The goal of any business serious about SEO is for prospective customers to find them through search. The reason is simple: these leads are more qualified, and are already looking for what the business has to offer.
But SEO is a many-headed beast. There are just too many rules, guidelines and things to look out for. From off-page elements to on-page elements, covering all aspects of SEO can easily become a Herculean task, especially when dealing with large websites.
That is why a tool that crawls your website on a regular basis and brings back reports on what needs to be fixed is a must-have.
A good web crawler tool helps you understand how efficient your website is from a search engine’s point of view. The crawler basically takes search engine ranking factors and checks your site against the list one by one. By identifying these problems and working on them, you can ultimately improve your website’s search performance.
Before, webmasters had to perform these tasks manually, usually using several tools for different functions. As you might expect, the process was laborious and webmasters would end up with several discrete reports they needed to make sense of. Today, there are all-in-one tools that can perform these functions in a matter of seconds, presenting detailed reports about your website search performance.
These tools come under a variety of names and perform varying functions. That is why you should give some thought to the process of selecting a tool for your business.
What exactly do you need to be looking out for?
First, identify your needs
Start from your own end. In your search for a web crawler tool, are there specific errors on your site that require a fix?
What are these things? Non-indexed pages? Broken links?
Take a look at your website features. The needs of a small website differ significantly from that of a large website such as The Huffington Post or Wikipedia. A small website can get by with a free tool such as Screaming Frog and achieve reasonable results. For a large site, however, free tools won’t cut it.
Most software comes with a free plan for a limited number of features/queries. But prices can quickly hit the roof when the size of the pages to be crawled and the details required increase.
That is why you should factor in your budget, decide on minimum and a maximum number of pages to be crawled, and then choose a tool that provides the best value for your money.
Basic features to look out for
A good web crawler tool must be able to perform the following basic functions:
Detect robot.txt file and sitemap
This is the very least a web crawler should do. Not only should it be able to detect these files, it should also detect non-indexable pages. These pages are not indexed by search engines due to restrictions from your hosting, for example, specific instructions in the robot.txt file.
Uncover broken pages and links
Broken pages and links cause a bad experience for your website users. That is why Google recommends checking your site regularly for broken links.
A good crawler immediately detects the broken links and pages on your website. Some even provide an interface where you can directly update the links right there in the software’s dashboard. You should put all these into consideration before paying for a software.
Identify redirect problems, HTTP, and HTTPS conflicts
Redirects are commonplace on the web. A good crawler should not only detect faulty redirects but should also give you the options to audit them.
With security as a factor in search engine rankings, your website definitely needs to switch to HTTPS. For sites with several pages and posts, making sure that every link directed at your website reflects the new status can be daunting. That is why a good SEO crawler should be able to detect these conflicts and give you easy options for updating them.
While the features mentioned above are the basic features you need to look out for in a good SEO crawler, you should also consider software that comes bundled with the following extra packages:
Ability to detect mobile elements
Mobile friendliness is now compulsory on the web, and although you may have implemented the necessary changes by switching to a responsive theme or implementing AMP, hitches can still occur.
Certain areas or functions on your website may not render well on mobile. An SEO crawler that is able to detect these problem areas is worth considering.
Ability to connect with Google Analytics
Google Analytics has rightfully earned its place as one of the favorite tools of any webmaster. It’s the hub where you monitor just how well your efforts are paying off and what you might need to change.
Therefore, choosing a crawler that integrates with Google Analytics would make your job easier, as you will have visibility over all of your reports in one place.
Options for keyword tracking
Keywords are the soul of SEO. The name of the SEO game, even in 2017, is to identify and rank for the keywords that your customers are searching for.
That is why an SEO tool that allows you to track how you are performing on keywords, or even uncover untapped keywords can be a gold mine. If these are features you’d love to have, then you should go for a tool with keyword tracking options.
Your aim with an SEO crawler is to your improve your website performance in search. Therefore, an SEO tool should be able to show you, at a glance, what is wrong and what needs to be improved. It shouldn’t complicate your life even further.
When choosing your web crawler, go for one that presents reports in a clean, clear and uncluttered way so that you can cut time spent figuring out what really needs to be done.
A good web crawler will help you to streamline your SEO efforts, ensuring that you get the best value for your money. The best software for your business ultimately depends on your specific needs and the features you require.
On a basic level, an SEO crawler should be able to analyze your site for broken links/pages, faulty redirects, HTTP and HTTPS conflicts, and non-indexable pages.
You may also consider crawlers which can detect faulty mobile elements, integrate with Google Analytics (or other marketing tools) and have options for tracking keywords.
Finally, be sure to choose a crawler with a user-friendly interface so that you can take in at a glance what works, what needs fixing, and what you need to monitor.