Pop quiz: If you publish a webpage, do search engines rank it?
For a search engine to rank your page, it has to crawl it first.
This is where the crawl budget comes into play.
Search engines use their crawl budget to crawl your website.
If there is a crawl error on the webpage (i.e., 404, 403, 503, etc.), search engines will not crawl the page with the error.
In an attempt to set the record straight once and for all, we’ve tapped into Google’s documents to fact-check this common SEO myth.
🥁 Drumroll, please: Find the truth about some of your crawl errors and crawl budget beliefs ahead.
The Claim: Crawl Errors & Crawl Budget As Ranking Factors
Before exploring the evidence, here’s a bit of a refresher on crawl errors and crawl budget.
What Is A Crawl Error?
Crawl errors are issues search engines discover when trying to access a webpage. These errors stop search engines from reading and indexing your content.
If search engines can’t read or index your content, the chances of ranking for those pages are slim.
What Is Crawl Budget?
Crawl budget refers to the amount of pages a search engine can crawl. Google breaks down its crawl budget by two factors:
- Crawl rate limit, the speed of pages, crawl errors, and crawl limit set in Google Search Console.
- Crawl demand, meaning the popularity of your pages as it relates to freshness.
Still with me? Now let’s examine how crawl errors and crawl budget impact rankings.
Crawl Errors & Crawl Budget As Ranking Factors: The Evidence
Are Crawl Errors A Ranking Factor?
Let’s just get this out there: No, crawl errors are not a ranking factor.
In fact, Google’s John Mueller says it’s normal if 30-40% of URLs in Google Search Console are returning 404 errors.
Is Crawl Budget A Ranking Factor?
All the way back in 2009, Google affirmed it could only detect a percentage of content on the internet.
“The Internet is a big place; new content is being created all the time. Google has a finite number of resources, so when faced with the nearly-infinite quantity of content that’s available online, Googlebot is only able to find and crawl a percentage of that content.
Then, of the content we’ve crawled, we’re only able to index a portion.”
In 2017, Google Webmaster Trend Analyst Gary IIlyes published “What Crawl Budget Means for Googlebot,” which explains how Google calculates crawl budget.
At the beginning of this article, Google states:
“First, we’d like to emphasize that crawl budget, as described below, is not something most publishers have to worry about. If new pages tend to be crawled the same day they’re published, crawl budget is not something webmasters need to focus on.
Likewise, if a site has fewer than a few thousand URLs, most of the time it will be crawled efficiently.”
And, at the bottom, Google answers whether crawling is a ranking factor:
“An increased crawl rate will not necessarily lead to better positions in Search results. Google uses hundreds of signals to rank the results, and while crawling is necessary for being in the results, it’s not a ranking signal.”
There you have it, straight from Google. Crawl budget is not a ranking factor.
Now, if you’re interested in learning how to optimize your crawl budget, contributor Nicolas Vargas shares everything you need to know about it here.
Crawl Errors & Crawl Budget As A Ranking Signal: Our Verdict
Just in case you went straight to the end of this chapter without reading anything else, let’s say it again: Neither crawl errors nor crawl budget are Google ranking factors.
That said, if a page cannot be indexed or rendered, it will not rank (or pass any link equity). Crawl errors can indicate whether this is happening on your site, so it is an important SEO check.
While there’s no one-size-fits-all, universal model when it comes to handling your crawl errors and crawl budget when it comes to your SEO strategy, it helps to know that an overwhelming amount of crawl errors in Google Search Console does not directly affect your rankings.
Featured Image: Paulo Bobita/SearchEngineJournal