A Comprehensive Guide to Fixing Crawl Errors for Improved Indexation and Rankings

January 22, 2024

7 minute read
  • SEO
A magnifying glass examining a complex web structure

Crawl errors can be a major roadblock for website owners or SEO professionals aiming to achieve improved indexation and rankings on search engine results pages (SERPs). Crawl errors occur when search engine spiders, also known as bots or crawlers, encounter issues while attempting to access and analyze the content of a website. These errors can prevent proper indexing of web pages, negatively impacting visibility and organic traffic.

Understanding Crawl Errors

Crawl errors, in their simplest form, are indicators of problems that arise during the crawling and indexing process. When search engine bots encounter an error, they are unable to access the specific web page or the required resources, leading to incomplete or nonexistent indexing. Understanding the different types of crawl errors is crucial for effectively fixing and preventing them.

One common type of crawl error is the 404 (Not Found) error. This error occurs when a search engine bot attempts to access a web page that no longer exists or has been moved without proper redirection. It can happen due to various reasons, such as a mistyped URL, deleted content, or broken internal links. Resolving 404 errors is essential to ensure that users and search engines can find the correct content on your website.

Another type of crawl error is the 500 (Internal Server Error). This error indicates that there is a problem with the server hosting the website, preventing search engine bots from accessing the requested page. It could be due to issues with the server configuration, database errors, or conflicts with plugins or scripts. Fixing internal server errors requires troubleshooting the server-side issues and ensuring that the website’s infrastructure is functioning correctly.

What are Crawl Errors?

Crawl errors are encountered by search engine bots when they fail to access a web page or the resources essential for proper indexing. These errors manifest as HTTP status codes, such as 404 (Not Found), 500 (Internal Server Error), or 503 (Service Unavailable), among others. Each error code signifies a different issue that needs to be addressed.

One of the less common crawl errors is the 503 (Service Unavailable) error. This error occurs when the server hosting the website is temporarily unable to handle the request. It could be due to server maintenance, high server load, or other temporary issues. When search engine bots encounter a 503 error, they will retry accessing the page at a later time. However, frequent or prolonged 503 errors can negatively impact the website’s indexing and overall SEO performance.

It is crucial to monitor crawl errors regularly using tools like Google Search Console or third-party SEO software. By identifying and resolving crawl errors promptly, website owners can ensure that search engine bots can access and index their content effectively, improving the website’s visibility and organic traffic.

The Impact of Crawl Errors on SEO

Crawl errors can have a significant impact on a website’s SEO efforts. When search engine bots encounter errors while crawling a website, the affected web pages might not be indexed, leading to decreased visibility on SERPs. This, in turn, can hamper organic traffic and hinder the website’s potential to appear for relevant search queries. It is vital to resolve crawl errors promptly to maintain and improve search engine rankings.

In addition to the direct impact on indexing and visibility, crawl errors can also indirectly affect user experience. When users click on a search result and encounter a crawl error, they may become frustrated and leave the website, resulting in a higher bounce rate. High bounce rates can signal to search engines that the website’s content is not relevant or satisfactory, potentially leading to further ranking drops.

Furthermore, crawl errors can hinder the discovery and indexing of new or updated content on a website. If search engine bots encounter errors while crawling important pages or resources, the changes made to the website may not be reflected in search results promptly. This delay in indexing can delay the potential benefits of content updates or hinder the timely visibility of time-sensitive information.

To mitigate the impact of crawl errors on SEO, website owners should regularly monitor their website’s crawl error reports and address any issues promptly. By resolving crawl errors and ensuring a smooth crawling and indexing process, website owners can improve their website’s visibility, organic traffic, and overall search engine rankings.

Types of Crawl Errors

Understanding the various types of crawl errors is essential for diagnosing and fixing issues that impede proper indexing. By identifying and resolving crawl errors, website owners can ensure that search engine bots can access and index their content effectively.

HTTP Error Codes

One common type of crawl error is the occurrence of HTTP status codes. These codes provide information about the response status between a client, such as a web browser, and a server. Some common HTTP error codes that may be encountered include:

  • 404 (Not Found): This code indicates that the server could not find the requested web page. It may occur when a page has been removed or when there is a broken link.
  • 500 (Internal Server Error): This code indicates a problem with the server hosting the website. It may occur due to server misconfigurations or issues with the website’s code.
  • 403 (Forbidden): This code indicates that the server understood the request but refuses to fulfill it. It may occur when there are restrictions in place, such as password protection or IP blocking.
  • 301 (Moved Permanently): This code indicates that the requested page has been permanently moved to a new location. It helps search engines understand that the content has been relocated.

Encountering these HTTP error codes can negatively impact a website’s indexing and user experience. It is crucial to address them promptly to ensure smooth website functionality.

DNS Errors

Domain Name System (DNS) errors occur when a search engine bot is unable to resolve the IP address associated with the requested domain name. These errors can be caused by various factors:

  • Misconfigured DNS settings: Incorrectly configured DNS settings can prevent search engine bots from accessing the website. This can happen due to typos, incorrect IP addresses, or missing DNS records.
  • Server issues: Problems with the server hosting the website can lead to DNS errors. Server downtime, network connectivity issues, or overloaded servers can all contribute to DNS resolution failures.
  • Domain setup errors: During the domain setup process, errors can occur that prevent proper DNS resolution. This can include issues with domain registration, DNS propagation delays, or incomplete domain setup.

Resolving DNS errors is crucial for search engine bots to access and index a website’s content. It often involves working with domain registrars, web hosting providers, or IT professionals to ensure proper DNS configuration.

Robots Failure

A robots.txt file is a text file that provides instructions to search engine bots regarding which pages of a website should be crawled and indexed. A robots failure occurs when the robots.txt file is not properly configured, restricting the access of search engine bots to essential website resources and preventing proper indexing.

Common causes of robots failure include:

  • Incorrectly formatted robots.txt file: If the robots.txt file contains syntax errors or is not structured correctly, search engine bots may not interpret the instructions properly.
  • Unintended restrictions: Website owners may unintentionally block search engine bots from accessing important pages or directories by misconfiguring the robots.txt file.
  • Disallowed crawling: Certain pages or directories may be intentionally disallowed from crawling and indexing, but if the robots.txt file is not set up correctly, search engine bots may still attempt to access them.

It is important to regularly review and update the robots.txt file to ensure that search engine bots can access and index the desired content. Failure to do so may result in incomplete indexing or unintended blocking of important pages.

Identifying Crawl Errors

Identifying crawl errors is the first step in resolving them effectively. Fortunately, there are various tools available that can help website owners and SEO professionals detect crawl errors promptly.

Using Google Search Console for Error Detection

Google Search Console, a free web service provided by Google, offers valuable insights into a website’s performance in search results. By navigating to the Crawl Errors section of Google Search Console, website owners can identify crawl errors encountered by Google’s bots. This information includes the affected web pages, error types, and recommendations for resolving the errors.

Other Tools for Identifying Crawl Errors

In addition to Google Search Console, there are other tools available that can assist in identifying crawl errors. These tools, such as Screaming Frog and Moz Pro, crawl websites and provide detailed reports highlighting errors encountered during the crawling process. By utilizing these tools, website owners can gain a comprehensive understanding of the crawl errors affecting their website and take appropriate measures to fix them.

Fixing Common Crawl Errors

Once crawl errors have been identified, it is crucial to take prompt action to rectify them. Resolving common crawl errors will ensure that search engine bots can access and index all web pages effectively, ultimately improving indexation and rankings.

How to Fix HTTP Error Codes

Resolving HTTP error codes involves understanding the cause behind each specific error. For example, if the error is a 404 (Not Found) code, it is essential to ensure that the requested page exists and is accessible. This can be accomplished by checking the URL structure, redirecting the page to a similar alternative if necessary, or updating any internal links that may be pointing to non-existent pages.

Resolving DNS Errors

To address DNS errors, website owners should start by verifying that their DNS settings are correctly configured. This can involve double-checking the IP address associated with the domain name, ensuring that there are no server-side issues, and making any necessary changes to the DNS configuration.

Correcting Robots Failure

Fixing robots failure requires comprehensive review and adjustment of the robots.txt file. Website owners should confirm that the robots.txt file is properly formatted, free of syntax errors, and allows appropriate access to search engine bots. It is essential to ensure that essential website resources, such as CSS and JavaScript files, are accessible to search engine bots for proper indexing.

Preventing Future Crawl Errors

While fixing current crawl errors is important, preventing their occurrence in the future is equally crucial. By implementing proactive measures and the best practices for avoiding crawl errors, website owners can maintain a healthy and accessible website that search engine bots can effectively crawl and index.

Regular Monitoring and Maintenance

Regularly monitoring and maintaining a website is key to preventing future crawl errors. This includes keeping an eye on crawl error reports in Google Search Console or other tools, regularly checking for broken links and pages, and promptly addressing any issues that arise. Conducting periodic audits of the website’s structure and content can also help identify potential crawl error triggers.

Best Practices for Avoiding Crawl Errors

Implementing best practices for avoiding crawl errors can significantly reduce the likelihood of encountering issues. Ensuring proper URL structure, setting up appropriate redirects for moved or deleted pages, and using canonical tags can help search engine bots correctly index web pages. Additionally, ensuring the appropriate use of XML sitemaps and optimizing website performance can further enhance crawlability and minimize crawl errors.

By understanding, identifying, and promptly fixing crawl errors, website owners can greatly improve the indexation and rankings of their websites. Taking proactive measures to prevent future crawl errors will help ensure that search engine bots can comfortably access and analyze website content, paving the way for increased visibility, organic traffic, and overall SEO success.