Search Engine Spider Simulator
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Many people, even within the realm of SEO work, aren't actually that familiar with how search engines work. So how do search engines make a catalog of all the websites out there, record all of the relevant information in order to determine each site's ranking, and then ultimately decide where each site shows up on the results page? Well, we are not going to go into how they decide who shows up where in this article, but we will look at how the search engines are able to gather and record so much data, especially as the information changes each day.
It would obviously take far too long for human beings to scan every website out there every day and record all of the necessary information. Because of this search engine companies have developed incredible robots that are referred to as "spiders". These cyber spiders "crawl" the internet one site at a time and quickly gather all sorts of information about the site including the source code, header tags, indexable links, and meta content. All this information then lets the computers decide where to place the website in the rankings.
Understanding how these spiders see your website and what kind of things they are looking for can help you climb the search result ranks. Luckily, there is a tool available called a Spider Simulator that can allow you to scan your website in the same way one of these search engine spiders would, which can give you an insight into whether your site might be missing some critical information or element that might skyrocket your ranking. This is an incredible tool for helping to build a website and should always be on your list of steps when checking how search engine optimized your site is.
How do I Use Search Engine Spider Simulator?
Search engine spider simulator is super easy to use and can immediately give you some great feedback and valuable information. All you have to do is enter your website's URL and fill out a simple captcha. The captcha is just to prevent there from being an excessive volume of requests all at once which may crash the site. The site will then take a second to crawl your site with it's simulated spider bot, and will then display for you all the information it was able to find on that page.
You can then use this information to make improvements to your site and try to improve your search engine ranking. Another great way to use this tool is for espionage. It can be very helpful to take a look at some of your competitor's sites and see how yours stacks up. Knowing what the websites of the top three search results in your field look like to a spider will help you get a good idea of what the search engines like to see in a top ranking site.
Let's start taking a look at all the information the spider simulator will spit out at you once it has crawled your website. The first thing you'll notice is the box displaying your website's "meta content". This displays three sub-sections labeled meta title, meta description, and meta keywords. This content is stuff that is placed within the HTML coding of your website and is placed there as a way to leave clues for the spider bots to help them to their job. By putting meta-data inside of your website's HTML code you can let the bots know what your site is all about.
Choosing the right meta-content to put into your website can be difficult. It is best to try and select keywords that have a high search volume but aren't very competitive. A strategy some people use to achieve this is to intentionally select common misspellings of keywords. Because the bot only sees the information for exactly what it is it cannot make a correction to a misspelled word, this means if you target a misspelling using meta-data you are much more likely to rank high when someone searches for something but accidentally makes an error.
You can fill your pages with as many meta keywords as you want, but specificity usually gets a better ranking than something with tons of unrelated tags. If you still feel lost it may be helpful to take a peek at a high ranking page. Looking at how many meta keywords they have and what they look like can really help brainstorm ideas and select great keywords.
H1 to H4 Tags
The next thing you'll see on the spider simulator is the box showing the H1 to H4 Tags. Unlike the meta content, this stuff is visible to every viewer on your site and is not information contained in the code of the site. H1 to H4 refers to the four possible sizes of headings you can have on your website.
Having all of these different heading sizes normally indicates that your website contains various kinds of lists and subsections which leads to content that is very easy on the eyes and readable on both mobile and desktop screens. Because the spiders take these headers as a sign of readability, which has an effect on ranking, it is important to make sure you have an appropriate number of each type of header and that they are showing up when spiders look at them. Using each of the header types will also cause the spiders to pick up on more relevant keywords and phrases, meaning you will show up for more searches than if your website didn't have varied and relevant headers.
When a search engine spider scans your website for information it will also look at how many pages are on your website as a whole. This is called indexing and creates a list of what are called indexable links, meaning links that direct to a specific section of a website.
These links are important because it allows the spider to crawl through all of your website, gathering information from each page. This allows the search engines to show the most relevant page of your website to the most relevant searches. If a spider is missing a portion of your site you could be missing out on tens of thousands of searches a month without knowing it, or the search engine could be sending people to a page that is less relevant than another one somewhere else on your site.
The spider simulator can allow you to take a look at your site through the eyes of a search engine spider and make sure that all of your pages are being indexed. Look at the number of pages in the column on the left and make sure it coincides with how many pages your website should have. If it has too few you'll want to go through them to find which ones are missing and find a way to make sure they are visible in the site directory. Checking out other sites and seeing how they are structured or how many pages they have may be useful when building your site to get an idea of how a good site is structured.
Readable Text Content
The next thing that search engine spiders do is gather all of the information that is visible to the user on the page. This means it looks at all the words on the page and compiles them into a lower tier keyword and long tail keyword list. The spider simulator tool allows you to see this as well, all of the visible text on your website is shown in the readable text content field.
One of the most important functions of doing this for the search engines is to collect what are called long tail keywords. These are highly specific searches that are usually in the form of a question. If your website is offering a solution to a very specific problem, and you write a post on your site directly answering a question related to your product, then you will almost definitely show up first when people type that question into their search engine. This is because a spider has taken the text from the page and already knows what question the content is addressing.
The other important function that this chunk of visible text serves is that it can be displayed on some search engines alongside your URL and other information. If your website shows up in someone's search result, the text they will be shown will come from this readable text content. Ensuring that this content is being picked up by the spiders and can be read by potential visitors is very important when designing your website.
The last thing that the spider simulator will present to you is the source code. This is essentially how real search engine spiders see everything and only shows the actual code that makes up the website rather than having it somehow visualized as a visitor to your website would see it in their browser. This allows the spider to get a firm understanding of what your site has on it, how big it is, what kind of content your site offers, etc.
This is where the spiders draw all of their information from, and in the source code, you can see all of the header information, the meta-data, and the readable content. If you noticed while you were looking over some of the fields that show up earlier that something was off this is the best place to look to see what's wrong. It's not uncommon when making a website for some header tags or meta content to not show up properly at first simply because of a typo or misplaced quotation mark in the source code.
How to Gain the Upper Hand in SEO
Search engine optimization is a complex process through which sites need to be taken that involves many steps. There are a number of factors that determine where a page ranks on certain search results and getting websites to rank high is a science and an art. One of the most critical elements early on in the SEO process is making sure the search engine spiders that crawl through sites and catalog the information on them can effectively see and make sense of your site.
This search engine spider simulator tool can help you see your site how a spider would, allowing you to ensure your site is appearing when it should on search engines. Spiders gather all sorts of varied information about your site, and if any of it is incorrect or incomplete you could be missing out on thousands of searches a month. Going over each category that the spider simulator shows will let you make sure everything is in order and that the search engines are seeing every part of your site.
If something is wrong it's usually easy to troubleshoot the issue by looking at the source code that the spiders are seeing. The source code is basically how the spiders see everything on the internet and if part of the code is written incorrectly it won't be able to pick up on what it was intended to mean. It can only see things literally so if the code is wrong in any way search engines could be missing huge chunks of your website.
This is a great tool for ensuring your website has code that is easily navigable by search engine spiders. By making sure spiders can read all of the content on your site you can make sure that you are getting the maximum traffic possible.