budget. And basically, they’ll leave your site once that time is up.
So the quicker your pages’ load, the more of them a crawler will be able to visit before they run out of time.
Tools that Could Help You Manage Crawlability and Indexability
If all of the above sounds intimidating, don’t worry. Many tools can help you identify and fix the most common crawlability and indexability issues.
Google Search Console is always a great place to start. The search engine’s platform helps you monitor and maintain your site in Google. And this also includes any information on errors and indexability issues web crawlers encountered on your site.
SEMrush Site Audit, a part of the SEMrush suite, which allows you to scan your site for various errors and issues that might hinder your SEO efforts. And it’s report includes a number of factors that affect both crawlability and indexability.
Screaming Frog SEO Spider, another well-known site auditor, which identify website's on-page SEO mistakes.
Google PageSpeed Insights allows to quickly check website's page loading speed.
Most webmasters know that to rank a website, they at least need strong and relevant content and backlinks that increase their websites’ authority.
What they don’t know is that their efforts go in vain if search engines’ crawlers can’t crawl and index their sites.
That’s why, apart from focusing on adding and optimizing pages for relevant keywords, and building links, you should constantly monitor if web crawlers can access your site and report what they find to the search engine.