A woman using her laptop to search for data via a search engine
PHOTO: Shutterstock

Marketers are likely to feel a bit budget-crazy these days. Every campaign is linked to a budget, and the interruptions from the COVID-19 pandemic have thrown budgets into chaos.  

But a potentially calming action is to refine website elements for better search engine optimization (SEO). Inspecting the crawl budget — a volume of query crawls that happens when search engine evaluate a site against a query — can be a low-effort yet productive exercise. The time regained from a canceled marketing campaign can be a great opportunity to get the crawl budget right, improving the SEO and the search plan for customer experience that can influence customer data platform (CDP) usage. 

What is Crawl Budget?

First let’s define crawl budget. A crawl budget is the frequency in which search engine bots crawl the pages of a website or web app domain. The value of the analysis is to help understand how the pages are being seen by search engines and make adjustments to encourage a better quality exposure to search queries relevant to the website content. Improving it strengthens the customer experience and boosts SEO. 

Is the site generally being discovered for queries related to your keyword strategy?

Crawling in and of itself is not the sole significant factor for ranking a website page or the top of a SERP. Yet it is essential for establishing tactics that makes SEO effective. A crawl budget analysis can complement any SEO process by indicating sticking points that could benefit SEO with updates. That can be a handy site maintenance indicator when a budget or resources for the work are scarce. 

Related Article: How Google Analytics Annotations Helps Keep Remote Teams on Track

Crawl Budget Report

So the first place to begin is to check is the crawl budget report in Google Search Console. The crawl budget is legacy report that displays the crawl over time. It is available by navigating to Legacy tools in Search Console, then selecting Crawl in the navigation.

Another useful report is the Coverage report. To reach it, navigate to the Index page, then to Coverage section. Coverage reveals a timeline chart that shows the number of indexed pages over a 90 day period. It can also note the number of errors detected. The report provides a list with suggested fixes.

Search Console Coverage

In addition to looking at the errors detected, analysts should  note a decline in pages being assessed in the Coverage report. A major change should lead to a few maintenance questions such as:

  • Has the sitemap been updated?
  • Has there been pages moved from the site?
  • Has permission in the robot.txt been altered?

Doing so helps to highlight if simple updates are needed. If so, analysts should audit the robot.txt and sitemap files. These 2 documents tell the search query bots what is the content on the website. A sitemap should have the same URLs as those listed in the robot.txt file.

Once updated resubmitting a sitemap will trigger a reevaluation from the search engine.

Related Article: How to Plan SEO for Featured Snippets and Improve Your Customer Experience

Redirect Chains

Next is a check for redirect chains. Redirection chains appear as a 301 or 302 HTTP code in a report. Each code is an indicator of a changed page location.  301 appears for a permanent move of a webpage, while 302 is a temporary relocation. Seeing those codes is inevitable on a website, since sometimes a site must indicate when a page has been changed. The goal, however, is to make sure that only a few 301 and 302 HTTP codes appear. A large number of code appearances could indicate to search engines that series of pages are disappearing, confusing the queries enough to lower the page rank for a given question or keyword.

Developer test reports in a browser can indicate if the code appears when a page reloads. Auditing in Google Chrome, for example, can be done by using the inspector (in the Network tab) and selecting the Preserve log checkbox to keep the load history, including the redirect responses. The developer test settings & inspectors usually appear at the bottom of the browser alongside a webpage, as you can see in the example image (Note: every browser comes with a developer toolset for technical SEO and web development)

Chrome Dev

Hreflang Element Tag

Another helpful element is the hreflang element tag. The hreflang tag is an attribute structured for HTML code that tells search engines what language is being used.  The attribute appears in the head element on a page, although it can also be added to a sitemap. 

hreflang example html

Google uses the hreflang attribute to serve the correct regional or language URLs in its search results based on the searcher's country and language preferences. That approach aids enterprise websites in which language and local sites are integral to the customer experience.   

Many of these steps would be best coordinated with a developer. A marketer can help by maintaining a change log to assess what updates has been used previously and then decide what should be revised. Periodic assessment allows you to chase the right problems that help align your resources to which you need. You can incorporate notes into Google Analytics annotation. I wrote about how to do this in this previous CMSWire post.

Also, keep in mind: Audits similar to those shown in Google Search Console are available in Bing Webmaster. The key difference is that Bing Webmaster will check for crawl performance relative to the Bing search engine. 

Final Thoughts

Like many SEO tasks, a site budget is one part of a comprehensive set of tasks that serve to enhance a website or web app. The search engines have made content adjustments an important part of maintaining a good customer experience. Planning content to appeal to featured snippets will dictate some great adjustment decisions that will draw potential customers searching for what they need and service the brand by providing helpful content.