Top tips for making your company’s website Google bots-friendly
After addressing on-page and off-page Search Engine Optimization (SEO), making your company’s website Google bots-friendly should follow. This final step entails technical SEO, the third and most technically challenging SEO subset. We at Digital Dot NYC digital marketing agency are no strangers to it, so let us devote this article to helping you do so. As we do, we will be citing Google’s own advice and guidance, as well as other prominent marketers.
What is the Googlebot?
First, let us briefly discuss the Googlebot itself.
Googlebot is Google’s search bot that indexes websites, as the name suggests. Doing so allows pages to appear in Google search, from which point they may compete for rankings.
This rudimentary definition aside, a few notes bear mentioning:
- Googlebot crawls your website every few seconds, according to Google.
- Googlebot picks the rules for accessing your website through your robots.txt.
- It then accesses your XML sitemap to find and index pages.
Finally, many practices related to Googlebot optimizations yield benefits for general SEO, as we’ll cover below. However, there are also a few misconceptions about this relationship. To dispel them, as well as better understand Googlebot, you may want to watch the following video by Google Search Central:
Making your company’s website Google bots-friendly
Now, how exactly can you make your website appealing for the Googlebot? Here are our 5 suggestions, in order.
#1 Verify site ownership in Google Search Console
Before all else, you should begin with Google Search Console – formerly known as Google Webmasters Tools for almost a decade.
This free tool by Google offers an excellent asset for all marketers and webmasters, as it helps monitor their activities. Notifying them of Google penalties aside, it allows them to track the following among many other metrics:
- Performance in search
- Indexing and errors
- Core Web Vitals metrics
For a brief introduction to Google Search Console, you may consult Google Search Central’s beginner’s guide. Alternatively, you can watch Daniel Waisberg’s video they provide within:
In the context of the Googlebot, however, the Search Console will serve specific purposes for later steps. Namely:
- It will let you test your robots.txt file.
- It will let you submit your XML sitemap to Google, should you not want to add it to your robots.txt instead.
- It will allow you to monitor both, as well as your website’s overall technical health.
So, for this step, you will need to visit Google Search Console, register your website, and follow the verification process. The 6 verification methods it offers are:
- HTML file upload
- HTML tag
- Google Analytics tracking code
- Google Tag Manager
- Google Sites, Blogger, or Domains account
- Domain name provider
For a deeper analysis of the process, you may also consult the Search Console article on the subject.
#2 Create an XML sitemap
With your Search Console in order, you may now address your XML sitemap. But first, let us briefly cover what they are.
As the name suggests, an XML sitemap maps out your website to facilitate easier crawling. In fact, unlike HTML sitemaps, which are intended for your human visitors, XML ones are strictly for bots and crawlers. Thus, having one is crucial toward making your company’s website Google bots-friendly.
Now, let us note that an XML sitemap must include every URL within your website. Should you want to exclude specific URLs from being indexed, you should specify those in robots.txt.
Creating an XML sitemap
Some CMSs create such sitemaps automatically. Unfortunately, WordPress, despite being great for your SEO, doesn’t. So, if you lack the technical knowledge to create one manually, you may use such WordPress plugins as:
- Yoast SEO
- XML Sitemaps
- Google XML Sitemap Generator
Alternatively, you may use such generators as:
Submitting an XML sitemap to Google
Once you’re done, you will need to submit your sitemap to Google. If you don’t want to do so through your robots.txt, you may submit it through Google Search Console. The process is very simple:
- Access Google Search Console
- Navigate to “Sitemaps” under “Index”
- Paste your sitemap in the bar and click “submit”
#3 Optimize robots.txt
With your sitemap in order, making your company’s website Google bots-friendly requires an optimized robots.txt. To explain why, let us briefly explain what it is.
As the name might imply, robots.txt also addresses the Googlebot and not human visitors. Robots.txt resides in your website root and intends to tell the Googlebot which pages to crawl and index. So, while an XML sitemap maps your entire site, robots.txt excludes pages you don’t want to index.
SEMrush explains this distinction very well in the following video:
So, how exactly should you optimize robots.txt?
- Carefully decide which pages to include. Google itself identifies its primary purpose to be “to avoid overloading your site with requests”, so this is fundamental.
- Avoid linking to pages you don’t want Google to crawl. Google warns that “[i]f other pages point to your page with descriptive text, Google could still index the URL without visiting the page. “
- Take additional measures to exclude pages from search results. Finally, if you don’t want your pages to appear in search results, Google suggests that you password-protect the files on your server, use the “noindex” meta tag or response header, or remove the page entirely.
For a deeper analysis on how to create and optimize robots.txt, you may also consult Google Search Central’s article on the subject.
#4 Making your company’s website Google bots-friendly through internal links
Having excluded undesirable URLs from both, you may now begin working toward facilitating easier crawling of your valuable pages. To do so, you may follow the long-standing SEO practice of internal linking. Even outside of crawlability, overlooking internal linking is a common SEO mistake to avoid.
At its core, this process is simple enough; link to your pages from other pages. However, for this step you may want to mind some crucial details:
- Leave no pages orphaned. Every page you want the Googlebot to rank should have at least one other page linking to it. Otherwise, if you have accidentally excluded it from robots.txt or your XML sitemap, it will not be able to find it.
- Use relevant anchor text. Simply linking suffices for crawling purposes, but remember the relevance of anchor text. Your anchor text should reflect the linked page’s subject, so the Googlebot can better understand it.
- Mind the customer journey. Finally, remember the human visitor and apply internal links where they fit. Link to relevant pages where they provide value to your audience and nudge them along the sales funnel.
#5 Publish content regularly
Finally, to conclude on a short step, remember to publish content regularly. Doing so yields self-evident benefits, of course, such as enhancing your SEO through more engagement and content freshness. However, it also assists with crawlability.
The reason for this is simple; your content output frequency affects your page rank. In turn, your page rank affects your crawl frequency, as Neil Patel notes. Thus, creating new, valuable content will benefit both your human and bot visitors – and, in turn, you.
To summarize, making your company’s website Google bots-friendly primarily hinges on optimal XML sitemaps and robots.txt. Internal links can also assist tremendously, as well as solidify your content structure and site hierarchy in the process. Finally, regularly publishing content will be appreciated by both human and bot visitors, letting your website thrive. Of course, if you need additional advice on how best to optimize your website for Google bots, schedule a consultation with New York SEO specialists.