SEO Information

Search Engine Robots - How They Work, What They Do (Part I)


Automated search engine robots, sometimes called "spiders" or "crawlers", are the seekers of web pages. How do they work? What is it they really do? Why are they important?

You'd think with all the fuss about indexing web pages to add to search engine databases, that robots would be great and powerful beings. Wrong. Search engine robots have only basic functionality like that of early browsers in terms of what they can understand in a web page. Like early browsers, robots just can't do certain things. Robots don't understand frames, Flash movies, images or JavaScript. They can't enter password protected areas and they can't click all those buttons you have on your website. They can be stopped cold while indexing a dynamically generated URL and slowed to a stop with JavaScript navigation. How Do Search Engine Robots Work?

Think of search engine robots as automated data retrieval programs, traveling the web to find information and links.

When you submit a web page to a search engine at the "Submit a URL" page, the new URL is added to the robot's queue of websites to visit on its next foray out onto the web. Even if you don't directly submit a page, many robots will find your site because of links from other sites that point back to yours. This is one of the reasons why it is important to build your link popularity and to get links from other topical sites back to yours.

When arriving at your website, the automated robots first check to see if you have a robots.txt file. This file is used to tell robots which areas of your site are off-limits to them. Typically these may be directories containing only binaries or other files the robot doesn't need to concern itself with.

Robots collect links from each page they visit, and later follow those links through to other pages. In this way, they essentially follow the links from one page to another. The entire World Wide Web is made up of links, the original idea being that you could follow links from one place to another. This is how robots get around.

The "smarts" about indexing pages online comes from the search engine engineers, who devise the methods used to evaluate the information the search engine robots retrieve. When introduced into the search engine database, the information is available for searchers querying the search engine. When a search engine user enters their query into the search engine, there are a number of quick calculations done to make sure that the search engine presents just the right set of results to give their visitor the most relevant response to their query.

You can see which pages on your site the search engine robots have visited by looking at your server logs or the results from your log statistics program. Identifying the robots will show you when they visited your website, which pages they visited and how often they visit. Some robots are readily identifiable by their user agent names, like Google's "Googlebot"; others are bit more obscure, like Inktomi's "Slurp". Still other robots may be listed in your logs that you cannot readily identify; some of them may even appear to be human-powered browsers.

Along with identifying individual robots and counting the number of their visits, the statistics can also show you aggressive bandwidth-grabbing robots or robots you may not want visiting your website. In the resources section of the end of this article, you will find sites that list names and IP addresses of search engine robots to help you identify them. How Do They Read The Pages On Your Website?

When the search engine robot visits your page, it looks at the visible text on the page, the content of the various tags in your page's source code (title tag, meta tags, etc.), and the hyperlinks on your page. From the words and the links that the robot finds, the search engine decides what your page is about. There are many factors used to figure out what "matters" and each search engine has its own algorithm in order to evaluate and process the information. Depending on how the robot is set up through the search engine, the information is indexed and then delivered to the search engine's database.

The information delivered to the databases then becomes part of the search engine and directory ranking process. When the search engine visitor submits their query, the search engine digs through its database to give the final listing that is displayed on the results page.

The search engine databases update at varying times. Once you are in the search engine databases, the robots keep visiting you periodically, to pick up any changes to your pages, and to make sure they have the latest info. The number of times you are visited depends on how the search engine sets up its visits, which can vary per search engine.

Sometimes visiting robots are unable to access the website they are visiting. If your site is down, or you are experiencing huge amounts of traffic, the robot may not be able to access your site. When this happens, the website may not be re-indexed, depending on the frequency of the robot visits to your website. In most cases, robots that cannot access your pages will try again later, hoping that your site will be accessible then.

Resources

*SpiderSpotting - Search Engine Watch http://searchenginewatch.com/webmasters/spiders.html

*Robotstxt.org List of robots and protocols for setting up a robots.txt file. http://www.robotstxt.org/

*Spider-Food Tutorials, forums and articles about Search Engine spiders and Search Engine Marketing. http://spider-food.net/

*Spiderhunter.com Articles and resources about tracking Search Engine spiders. http://www.spiderhunter.com/

*Sim Spider Search Engine Robot Simulator Search Engine World has a spider that simulates what the Search Engine robots read from your website. http://www.searchengineworld.com/cgi-bin/sim_spider.cgi

Daria Goetsch is the founder and Search Engine Marketing Consultant for Search Innovation Marketing, a Search Engine Optimization company serving small businesses. She has specialized in Search Engine Promotion since 1998, including three years as the Search Engine Specialist for O'Reilly Media, Inc., a technical book publishing company.

Copyright 2002-2005 Search Innovation Marketing. http://www.searchinnovation.com All Rights Reserved.

Permission to reprint this article is granted if the article is reproduced in its entirety, without editing, including the bio information. Please include a hyperlink to http://www.searchinnovation.com when using this article in newsletters or online.


MORE RESOURCES:
This RSS feed URL is deprecated, please update. New URLs can be found in the footers at https://news.google.com/news


Search Engine Land

How to create a style guide for your SEO content writers
Search Engine Land
“My writers are inconsistent.” “How do I know if a writer 'gets' SEO?” As someone who's deeply immersed in the world of search engine-optimized (SEO) content writing, I hear these statements quite a bit. What I find is that there seems to be a gap ...
The Three Types of Content You Need for Successful Event Company SEOSpecial Events
Digital Marketing Agency, fishbat, Shares 6 Parts of A Successful SEO Strategy for Security Tape CompaniesPR Newswire (press release)
Top Local SEO Strategies Trending In 2018thesportsdaily.com
TechGenYZ
all 18 news articles »


Search Engine Land

Solving complex SEO problems when standard fixes don't apply
Search Engine Land
Seemingly every day, SEO continues to grow more complex. It's increasingly common for technical audits to uncover problems, and sometimes previously reliable fixes simply don't work any longer. What's an SEO to do in this situation? Hannah Thorpe, head ...



Search Engine Land

SearchCap: Google Smart Bidding, SEO content style guides & Google's 20th anniversary
Search Engine Land
Google adds Smart Bidding for Search Partners Sep 25, 2018 by Ginny Marvin. Smart Bidding may be used instead of smart pricing when conversion tracking is enabled. How to create a style guide for your SEO content writers. Sep 25, 2018 by Jessica Foster.

and more »


MarTech Advisor

Conductor Introduces New Enterprise SEO for Mobile and Local Search
MarTech Advisor
Local SEO makes Marketers visible to local customers when they're searching for answers. It is absolutely essential for brick and mortar businesses. And don't forget that 78% of local mobile searches result in offline purchases. That's why Conductor is ...



Mashable

Track 20 different SEO metrics with this Google Analytics add-on ...
Mashable
Everyone and their mother keeps talking about how you should always track your SEO performance to find out how your content resonates with Google.

and more »


Search Engine Land

SearchCap: Common SEO mistakes, Facebook outage impacts news site traffic & remarketing lists
Search Engine Land
Are you guilty of these common SEO mistakes? Sep 24, 2018 by Sherry Bonelli Mistakes happen. When they do, the best response is to learn from your errors, and those made by others, so you can turn them into opportunities. Google Analytics 360: A Buyer ...

and more »


Practical Ecommerce

SEO: Use 'Niche Down' Keyword Research for Content Ideas
Practical Ecommerce
Keyword research is one of the most effective search engine optimization practices. It can open the door to compelling content marketing ideas and link building. The so-called “niche down” method of keyword research starts with a single broad search ...



Zimbabwe WordPress Design And Website Development Agency, SEO Zim Expands Service Reach To Bulawayo
MENAFN.COM
At SEO Zim, the team of professionals understand that businesses without as much of an online presence in the 21st century are losing out on the potentials to reach a broader and wider audience on a global scale and as such offer digital solutions for ...

and more »


Search Engine Journal

Your Guide to Selecting SEO Rank Tracking Tools
Search Engine Journal
In the early years of SEO, ranking was the primary measure of success. SEO professionals focused on ranking #1 for their desired golden keyword and relied heavily on rank tracking tools to monitor their improvement over time. Over the years, SEO pros ...
Points to Consider Before Hiring an SEO Company for Your BusinessTimes Square Chronicles (press release)

all 4 news articles »


Business 2 Community

URL Structure & SEO
Business 2 Community
Technical SEO is an important aspect of search engine optimization. In fact, I have personally engaged in technical SEO that has resulted in about almost a 50% change in rankings just by focusing on your on-page to do list. In this article, I will ...


Google News

home | site map
© 2006