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How to Optimize Your Website for Search Engines

Everyone wants to rank high on search engines like Google and Bing, but with the amount of content on the internet this can sometimes be difficult. There are many ways to establish relevance, but optimizing your website for search is much more than just ranking high on Google.

In order improve your search engine rankings, it’s important to provide plenty of accessible content for web crawlers to index from your website.

Did you know?

Hundreds of crawlers visit your site and index it. The content that is indexed by those crawlers varies. But most commonly you will want to improve your content for Google and Cludo.

Below we will go through a couple of methods you can use to optimize your website for web crawlers and search engines.

How exactly do search engines work?

Let’s get down to basics. Search engines can seem pretty complicated, but they really come down to this three-step process:

Crawling – the process of searching the internet and scanning code and content based on the specific URL found.

Indexing – this is when the above content is placed into an index and stored. Once the crawled content is indexed, it is now an option to be displayed within search results according to it’s relevance to search queries.

Ranking – this is where the search engine decides exactly what indexed content is relevant to the searcher and presents it as such. Most relevant will be displayed at the top of the search results while the less relevant content will be lower down the page, or on subsequent pages.

Of course, there’s no secret to how to rank better. Google takes hundreds of factors into account when deciding where to rank any page for any individual term.

Now that you know how a search engine works, let’s get into how to optimize your website for crawlers.

What is a web crawler?

A web crawler is the mechanism for indexing a website – essentially an internet bot that scans the net and pages available on the web. They are called crawlers because they do exactly that, “crawl” through your website’s content and store that content in a search index. The content a crawler picks up depends on its configuration and the possibilities are endless.

A few popular web crawlers include:

  • Clubot                  – Cludo
  • Googlebot          – Google
  • Bingbot                – Bing
  • Slurp bot             – Yahoo
  • BaiduSpider        – Baidu

Net crawlers can crawl anything that is publicly accessible on the world wide web.

Meta tags and how to utilize them for web crawlers

Meta tags are snippets of text within a page’s code that describe what is on the page. You won’t find these tags on the page itself, but within the source code. These meta tags, or metadata, are not used to determine the ranking of a page. But they are still incredibly important, because they can affect things from your SERP click-through-rate to whether or not your page is accessible to search engines at all.

Some of the most commonly used meta tags are:

  • Title tag
  • Meta Description
  • Canonical tag
  • Robots meta tag

Title tag is used as a title for your search results, you will most often see this as the title used by search engines to represent your site.

Meta Description is most commonly used for the visual description shown when someone searches for your page.

Canonical tags are used to tell web crawlers that a specific URL represents a master copy of a page. Google and other search engines favor websites with less duplicate content, as they struggle to determine which page to prioritize.

One issue being if a crawler has to sift through too much duplicate content, it may miss unique content. Large-scale duplication will also dilute your ranking and relevancy on e.g. Google. But most importantly if your search content does rank, search engines might pick up the wrong URL.

That is why having a canonical tag on duplicate pages is important. Canonical tags can be self-referring as well. Decide which page is the original, the highest priority, or the biggest gain for your organization.

Robots meta tag is similar to the robots.txt file (see below). This tag tells a crawler whether a page should be indexed and followed or not. This guides a crawler on how to index your pages. The tag has three different properties:

<meta name="robots" content="noindex, nofollow">

Robots meta tags can also be used to target specific crawlers, in the following way:

<meta name="googlebot" content="noindex, nofollow">

To check what meta tags are available on your site, right click the desired page and press “View page source”:

Screenshot of checking meta tags on a web page

What is robots.txt?

The most common way to communicate with crawlers is by configurating your robots.txt file.

Robots.txt is a file that exists on all websites. This is the first file a crawler reads when visiting your website. You can view your own robots.txt file by entering https://example.com/robots.txt and here you will be able to see your robots.txt file. Here is an example of what a robots.txt file could look like:

example robots.txt file screenshot

In the above robots.txt file you see an example of how the robots.txt allows all crawlers by adding a wildcard “*” which tells that any match on the user agent will be allowed access to all content.

Down below the robots.txt file tells specifically to “Googlebot” that the website in this case does not want Google’s crawler to index any of their PDF or Word documents.

The above is an example of what your robots.txt file could look like. If you would like to get more tips and tricks on how to edit and modify your robots.txt file, take a look at this article.)

How to optimize your site for SEO

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to successful SEO, and this is something that needs to constantly be worked at. While the odds of your content ranking #1 on Google overnight are pretty slim, there are a few things you can do to increase those chances!

Keyword research – it’s important that your target audience finds your content. One way to do that is by using the words that they do. Conduct keyword research and find ways to incorporate those keywords into your content naturally.

Create quality content, and maintain it – having a website full of high quality content is the first step to getting anyone on your website. It’s also important to maintain that quality of content throughout your website. If you notice pages that are underperforming, go in and make edits. If you have content that is performing super well, find ways to refurbish or repurpose it throughout your site to potentially increase traffic.

Establish link authority – a great way to help your SEO is by establishing link authority, or getting other reputable sites (in your industry, the media, etc.) to link to your website. By getting visitors from these other sites you can build trust while attracting new users.

Pay attention to technical SEO – beyond creating valuable content and establishing link authority, make sure to keep your eyes on the technical parts of your website. Some of this may require a developer, but a few things to focus on: ensuring your website is mobile-friendly, optimizing a sitemap, and increasing your website’s load speed.

Making your website search-ready

Getting new visitors to your website is essential to growing your business and staying relevant. While SEO success is a continual process that takes strategizing and planning, the importance of ranking on search engines cannot be understated.

Now that you’ve spent time optimizing your website for search engines, make sure to read our blog on how to make your website search-friendly, so that you can rest assured knowing your site is ready to deliver results to all the new visitors you’ll be seeing!