Navigating Technical SEO | Adapting to Changing Crawler Behavior

Technical SEO Services and Changing Crawler Behavior: What To Know

By Brittany NaderFeb 29 /2024

Appeasing the ever-changing “Google machine” to get your brand ranked high and seen by the masses can feel like trying to think of the magic word to unlock a hidden treasure. Instead of attempting to crack a code, businesses have to continuously optimize their online presence for search engines, which is why many are investing in technical SEO services so they don't have to tackle these tasks alone.

Staying abreast of these changes while staying ahead of the curve is essential for maintaining a strong online presence that attracts quality leads. Optimizing content to get your brand seen online requires more than just researching keywords and inserting them into your webpage copy (although this is still one important piece of the SEO puzzle). As search engines become more sophisticated, landing at the top of your target audience’s search results page isn’t quite the walk in the park it used to be.

One of the most significant and perpetually dynamic developments is the way search engines like Google are approaching the process of crawling and indexing content. Google has designed its web crawlers to be more complex and nuanced in understanding a webpage’s intent and whether or not it deserves to rank on that coveted page one.

This advancement in crawler behavior has led some to believe that technical SEO best practices, which involve site speed, indexing, UX and content optimization, are no longer relevant or worth investing the time and effort.

SEO experts will tell you that is simply not true.

While it is essential to be aware of the shift toward user wants and needs, the core principles of technical SEO remain fundamental.

What To Know: Understanding the Basics of Technical SEO

Before delving into the specifics of how crawler behavior is evolving, it's crucial to establish a baseline understanding of technical SEO. Technical SEO refers to the optimization of a website's underlying structure and code to ensure that search engines can easily crawl, index and understand its content. This includes factors like:

  • Website speed: Google prioritizes fast-loading websites, as they provide a better user experience.
  • Mobile-friendliness: With Statista reporting more than half of web searches are now conducted on mobile devices, websites must be accessible, easy to navigate and functional on smartphones and tablets.
  • Sitemap: A file that lists all the pages on your website, making it easier for search engines to discover and index them.
  • Robots.txt: This file instructs search engines which pages on your website they should crawl and index.
  • Structured data: By using structured data markup, you can provide search engines with additional information about your content, which can help them to better understand and represent it in search results.

Think of technical SEO as the foundation of any solid digital marketing strategy. Louis Lakatos, SEO strategist at Kuno Creative, equates this component of search engine optimization to building a house.

“It's almost like pouring concrete right over the land before you build the house,” he said. “If we don't have that concrete foundation to build upon, if we're building on sand, the whole thing is going to crumble under its own weight.”

Lakatos added that if you’re focusing all of your efforts on meeting Google’s changing content standards to drive traffic but ignoring the basics, your whole structure is bound to collapse. Your website might look amazing, and your messaging might hit home, but if site speed is slow, images take forever to load and links are broken, there will inevitably be a dip in search engine rankings as Google struggles to crawl, and thus, understand your site.

“Sticking with the house analogy, you're going to have renovations come up,” Lakatos said. “It's not like you build the house, and then that's it.”

Ongoing maintenance and upkeep are essential for maintaining your site’s health and setting your online presence up for success from a technical standpoint. Trying to conquer this feat alone takes time, knowledge and continuous monitoring of new developments that many companies simply don’t have the time or resources to tackle in-house. This is where bringing in an expert to fulfill technical SEO services will ensure your structure has great bones on which to build an amazing digital marketing strategy.

“As we're updating the site, as we're adding new content, as we're switching out links, things happen, things break. It is just a natural part of anything dynamic and perpetual like search engines, which are constantly updating their algorithms in regards to what they prioritize,” Lakatos said.

How Crawler Behavior Is Changing

One of the key reasons brands invest time and money into SEO is that it is a relatively inexpensive way to draw in qualified leads, compared to more costly methods like paid advertising and media. Ideally, you’re using strategies that meet the specific needs of potential customers searching for a solution your business can provide. This is the essence of inbound marketing, and just as consumer behavior has changed over the years, so too has Google’s methods of spotlighting certain websites over others.

Google's crawlers—the 'robots' that scan websites and help them rank in search results—are becoming increasingly sophisticated. They are now able to:

  • Better understand the context of content: Search engines are now going beyond simple keyword matching to understand a web page's overall meaning and intent. This includes factors like the use of latent semantic indexing (LSI) keywords, which are related terms that help provide context to a page's main topic.

  • Follow user behavior: Google can track how users interact with websites, from the pages they click on to how long they spend on each page. This information can be used to inform how search engines crawl and index websites, as well as determine if a page provides value to visitors who engage with the page in meaningful ways like watching video embeds or staying on the page for a few minutes to more fully engage with the content.

  • Evaluate content quality: Search engines are now placing a greater emphasis on content quality. This means that websites with high-quality, informative and well-written content are more likely to rank higher in search results.

This is where marrying technical SEO services with an effective content marketing strategy comes into play. Google values unique, helpful, comprehensive content that directs searchers to relevant answers and solutions. Coupled with this, search engines are also looking for clarity and the ability to understand a webpage quickly. The more clearly and comprehensively a page presents its information, the better it will rank.

A screengrab of Google Analytics showing steady performance improvements after Kuno specialists implemented technical and on-page SEO adjustments.

“What you're really trying to do is you're trying to be the signal amongst the noise,” Lakatos said.

While Google rewards sites that comprehensively explain and present useful information on a topic, today’s brands must avoid falling into the AI trap. Artificial intelligence can be an incredibly useful tool for your marketing efforts, but because Google is ever-evolving, it’s picking up on techniques some brands are trying to use to generate massive amounts of generic content and, in turn, is penalizing them for it by lowering their search engine rankings.

With the rise of AI-generated content, Google has to find a way to distinguish quality from quantity. You've got to cover a particular topic as widely and as comprehensively as you can so you're providing value to people searching for that information. In turn, content needs to be original and presented clearly with your ideal reader in mind. It must also be optimized for search engines by incorporating data-driven aspects like specific keywords and naturally occurring phrases found on your top competitors' sites.

It’s worth noting that because Google is now automating the way its AIs talk to each other, the monolith is investing massive amounts of money and resources into its bots. The more time these crawlers spend trying to understand what your website is trying to communicate, the more resources it expends. This costs Google money. Behind the scenes, this expense will ding your rankings. Google rewards data-driven SEO and content marketing strategy like what we at Kuno offer our clients.

Google Analytics screencap showing an increase in ranking keywords for a Kuno SEO client“If Google’s crawlers come to the page and understand it pretty much right off the bat, that saves them money,” Lakatos said. “Even if it's just a few seconds’ worth, that's less resources they have to expend crawling the site and understanding what it's about.”

Lakatos points out that some businesses that copy and paste content from AI tools like ChatGPT may see an initial traffic spike, but that rise in rankings will be fleeting. One key reason for this is that Google is sensitive to abrupt changes that fail to offer value. Using an AI tool to generate 300 “generic” blog articles, for example, then publishing all of those articles on your website on the same day is an abnormal signal and it isn’t clear how you are providing value.

The search engine has become intelligent enough to recognize that with a history of adapting to the methods most use in response to the latest craze like AI. You’ll need comprehensive data-driven strategies, tools and techniques that engage with Google as it adapts, provides value and proves to see consistent growth year over year.

“Google knows that you're not providing value. It's not a clarity of signal,” Lakatos said. “It's just a bunch of generic white noise that you're presenting, which is no different from what everybody else is doing because that's what AI is doing — rehashing what’s already been written.”

What To Do: Be Clear and Comprehensive. Let Google Be Complex.

SEO isn't a one-time task, but an ongoing strategy that needs to adapt to changes over time. Using our house analogy, the way you take care of your home will change as time passes, but the need for care remains constant. While the way search engines crawl and index content is evolving, the fundamental principles of technical SEO must be considered.

“Things break, things get weaker, and you need to fix them or make them stronger in response to the shifting landscape. Your site might be experiencing all these technical issues that it’s like attaching a weight or trying to run in sand. With proper SEO, you’re running on pavement,” Lakatos said.

Search engines are complex and dynamic, and your strategy should be adapted and monitored accordingly. Google's algorithm takes into account hundreds of thousands of factors, with the top ones shifting regularly. Providing value to search engines and end users involves creating clear signals through content and technical structure, ensuring both the reader and Google’s crawlers understand your web pages quickly and easily.

“If you buy a book and you can’t understand the first chapter, you’re likely to move on. You want that story to be easy to read, well-structured and engaging. Just like your website,” Lakatos said.

These days, Google determines value in content through a variety of factors, including:

  • Comprehensive, authoritative coverage of a topic
  • Proper insertion of keywords
  • Multimedia components
  • On-page time
  • Appropriate internal and external links

These SEO factors themselves evolve along with the algorithm. When it comes to finding the “magic word” that makes your brand’s online presence a hit with the right audiences, there is no secret code. It’s all about structure, clarity and providing value with continuous monitoring, adjusting and improving over time.

In a nutshell, here’s what brands can start doing today:

  1. Focus on creating high-quality content.
    As search engines prioritize informative, quality copy and media, creating informative, engaging and valuable content should be at the core of your SEO strategy, along with data-driven optimizations.

  2. Maintain a strong technical foundation.
    Ensure your website is fast, mobile-friendly and has a clear and logical structure through the use of links, headers and other on-page SEO techniques.

  3. Optimize for user experience.
    Provide a positive user experience (UX) by making your website easy to navigate and intuitive for visitors to take your desired action, whether that’s making a purchase, contacting sales or downloading a resource.

  4. Stay up-to-date with the latest trends.
    Stay informed about the latest SEO and crawler behavior developments to adapt your strategy accordingly. Find support through professional technical SEO services and strategists committed to learning and implementing the latest changes and evolution of Google and other search engines.

Work With a Team of SEO and Marketing Experts

Ensure your website is well-positioned to rank higher in search results and achieve your SEO goals by partnering with a full-service digital marketing company. At Kuno Creative, we continuously monitor the site health and ranking of each client’s web pages to ensure they’re increasing the number of quality leads.

Our expert team employs search engine marketing to drive targeted traffic to your site, adjusting and providing recommendations to boost organic search numbers and deliver your desired results. Schedule a consultation to tell us about your SEO goals and discover what we can do for you.

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Brittany Nader
The Author

Brittany Nader

Brittany uses her journalism experience to tell stories that make an impact. Before Kuno, she worked as a Content Marketing Specialist for several brands. She freelances as a producer and writer for Northeast Ohio's NPR station and has won several awards from the Society of Professional Journalists.