HOW OFTEN SHOULD A TECHNICAL WEBSITE CRAWL BE CARRIED OUT?

There is no universal schedule for technical website crawls. We would therefore like to explain which factors influence the frequency of crawls for SEO.

There will never be a set frequency for the technical checks that can be applied to every SEO professional. After all, each website has its own development release schedule, release rhythm and a myriad of other variables that can affect the need for technical analysis.

So how often should you perform technical website crawls for SEO? It depends. So what does it depend on? That really is the crucial question.

In this article, we take a brief look at what a website crawl is and why we carry it out. We then address the question of how often it should be carried out.

What is a technical SEO website crawl?

The crawl of a website is when the so-called software crawler or bot visits every page of a website and extracts the data. This is similar to the way a search engine bot might visit your website.

It follows the commands you give it, for example by respecting or ignoring your robots.txt. You can also tell it whether it should follow or ignore nofollow tags and many other conditions that you can specify accordingly.

If you have adjusted the conditions accordingly, it will crawl every page it can find by following links and reading XML sitemaps.

The crawler returns information about the pages. These can be, for example, server response codes such as 404, the presence of a no-index tag on the page or whether bots are prevented from crawling via robots.txt.

It can also identify HTML information such as the page title and descriptions, the layout of the website architecture and any duplicate content detected.

All this information then provides you with a meaningful snapshot of your website’s ability to be crawled and indexed. It can also highlight problems that affect the ranking, for example, be it the loading speed, missing metadata or the like.

The purpose behind a technical SEO website crawl

When you crawl a website, the primary focus is always to identify these or several existing problems, as they can have certain effects. These problems include:

  • Crawling
  • Indexing
  • Rankings

Performing a crawl is a simple task once you have installed the software. If you want to uncover potential or current problems with your website, it makes sense to crawl it regularly.

SEO website crawl

Why shouldn’t you constantly crawl a website?

In SEO, there are almost limitless tasks we could perform at any given time – SERP analysis, updating meta titles and rewriting copy with the hope of ranking higher.

Without a strategy behind these activities, you are at best distracting yourself from effective work. In the worst case, you could even reduce the performance of your website.

As with other SEO tasks, there must be a strategy behind website crawls.

The flip side of the question “How often should you run technical website crawls?” can only be understood and answered if you know why you shouldn’t run them all the time.

Basically, website crawls cost time and resources – if not for the execution, then at least for an effective analysis.

Time

Adding a URL to a website crawler and clicking “Go” is not a particularly tedious task. On the contrary – it becomes even less time-consuming if you schedule crawls automatically.

So why is time a crucial factor in how often you should crawl a website?

Quite simply: because it makes no sense to crawl a website if you do not analyze the results. This is what takes time – the final interpretation of the data.

Perhaps you have software that highlights errors in a color-coded traffic light system according to urgency, so you can quickly take a look at everything. This is not part of analyzing a crawl.

You could miss important issues this way if you rely too much on a tool that tells you how your website is optimized.

Although this form of reporting is very helpful, it needs to be coupled with more in-depth testing and analysis so you can see how your website is supporting your SEO strategy.

There will probably be good reasons why you want to set up these automated reports to run frequently. Perhaps you have a few problems, such as server errors, that you would like to have reported every day.

However, these should be regarded as warnings that require further investigation. Properly analyzing your crawls, with knowledge of your SEO plan, takes time.

Do you have the capacity or the need to carry out a complete crawl and analysis every day?

Resources

You need software to crawl your website.

Some software is free of charge and can be used indefinitely after payment of a license fee. For others, you will be charged for use.

If the cost of crawling software is based on usage, it can be expensive to crawl your website every day. In some cases, you may use up your monthly quota too early, which means you won’t be able to crawl the website when you actually need to.

Server load

Unfortunately, some websites rely on servers that are not particularly robust. As a result, a crawl performed too quickly or a crawl at a busy time can cause the page to crash.

In order to crawl the website safely, the tools may need to be slowed down, making the process more time-consuming.

It might mean contacting the person responsible for maintaining the server to make sure they can prepare for the crawl.

Doing this too often or without good reason is not sensible and is annoying for everyone involved.

Server load

Alternatives for crawling your website

You don’t necessarily have to crawl your website every day to detect problems. You can reduce the need for frequent crawls by setting up other processes and tools.

Software for monitoring changes

Some software can check your website for a whole range of possible changes. For example, you can set up an alarm for individual pages to monitor whether content changes.

You can also use special software that informs you about server status, SSL expiration, robots.txt changes and XML sitemap validation issues. All of these types of alerts can reduce your need to crawl the site because problems are already identified through these channels.

Instead, you can save these crawls and audits in case a problem is discovered and needs to be fixed.

Processes that inform SEO professionals about changes/plans

Another way to minimize the need to crawl your website frequently is to implement processes with other team members. These can keep you informed about changes to the website. This is easier said than done in most cases, but it is a good practice that is worth introducing.

If you have access to the development team’s or agency ‘s ticket system and are in regular communication with the project manager, you will most likely know when and if changes could impact SEO.

Even if you don’t know exactly what will change as a result of the roll-out, you can plan your crawls to take place around these important dates.

If you know when new pages go live, content is rewritten or new products are launched, you also know when a crawl is required.

This saves you having to perform a crawl every week if something is changed.

Automated crawls with customized reports

As already mentioned, crawling tools often offer the option of scheduling crawls. You may be of the opinion that this is something that your server and your processes can cope with.

But don’t forget that you still have to read and analyze the crawls. So planning the crawls doesn’t necessarily save a lot of time, unless an informative report is produced at the end.

This automation and reporting could then be a reason for you to perform a more specific crawl and analysis instead of requiring a very frequent, human-initiated crawl.

Automated crawls with customized reports

When should a crawl be carried out?

As we have already discussed, frequent crawls to check the status of the website are not absolutely necessary.

Crawls should actually be carried out in the following situations.

Before development or content change

If you are preparing your website for a change – for example, a transfer of content to a new URL structure – you must crawl your website.

This allows you to determine whether there are already problems on the pages to be changed that could affect performance after the transfer.

Crawling your site before any development or content change is made to the site ensures that it is in an optimal state for this change to be positive.

Before carrying out experiments

If you are preparing to run an experiment on your website, for example, to see what effect removing spammy backlinks might have, you need to control the variables.

It is important to crawl your website to get an idea of any other issues that could also affect the outcome of the experiment.

You want to be able to say with certainty that it was the disavow file that caused the increase in rankings for a problematic area of your site, not that the loading speed of those URLs increased around the same time.

For example, after a transfer of content or when new changes have been made to the website – anything that may have broken or not been implemented correctly.

If you are made aware of a problem

You may be alerted to a technical SEO problem by tools or through personal discovery, e.g. a faulty page. This should set your crawl and audit process in motion.

The aim of the crawl is to determine whether the problem is widespread or limited to the area of the website that has already been brought to your attention.

Conclusion

There is no universal schedule for technical website crawls. Your individual SEO strategy, your processes and the nature of your website influence the optimum frequency for performing crawls.

Your own capacities and resources also influence this schedule.

Take your SEO strategy into consideration and implement other alerts and checks to minimize the need for frequent website crawls.

Your crawls should not just be a website maintenance exercise, but a response to a preventative or counteractive need.

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