When you have fewer visits from Google

Google website with search field

Google website with search field

Online marketing When you have fewer visits from Google

Published on 17.03.2022 by Biljana Nikolic, Digital Commerce Consultant at Swiss Post

According to various media reports, Google is planning to cut down on visits to websites made by its Googlebot. What does this mean for online retailers?

Like many companies, Google wants to become more sustainable. By its own account, the company has in fact been running carbon-neutral operations ever since 2007. Of course, this doesn’t mean there isn’t more scope for reducing its carbon footprint even further.

Reduction in crawling = reduction in emissions

The Google Podcast “Search Off the Record” explores one of the ideas aiming to cut CO2 emissions. This concerns unnecessary website “crawling”, i.e. when the Googlebot visits websites to transfer the site contents to the Google index. In other words, Google is considering reducing the number of visits its Googlebot makes to websites.

At first glance, the idea that a computer program visiting a website could have a measurable impact on the climate may come as a bit of a surprise, but it’s the sheer volume that counts here. Like all software, the Googlebot requires computing time, which in turn consumes electricity. What’s more, the data traffic must be distributed across the global data network. As such, even though the energy consumption for each individual request may be low, in the end it all adds up to considerable quantities of energy.

Many visits by the Googlebot are also actually unnecessary as nothing has changed on the page. This is apparent in the case of almost every website. Whereas, for instance, product, shop, career and blog sites change on a regular basis, companies aren’t going to edit the “History” area or the publication details on a website very often.

As Google’s search engine specialists outline in the podcast, there are tweaks that can be made to reduce the number of these unnecessary visits. In other words, we’re talking about crawling frequency as a whole.

Less frequent crawling = worse ranking?

Quite justifiably, SEO strategists in companies are now worried the ranking of their websites might decline in Google’s results pages due to the report. Yet this shouldn’t be the case, and for two reasons.

If you take a closer look at the results of the Google Search Console, you can already see that the Googlebot accesses some pages a lot less often. This is a clear sign that Google deems this document to be less significant to the search. Indeed, it is this issue that the podcast explores. The idea that a page visited more often by crawlers will get a better ranking as a result is a myth. Provided nothing major has changed on the site, there’s no need to manually ask Google to visit the site again. A site’s ranking is determined by other factors than the number of bot visits.

That said, these are currently only internal reflections on the part of Google. How exactly you go about reducing the number of unnecessary bot visits is not yet set in stone. As such, these early considerations have no direct impact on current SEO strategies.

Carry on using tried-and-tested tools

This means there is no need at present for online retailers to tweak their strategies in any way. It’s still important to make it as easy as possible for Google to index content. Tried-and-tested tools, such as “robots.text” and sitemaps, still work. The sitemap file in particular should be checked on a regular basis to make sure it is up to date. In order to keep customers informed about current products, prices and availability, using Google Shopping and a well-maintained product data feed is still one of the best ways of being visible to the search engine user.


Biljana Nikolic, Digital Commerce Consultant, Post CH Ltd

Biljana Nikolic has been working at Swiss Post since October 2019. Prior to this, she worked in retail for many years, where she was a regional sales manager at various companies. As a Swiss Post strategic advisor, she guides her customers into the digital future and supports them with this transformation – from determining digital maturity through to developing solutions.

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