What Is Crawl Budget and Should Your Site Care?

Illustration of Seth Trammell



Jan 17, 2024


min read

What exactly is a crawl budget, and should you and your site care about it? To very quickly answer this question, if your site is below about 500,000 pages, the answer is probably not. That being said, the concept itself and surrounding practices are central to understanding how search works which can absolutely help you improve your site in other ways.

We’re going to explore the concept of crawl budget in SEO, explaining its importance, mechanics, and implications for websites with extensive content. By the end, we hope you’ll gain valuable insights into one of the more advanced technical SEO topics out there that’s commonly misunderstood. You should have a better idea of your site's interaction with search engine crawlers and its role in visibility and performance in search engine results pages (SERPs).

What Is Crawl Budget in SEO?

The term "crawl budget" refers to the number of pages a search engine's crawler, like Googlebot, will crawl and index on a website within a given timeframe. This concept is central in SEO because it determines how often and how deeply search engines explore your site. 

For websites with a vast array of content, particularly those exceeding 500,000 pages, an optimized crawl budget ensures that new and updated content gets indexed promptly, enhancing the site's visibility and relevance in search results.

How Does Web Crawling Work?

Web crawling is the process by which search engines use their bots, like Googlebot, to discover and index web pages. These crawlers start from a known set of web pages and follow links on these pages to discover new pages. 

As they traverse these links, they simulate a user's journey across the web, discovering and potentially indexing new and updated content. This process involves sophisticated algorithms that determine which pages to crawl, how often to crawl them, and in what order. The goal is to understand the content and structure of each website, enabling the search engine to deliver relevant results to users' queries. 

The complexity of a website’s structure i.e. its hierarchy and internal linking, its backlink profile, and the freshness of its content all influence how a crawler navigates through it. Effective crawling is a balance between depth (think click depth) and breadth (how widely it covers the site's pages).

What Factors Impact Crawl Budget?

Two critical factors influence a site's crawl budget: the crawl rate limit and crawl demand. The crawl rate limit represents the maximum frequency with which crawlers visit a site without overwhelming the server.

Crawl Rate Limit

Crawl rate limit used to be something you could adjust on Google Search Console, but as of January 8th, 2024 the crawl rate limit tool was removed. Furthermore, Google’s documentation now recommends against limiting the crawl rate except in some extreme circumstances. 

Robots.txt ‘crawl-delay:10’ 

Some have asked, “Can’t you use crawl-delay in robots.txt to limit crawl rate?” It’s true you can utilize the crawl-delay statement in a robots.txt file, and many sites do. The real question is — will search engines respect it?

The answer here is that while that directive is a part of the robots.txt nomenclature, Google and other search engine crawlers do not respect it.

Crawl Demand

Crawl demand, on the other hand, refers to how desirable your pages are to be crawled, often determined by their popularity, freshness, and changes in content. 

The popularity of a page is an interesting topic, as Google has long said that the user interaction element is a direct ranking factor. However, recent documents coming out of Google vs DOJ have shown, at least internally, that Google does value user interaction on the SERP.

So clicks and other user interactions likely play a role in this concept of popularity, but a longstanding known factor is ‘how many pages and what kind of pages link to your page?’ The more backlinks and user interactions you have on your pages, the more valuable and popular they are to Google for crawling as well as ranking.

Freshness can easily be defined as how up-to-date your content is relative to the topic. This will vary depending on the topic as some deserve more freshness than others, but sites that have content writers and publish frequently or update articles regularly with substantial new content are considered more likely to be crawled more frequently.

Why Is Crawl Budget Important?

For large websites, particularly those with 500k to 1M+ pages, crawl budget is a vital consideration. With such a vast number of pages, ensuring that the most important and recent content is crawled and indexed becomes a significant challenge. 

SEO and Site Visibility

A well-managed crawl budget allows search engines to frequently index new and updated content, which is crucial for maintaining high visibility in search results. It ensures that users find the most relevant and recent content when they search for topics covered on your site.

Crawl Depth

Crawl depth refers to how deep a search engine's crawler goes into a website's page hierarchy. It's an essential aspect of how search engines index a site. Crawl depth can be influenced by several factors, primarily the website's structure and how well it's interlinked. 

The aim is to make every page accessible within a few clicks from the homepage. The depth of the crawl is not just about reaching deeper pages but also about how these pages are prioritized. Pages with high-quality content, which are regularly updated and well-linked internally and externally, are more likely to be crawled in depth.

Relevance for Site Updates and Content Addition

Websites that frequently update content or add new pages need to be especially mindful of their crawl budget. If the crawl budget is inadequate, newer pages or recent changes might not be indexed promptly, leading to missed opportunities in search engine rankings. 

This aspect is particularly important for news sites, e-commerce platforms, and other dynamic websites where content freshness and relevance are key. The larger your site the more important it is you have the necessary sections crawled.

How Can You Check Your Site’s Crawl Activity?

Monitoring your site's crawl activity is essential for understanding how search engines are interacting with your website. One of the most effective tools for this purpose is Google Search Console. This free service provided by Google offers detailed crawl stats reports on how Googlebot crawls and indexes your website. It shows the number of pages crawled per day, the amount of data Googlebot downloads, and any crawl errors it encounters. 

By analyzing these reports, webmasters can gain insights into the crawl behavior and identify any issues that might be affecting their site's visibility in search results. You can find this report by going to settings and then crawl stats in your Google Search Console account.

Additionally, analyzing your server logs is another way to check crawl activity. Server logs provide raw data on every request made to your server, including those from search engine crawlers. 

By examining these logs, you can see exactly which pages are being crawled, and how frequently. The goal is to identify potential issues, such as an unusually high number of requests for certain pages or a concentration of crawl requests on outdated or less important sections of your site.

How Can You Improve Crawl Speed?

Improving crawl speed is crucial for ensuring that search engines can index your site effectively and ensure they want to crawl your site. The speed at which a crawler can navigate through your site depends on several factors. A few of the actions below can enhance the efficiency of the crawling process to help with the utilization of your site's crawl budget and even help to improve indexing.

Fix Broken or Redirected Links

Maintaining the integrity of your website's links is crucial for effective SEO. Broken links lead to 404 errors, while excessive or improper redirects can create unnecessary complications for search engine crawlers. 

Both scenarios can consume crawl budget, potentially diverting attention from more important content. Regular site audits to identify and rectify broken links are essential. 

Additionally, ensure that redirect chains are used sparingly and correctly, focusing on situations where content has been permanently moved. Efficient management of these external links helps in preserving the crawl budget for more critical pages.

Use Internal Linking Best Practices

An effective internal linking strategy is key to enhancing a website's relevance and ability to be understood by search engines. It not only helps in spreading page authority throughout your site but is also instrumental in guiding search engine crawlers to all your site's pages, improving crawlability. 

By linking one page to another within your site with relevant internal link anchor text, you create an internal linking structure that makes it easier for crawlers to discover and index content. The more links you point to a page, either internally or externally, acts as a signal to Google and search engines that that particular page is important. This is especially helpful for pages that are deeper and less frequently visited. This practice also aids in creating a clear site structure and hierarchy, which is beneficial for both search engines and user navigation.

Eliminate Duplicate Content

Duplicate content on a website can significantly waste crawl budget and potentially harm search rankings when one content piece “cannibalizes” another. Search engines may struggle to determine which version of the content to index and rank. To optimize your site’s crawl efficiency, be sure to identify and eliminate duplicate content while creating new content consistently. 

One example of this we’ve seen at GR0 is when sites try to set up international subfolders and ultimately copy every page on their site into a subfolder for the UK, Australia, and Canada. The goal is usually just to provide a proper currency version of a couple of pages, and a combination of canonical tags and hreflang tags get utilized to avoid what many call a “duplicate content penalty.” The problem here is one that also plays into an international SEO strategy, which is these duplicates provide no value and don’t need to exist. Even when they are handled with canonicals and hreflang tags, they are a waste for crawlers, and for bigger sites where crawl budget is important, this can be a real killer.

Optimizing Your XML Sitemaps

XML sitemaps are crucial for guiding search engine crawlers through your website. They list all important pages, allowing crawlers to find and index content more efficiently. To optimize your crawl budget, ensure your XML sitemap is up-to-date and includes only the most important pages. 

Pages that aren’t supposed to be part of the index should not be included in an XML sitemap. A well-structured and concise sitemap can significantly enhance a search engine’s ability to navigate and prioritize your site's content.

Monitor for Accidental Site Bloat

Site bloat, which occurs when unnecessary or redundant content accumulates on a website, can significantly drain your crawl budget. This includes excessive pages with thin or irrelevant content, outdated posts, or redundant media files. 

Regularly auditing your website to identify and remove such bloat helps in maintaining a lean, more crawlable site. Paying attention to your content strategy and keeping your site organized not only aids in better crawl efficiency but also improves user experience and site performance.

The Bottom Line

While crawl budget is a technical aspect of SEO, its optimization requires a balance between technical prowess and a deep understanding of user behavior and content relevance. 

Large sites need to focus not only on the technical realities of making their sites crawlable but also on ensuring that the content being crawled delivers value to both the search engine and the end user. GR0’s SEO team can help brands take this balanced approach, maximizing the benefits of crawl budget optimization and digital marketing strategies at large.


What is a web crawler? | How web spiders work | Cloudflare

Crawl Budget Management For Large Sites | Google Search Central

What Crawl Budget Means for Googlebot | Google Search Central Blog

Googlebot crawl rate tool is now gone | Search Engine Land

Reduce the Googlebot crawl rate | Google Search Central

What does crawl-delay: 10 mean in robots.txt? | Conductor

Website Indexing For Search Engines: How Does It Work? | Search Engine Journal


Case Studies