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What do Crawl Budget and Crawl Management Mean?

Search engine optimization (SEO) depends heavily on search engines regularly crawling and indexing websites. However, search engines have limits on how many pages they can crawl per site.

This is referred to as crawl budget. Managing crawl budget through effective crawl management techniques is crucial for websites to get indexed properly and avoid issues.

In this post, we’ll cover everything you need to know about what crawl budget is, how it works, why it matters, and tips for crawl management.

Table of Content

What is Crawl Budget?
Why Does Crawl Budget Matter for SEO?
How Do Search Engines Determine Crawl Budget?
How Often Do Search Engines Crawl Sites?
7 Crawl Budget Management Tips
Why Large Crawl Budgets Are Not Always Best
How Has Google’s Crawl Budget Changed Over Time?
Common Crawl Budget Myths
Key Takeaways on Crawl Budget and Management

What is Crawl Budget?

Crawl budget refers to the number of pages search engines will crawl and index from a website during a specific time period. It is a limit placed by search engines to control how frequently and deeply they access sites.

Google, Bing, and other search engines use crawl budget to:

  • Manage their computing resources for crawling countless sites on the web
  • Prevent overloading websites by limiting how often they crawl them
  • Focus crawler capacity on most important pages and sites

Every website is allocated a specific crawl budget by search engines. Common factors that influence crawl budget size include:

  • Size of the site – More pages = larger budget
  • Site authority and ranking – Higher authority sites tend to get more budget
  • Indexing issues – Sites with many crawl errors may get reduced budget
  • Site changes – Frequent updates mean more budget needed
  • Server location – Proximity to search engine data centers matters

Search engines do not share exact crawl budget numbers. But webmasters can get a general sense of their site’s budget by looking at crawl stats in Search Console.

Why Does Crawl Budget Matter for SEO?

Crawl budget has a very direct and significant impact on a website’s search engine optimization and performance in organic search results. The size of the budget allocated by search engines determines how many pages they will crawl, analyze, and ultimately index from a site. If the crawl budget is too small, it can severely limit the search visibility and traffic a site can achieve.

Some of the key reasons why crawl budget is so crucial for SEO include the fact that a limited budget may result in new content not getting discovered and indexed quickly enough before that budget gets used up. This means the website misses out on driving search traffic to new pages.

Also, pages that get updated may not get recrawled frequently enough to reflect changes in a timely manner with a restricted budget. Technical SEO issues like 404 errors can also fly under the radar and remain undetected if thin or insignificant pages do not get crawled thanks to budget limitations.

Perhaps most importantly, pages deeper in a website’s architecture that should be indexed for their value may never get discovered at all if the crawl budget cannot accommodate exploring deeper pages. Overall, a website’s growth potential in organic search is stifled if search engines cannot index all of its relevant, high-quality pages.

How Do Search Engines Determine Crawl Budget?

Search engines use complex algorithms and machine learning to determine optimal crawl budgets for sites. Some of the main factors include:

  • Site content – More unique, high-quality content means more budget.
  • Information architecture – Complex, deep sites require larger budgets.
  • Technical health – Sites with faster load times and fewer errors get more budget.
  • Link profile – More external links pointing to a site equals increased budget.
  • Site authority – Established sites with stronger reputation gain higher budgets.
  • Previous crawling stats – Historic indexing rates influence future budgets.
  • Location infrastructure – Proximity to search engine data centers can play a role.

Search engines are constantly analyzing sites and adjusting crawl budgets to optimize their indexing coverage. They aim to control their computing resources while maximizing the freshness and relevance of page indexes.

How Often Do Search Engines Crawl Sites?

The frequency with which search engines crawl websites varies quite a bit based on the factors that determine crawl budget size. Authoritative sites with strong domain authority and reputation may get crawled multiple times per day in order to keep their indexes extremely fresh and up-to-date.

High-quality sites that offer a good amount of original, valuable content but aren’t necessarily authoritative at a domain level tend to get crawled on a daily basis. Average websites that don’t have stellar metrics but still meet a certain content quality bar are generally crawled weekly or several times per month.

And lower-quality, spammy sites with thin content could be crawled by search engines as infrequently as every few weeks or even less. Of course, crawl frequency also depends heavily on the relative importance of individual pages.

For instance, a website’s homepage will invariably get crawled much more often than deep inner pages since it serves as the central entry point. But deeper pages that have strong optimization and signals of quality may get crawled daily while other less important pages only get visited biweekly.

Webmasters can check a site’s average crawl rate in Google Search Console to get a general sense, but remember that budgets fluctuate constantly so past frequency isn’t a guarantee of future crawling cadence.

7 Crawl Budget Management Tips

Managing crawl budget effectively is an important but often overlooked aspect of SEO. Here are tips for maximizing search visibility within allocated budgets:

  1. Prune unnecessary pages – Delete or deindex superfluous content to focus budgets on important pages.
  2. Consolidate content – Avoid thin pages with little unique content that eat up budget.
  3. Improve site architecture – Make information architecture cleaner and flatter to facilitate discovery of key pages.
  4. Optimize page speed – Faster load times encourage more pages crawled per visit.
  5. Fix crawl errors – Pages with 404s, redirects, and other errors waste crawl capacity.
  6. Build links – Earning more external links to site can help increase crawl budget over time.
  7. Produce quality content – Adding more unique, relevant content demonstrates need for larger budget.

Crawl budget gives webmasters control over what search engines access. Submit updated sitemaps, use Search Console’s “Fetch as Google” tool, and leverage page-level metadata like noindex tags to explicitly manage page crawling.

Why Large Crawl Budgets Are Not Always Best

One common myth is that having the largest possible crawl budget is ideal. In reality, websites need a crawl budget in proportion to their size and content quality.

Excessively large budgets spread across mediocre pages can dilute rankings for top pages and facilitate discovery of irrelevant or problematic content. Websites should aim for a budget adequate to keep their most important pages regularly indexed – not maximum indexing of everything.

How Has Google’s Crawl Budget Changed Over Time?

Google’s crawl capacity and budget has expanded massively over the past two decades as the search engine has grown to dominate the web. In the early 2000s, Google was crawling billions of web pages to build its search index.

By 2010, that number had reached hundreds of billions thanks to innovations in crawling technology and infrastructure expansion. And today, Google crawls trillions of pages every single year, fueled by advancements in artificial intelligence, a vast global data center network, increased efficiency in pages crawled per byte downloaded, and a shift from desktop-only crawling to including mobile sites.

However, it’s important to note that the web has also grown exponentially across that timeframe. So while Google’s crawl budget has increased exponentially, so has the volume of web pages vying for discovery and inclusion in search indexes.

That’s why discoverability and crawl budget management remain crucial challenges for webmasters even with today’s huge search engine crawl capacities. Having enough budget allocated to regularly index a website’s most important and valuable pages continues to be mission-critical for organic search performance regardless of the scale of today’s budgets.

Common Crawl Budget Myths

There are many misconceptions surrounding crawl budget. Here are some common myths:

Myth: Crawl budget is the total number of pages search engines will index.

Truth: The index and crawl budget are different. Crawl budget relates to crawling frequency, not results indexed.

Myth: More crawl budget automatically leads to better SEO.

Truth: Bigger budgets don’t guarantee improvements if content quality is lacking. Relevance matters more.

Myth: You can determine exact crawl budget numbers.

Truth: Search engines don’t reveal precise budgets. Webmasters can only estimate general range.

Myth: Crawling and indexing happen at the same time.

Truth: Pages may be crawled but not indexed until a later date after evaluating content.

Myth: Larger sites always get bigger budgets.

Truth: Budget correlates more with authority and content quality than just site size.

Understanding these common myths can prevent misconceptions that lead to ineffective crawl budget management.

Key Takeaways on Crawl Budget and Management

  • Crawl budget determines how many pages search engines will crawl from a site in a period of time based on factors like size, quality, and errors.
  • Effective crawl management ensures important pages get indexed regularly so rankings and organic search visibility aren’t negatively impacted.
  • Strategies for good crawl management include pruning thin pages, improving site architecture, earning more links, and producing engaging content.
  • Websites need sufficient but not excessively large crawl budgets proportional to their content quality and search visibility goals.
  • Search engines are constantly analyzing websites to optimize crawl budgets and indexing. So amounts fluctuate over time.

Crawl budgeting is a nuanced, ever-evolving aspect of SEO. Mastering core concepts, tracking key metrics in Search Console, and testing management techniques can help websites maintain strong organic search presences. Efficient crawl budget management translates directly into higher rankings and more search traffic.

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