Web crawlers have been around since the early 90s. Their role on the internet is so important that it can’t be emphasized enough. Put simply – the internet wouldn’t be able to function properly without web crawlers.
Since the web is nothing but petabytes of data accumulated over the years, web crawlers are in charge of making sense of that massive clutter of unorganized heaps of data. The internet is an ever-growing data repository, with more and more information coming in every day.
This information is now divided into various formats, categories, programming languages, and multiple codes. All these data segments on the web are interconnected but aren’t organized.
Since modern-day enterprises need data daily for various purposes, having basic knowledge of what a crawler is, how it works, and how it can benefit you is a necessity today.
Web crawlers explained
What is a web crawler? Since many internet users are puzzled by this question, let’s shed some light on the matter. A web crawler is a critical part of every web crawling process. It is an automated software tool that automatically, systematically, and methodically browses web pages to find the latest, freshest, most up-to-date information on the internet.
It allows the user to find, download, and index the most relevant data. Search engines use web crawlers to index content, conduct automated testing and model checking of web pages and applications, and find vulnerabilities in web page security. Without crawling bots, search engines wouldn’t be able to present the content you’ve requested to see. See Oxylabs’s blog article about what is a web crawler for a more in-depth look at the topic.
Main features and uses
The internet has become an increasingly hostile environment toward crawlers because too many tend to overload the web servers. If you deploy too many crawlers and overwhelm a site, it’ll trigger the anti-crawler mechanism and ban, block, or blacklist the IP address(es) of your crawling bot, rendering it impossible for your crawler to run large scale crawling operations.
That’s why a crawler should be packed with top features to make it as effective as possible without harming the websites. Some of the main features include:
- Support for robots.txt;
- Automatic estimation for web server’s load and bandwidth, as well as throttling;
- Automatic detection of any changes in the frequency of the originating data;
- A site-administrator user interface where webmasters can control, verify, and register the frequency and rate of crawl;
- Virtual throttling and hosting by originating IP address;
- Sitemaps support;
- Crawl queue ordering and prioritization;
- Duplicate content and domain detection;
- Anti-recrawling protection;
- Recognition of GET parameters;
- Crawler honeypot protection;
- Support for multiple link formats.
When it comes to the most common web crawler use cases, we’ll name a few of the most important ones for online retailers and brands. Web crawling can help online retailers gather top-quality data on their competitor’s complete assortment.
You can use the gathered data to update your store regarding discounts and the most recently added items. This information helps e-commerce businesses create more competitive and attractive offers for their consumers.
On the other hand, brands rely on web crawling to keep an eye on their competitors and the strategies they deploy to gather more prospects, improve brand reputation, and increase sales.
Web crawling helps brands improve SEO, capture product and customer reviews and feedback from the web, determine consumer preferences, understand the market, improve decision-making, be more competitive, and create more customer-centric offers.
What is Google Index?
A website is only visible in the search results on Google after it has been indexed by Google. After a website has been added to Google’s index, it will be presented on request made by internet users.
Google Index is the main source of all search results on Google, and it’s paramount for building brand awareness and presence on Google. The only way to make your site visible on Google is to get it into the Google Index.
To do that, you’ll need to ensure that the Googlebot crawls your website to index it. Googlebot uses its web crawlers to discover the most relevant, updated web pages to be added to the Google Index.
Why it’s important
Without Google Index, internet users can’t find your website. It simply won’t show up in the search results. Frequent indexing helps improve your SEO and get the right content to the right people. It also helps to discover outdated content and replace it with the updated one to make your brand more relevant and visible.
Higher SEO ranking and better user experience
Since Google strives to showcase the best websites to its users, it mostly searches for the websites with the best user experience. In comparison, many factors affect the speed of your website; site loading speed and quality content matter the most.
Google Index can help you find out how fast your site loads and your content quality level. These parameters can help a brand provide a better user experience and achieve higher search result rankings.
Issues with Google indexing
When it comes to Google indexing, there are many issues an internet user should be aware of, such as:
- Content quality – if the content in your web pages is outdated and poor in quality, Google won’t index your website.
- Duplicate content – since Google indexes unique web pages only, duplicate web pages won’t be indexed.
- Optimization – your website requires constant optimization to remove outdated pages. Since Googlebot only crawls a limited amount of URLs on each website, optimization is critical to getting indexed.
- 404 errors – non-existent or deleted pages will return with 404 errors, meaning your website won’t be indexed due to too many redirects.
- Robots.txt problem – if Googlebot can’t access your robots.txt file, it won’t crawl your website.
While there are many other issues, these indexing problems are reported by many business internet users.
To sum up all the above points, it’s safe to say that web crawlers keep the internet alive. They help businesses find target audiences and provide the requested content for internet users. Without them, search engines like Google wouldn’t be able to function. The more the internet grows, the more advanced versions of web crawling will emerge.