Thursday, August 16, 2012

How to Force Google to Recrawl Your Site

Meet "Submit URL to Index"
Last year, Google updated "Fetch as
Googlebot" in Webmaster Tools
(WMT) with a new feature, called
"Submit URL to Index," which allows
you to submit new and updated URLs
that Google themselves say they
"will usually crawl within a day."
For some reason, this addition to
WMT got very little fanfare in the
SEO sphere, and it should have been
a much bigger deal that it was.
Search marketers should know that
Submit URL to Index comes as
advertised, and is very effective in
forcing a Google recrawl and yielding
almost immediate indexing results.
Quick Case Study and Some Tips on
Using "Submit URL to Index"
Recently, a client started receiving a
series of notifications from
Webmaster Tools about a big spike in
crawl errors, including 403 errors and
robots.txt file errors. These types of
preventive measure alerts from WMT
are relatively new and part of
Google's continued campaign to give
site owners more visibility into their
site's performance (and diagnose
performance issues), which started
with the
revamping of the crawl
errors feature back in March.
Almost immediately, organic traffic
and SERP performance began to
suffer for the client site, which is to
be expected given the number of
error notices (five in three days) and
the rash of errors cropping up.
Here's the final email sent to the
client from WMT:
Google being unable to access the
site was the real tip off here, and it
turned out that the client's
developer had inadvertently blocked
Google's IP.
In the past, technical issues like the
one above might take days to
discover. But with these new crawl
error notifications are a real Godsend
and saved us a ton of time and effort
trying to isolate and diagnose the
issues, making my life easier and
helping greatly reduce the amount of
time it takes to solve issues. This
means we spend less time fighting
fires and more time on progressive
SEO efforts.
After the developer removed the
block on Google's IP and we felt the
issue was solved, we wanted to force
a recrawl. To do this, you first need to
submit URLs to used the "Fetch as
Googlebot" feature and get
diagnostic feedback on or either
Google's success or error when
attempting to fetch the URL.
If Google is able to fetch the URL
successfully, you're then granted
access to use the "Submit URL to
Index" feature.
Here are a couple of tips when using
this feature:
Select "URL and all linked pages" vs
"URL" when submitting for a recrawl.
This designates the URL you submit
as the starting point for a crawl and
includes a recrawl of all internal
links on that page and whole
interlinked sections of sites.
You can also force Google to crawl
URLs that aren't in your error reports
by going to "Fetch as Googlebot" and
plugging in any URL on your site. FYI
you can leave the field blank if you
want Google to use the home page as
a starting point for a recrawl.
When choosing additional URLs to
crawl, submit pages that house the
most internal links so you're
"stacking the deck" in trying to force
as deep a crawl as possible on as
many URLs as possible: think HTML
site map and other heavily linked-up
Keep in mind that Google limits you
to ten index submissions per month,
and that's per account. So if you host
a number of client sites in the same
WMT account, be aware and use your
submits sparingly.
After forcing your recrawls, you want
to return to the crawl errors screen
and select the offending category (in
this case it was the access denied
tab) and "mark as fixed" and either
individually select the URL or select
Now it's worth noting that there may
be a system lag with some of these
notices. So even after you've made
fixes, you may still get technical
error notices. But if you're confident
you've solved all the issues, just
repeat the process of marking URLs
as fixed until you get a clean bill of
The day after forcing a Google
recrawl of the client's site we saw an
immediate spike in crawl activity in
Webmaster Tools.
As a result, we were able to solve the
issue in a few days and traffic
rebounded almost immediately. I also
believe that submitting multiple
"internal link hub" type URLs for
Google to crawl -- including the
HTML site map and an extensively
linked-up resources page -- really
helped speed up recovery time.
Final Thoughts on Submit to Index
and Crawl Error Alerts
All of these feature upgrades in
Webmaster Tools -- like the crawl
error alert notifications -- are really
instrumental in helping SEOs and site
owners find and fix technical issues
With Submit to Index, you no longer
having to wait around for Googlebot
to crawl your site and discover your
fixes. You can resolve technical
issues faster, leading to less SERP
interruption and happier clients.

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