What Are Crawler Directives? 6 Steps To Create A Crawl-Friendly Website

Crawler directives instruct the search engines to crawl or not, how to crawl, and index your web page. Have you ever wondered how search engines find the content that you publish online? Have you ever thought about how, in a sea of content, search engines discover new and updated content and bring the best and most relevant results to the users?

Well, the answer to this is through web crawling. Crawling refers to the search engine process of following links on a page to a new one. Crawlers do this until there are no more links to be followed. The process is continuous, which gives search engines such as Google the ability to find newly published and improved content.

After this process, the contents of the crawled URLs are then passed on for the search engine to decide if it is worth indexing or not. 

With this, it is safe to assume that your efforts in trying to rank high in different search engines should start in the crawling process. What you may not know is that you can instruct how a search engine crawls your website. This is done through the help of crawler directives.

Two Types of Crawler Directives

There are two types of crawler directives that you can apply depending on what you want to happen to your website. These crawler directives are as follows:

1. Robots.txt

Robots.txt crawler directive guides search engine bots or crawlers through the navigation of a site. These are used mainly for:  

  • Disallow the crawling of a URL route. This crawler directive will not prevent pages from being indexed.
  • If crawling through the parent is disabled, robots.txt crawlers will allow crawling through specific pages or subfolders.

2. Robot Meta Tags

This crawler directive instructs search engine crawlers to coral and indexes your website depending on how you want it. 

There are two types of robot meta tags, and they are as follows:

This crawler directive is specifically meant for SEO purposes.  Meta robots tag lets you control the crawler’s indexing behavior at a page level.

This code is implemented in the heading of a website:

<meta name=”robots” content=”[parameter]”>

When this type of tag is used, you can implement more than one parameter. Parameters will be discussed in the latter part of the article.

  • X-Robots-Tag

This type of directive is said to be more flexible than meta robot tags. It enables you to control indexing at two levels:

  • Page level
  • Specific page elements

The x-robots-tag code is as follows:

Header (“X-Robots-Tag: [parameter]”, true);

Eleven Parameters to Know

Parameter NameDescription
AllShortcut for index, follow
FollowCrawlers should follow all links and pass link equity to the pages
NofollowSearch engines should not pass any equity to linked-to pages
IndexCrawlers should index the page
NoindexCrawlers should not index a page
NoimageindexCrawlers should not index any images on a page
Max-snippetSets the maximum number of characters as a textual snippet for search results
NoneShortcut for noindex, nofollow
NocacheSearch engines shouldn’t show cached links for this page when it appears in search results
NosnippetSearch engines shouldn’t show a snippet of the page (like a meta description) in the search results
Unavailable_afterSearch engines shouldn’t index a page after the set date
Crawler Directives – 11 Parameters for X-Robot-Tags

Creating a Crawler-Friendly Website

Steps to Create a Crawler Friendly Website
Steps to Create a Crawler-Friendly Website

1. Check Your Robots.txt File

Always check your robots.txt file and make sure that it is not disallowing beneficial bots from pages or actions you want to be indexed. Note that this is necessary since this crawler directive is the one that communicates with the page crawlers or “bots”.

If you have a good understanding of the robots.txt file, a quick view of the file will allow you to determine errors such as wrong noindex or nofollow directives. You can also use a robots.txt testing tool just to be sure. Google offers a robot.txt tester specifically for Googlebot. 

Additionally, you should also make sure that the robots.txt directive is accessible to crawlers and not blocked on the server level. 

2. Submit Sitemaps

Sitemaps are a simple text file in XML format. This file lists all the pages of your website that you want to get indexed. You can manually submit a sitemap URL through the Google Search Console. Go to Index > Sitemaps.

Creating sitemaps is easy: popular SEO plugins such as Yoast or Rank Math will automatically generate a sitemap for you if your site runs on WordPress. 

3. Utilize Crawler Directives Wisely

Of course, you will have to make use of the available crawler directives to create a crawler-friendly site. Since your crawler directives give instructions or suggestions, you can set “allow” your pages to be visited. Follow instructions can also vary, as mentioned in the parameters bove.

Allow important pages to be crawled for them to be indexed. Even if you don’t like some pages to be indexed, allowing them to be crawled will be a factor for the other important pages to be crawled and indexed. 

Search Engine Process
Search Engine Process

4. Add Internal Link Between Pages

Since crawling is basically discovering new pages in your site through following links, internal links are important. It helps the crawlers find your new content through already-known content. Googlebot does this by following the links from a known page to new pages. 

Additionally, it helps search engines know what the content is about.

More links pointing to a specific webpage give search engines the impression that this page is important.

5. Remove 4xx’s

4xx errors suggest to crawlers that the content on that page does not exist (404) or is not possible to access (403). Now, imagine a crawler continuously finding 4xx pages on your website. This will give the impression that the crawler has hit a dead end and nothing is worth crawling on your website anymore.

Make sure that all content or pages in your site are accessible and free of errors to ensure smooth crawling and better chances at getting indexed. 

6. Use Auditing Tools

Auditing tools can help you identify noindex pages and nofollow links on your website. These tools can also help you discover broken pages or unwanted redirect loops. Ahrefs provide a reliable auditing tool. 

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the difference between crawling and indexing?

Crawling is the continuous process of following endless links from a published page. Indexing is the process that happens after crawling, in which the content found is stored in a search engine’s database. 

2. Is Google a web crawler?

Technically, Google is not a web crawler. But Google has its own web crawler called Googlebot.

3. Why are crawlers needed?

Web crawlers are needed for search engines to find newly published and updated content on the web. 

Take Away

You cannot exclude your web pages from getting crawled by different search engine bots such as Googlebot. Page crawling is also an unimportant part of getting indexed and ranking high on search engines.

However, you can suggest or instruct how these crawlers will behave when it comes to your website. Through crawler directives, you can guide these bot crawlers and make sure that only the important pages get indexed. You can also take certain steps in ensuring that your website is crawl-friendly. So, what are you waiting for? Review your site and apply necessary crawler directives to your pages!

Related Reads: 

All About SSL SEO Certificates for 2022

Understanding Website Crawlability and Indexability for SEO 2022

White Label SEO Reports: A Complete Guide

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