How to Use Chrome to View a Website as Googlebot


The creator’s views are completely his or her personal (excluding the unlikely occasion of hypnosis) and should not all the time replicate the views of Moz.

Introduction to Googlebot spoofing

On this article, I am going to describe how and why to use Google Chrome (or Chrome Canary) to view a web site as Googlebot.

We’ll arrange a internet browser particularly for Googlebot looking. Utilizing a user-agent browser extension is commonly shut sufficient for Web optimization audits, however further steps are wanted to get as shut as potential to emulating Googlebot.

Skip to «How to set up your Googlebot browser».

Why ought to I view a web site as Googlebot?

For a few years, us technical SEOs had it straightforward when auditing web sites, with HTML and CSS being internet design’s cornerstone languages. JavaScript was usually used for elaborations (such as small animations on a webpage).

More and more, although, complete web sites are being constructed with JavaScript.

Initially, internet servers despatched full web sites (totally rendered HTML) to internet browsers. Today, many web sites are rendered client-side (within the internet browser itself) – whether or not that is Chrome, Safari, or no matter browser a search bot makes use of – that means the person’s browser and gadget should do the work to render a webpage.

Web optimization-wise, some search bots don’t render JavaScript, so received’t see webpages constructed utilizing it. Particularly when put next to HTML and CSS, JavaScript could be very costly to render. It makes use of rather more of a gadget’s processing energy — losing the gadget’s battery life— and rather more of Google’s, Bing’s, or any search engine’s server useful resource.

Even Googlebot has difficulties rendering JavaScript and delays rendering of JavaScript past its preliminary URL discovery – typically for days or perhaps weeks, relying on the web site. After I see «Found – presently not listed» for a number of URLs in Google Search Console’s Protection (or Pages) part, the web site is most of the time JavaScript-rendered.

Making an attempt to get round potential Web optimization points, some web sites use dynamic rendering, so every web page has two variations:

Usually, I discover that this setup overcomplicates web sites and creates extra technical Web optimization points than a server-side rendered or conventional HTML web site. A mini rant right here: there are exceptions, however usually, I feel client-side rendered web sites are a dangerous thought. Web sites must be designed to work on the bottom frequent denominator of a gadget, with progressive enhancement (by means of JavaScript) used to enhance the expertise for individuals, utilizing gadgets that may deal with extras. That is one thing I’ll examine additional, however my anecdotal proof suggests client-side rendered web sites are usually tougher to use for individuals who depend on accessibility gadgets such as a display reader. There are cases the place technical SEO and usability crossover.

Technical Web optimization is about making web sites as straightforward as potential for serps to crawl, render, and index (for essentially the most related key phrases and matters). Prefer it or lump it, the way forward for technical Web optimization, a minimum of for now, contains numerous JavaScript and completely different webpage renders for bots and customers.

Viewing a web site as Googlebot means we are able to see discrepancies between what a individual sees and what a search bot sees. What Googlebot sees doesn’t want to be similar to what a individual utilizing a browser sees, however essential navigation and the content material you need the web page to rank for must be the identical.

That’s the place this text is available in. For a correct technical Web optimization audit, we want to see what the commonest search engine sees. In most English language-speaking nations, a minimum of, that is Google.

Why use Chrome (or Chrome Canary) to view web sites as Googlebot?

Can we see precisely what Googlebot sees?

No.

Googlebot itself makes use of a (headless) version of the Chrome browser to render webpages. Even with the settings urged on this article, we are able to by no means be precisely positive of what Googlebot sees. For instance, no settings permit for a way Googlebot processes JavaScript web sites. Generally JavaScript breaks, so Googlebot would possibly see one thing completely different than what was meant.

The purpose is to emulate Googlebot’s mobile-first indexing as carefully as potential.

When auditing, I take advantage of my Googlebot browser alongside Screaming Frog SEO Spider’s Googlebot spoofing and rendering, and Google’s personal instruments such as URL Inspection in Search Console (which will be automated utilizing Web optimization Spider), and the render screenshot and code from the Mobile Friendly Test.

Even Google’s personal publicly out there instruments aren’t 100% correct in exhibiting what Googlebot sees. However together with the Googlebot browser and Web optimization Spider, they will level in the direction of points and assist with troubleshooting.

Why use a separate browser to view web sites as Googlebot?

1. Comfort

Having a devoted browser saves time. With out counting on or ready for different instruments, I get an thought of how Googlebot sees a web site in seconds.

Whereas auditing a web site that served completely different content material to browsers and Googlebot, and the place points included inconsistent server responses, I wanted to swap between the default browser user-agent and Googlebot extra typically than ordinary. However fixed user-agent switching using a Chrome browser extension was inefficient.

Some Googlebot-specific Chrome settings don’t save or transport between browser tabs or periods. Some settings have an effect on all open browser tabs. E.g., disabling JavaScript could cease web sites in background tabs that depend on JavaScript from working (such as activity administration, social media, or e mail purposes).

Apart from having a coder who can code a headless Chrome answer, the “Googlebot browser” setup is a straightforward method to spoof Googlebot.

2. Improved accuracy

Browser extensions can influence how web sites look and carry out. This strategy retains the variety of extensions within the Googlebot browser to a minimal.

3. Forgetfulness

It’s straightforward to overlook to swap Googlebot spoofing off between looking periods, which might lead to web sites not working as anticipated. I’ve even been blocked from web sites for spoofing Googlebot, and had to e mail them with my IP to take away the block.

For which Web optimization audits are a Googlebot browser helpful?

The most typical use-case for Web optimization audits is probably going web sites utilizing client-side rendering or dynamic rendering. You may simply examine what Googlebot sees to what a common web site customer sees.

Even with web sites that do not use dynamic rendering, you by no means know what you would possibly discover by spoofing Googlebot. After over eight years auditing e-commerce web sites, I’m nonetheless stunned by points I haven’t come throughout earlier than.

Instance Googlebot comparisons for technical Web optimization and content material audits:

  • Is the primary navigation completely different?

  • Is Googlebot seeing the content material you need listed?

  • If a web site depends on JavaScript rendering, will new content material be listed promptly, or so late that its influence is lowered (e.g. for forthcoming occasions or new product listings)?

  • Do URLs return completely different server responses? For instance, incorrect URLs can return 200 OK for Googlebot however 404 Not Discovered for common web site guests.

  • Is the web page format completely different to what the final web site customer sees? For instance, I typically see hyperlinks as blue textual content on a black background when spoofing Googlebot. Whereas machines can learn such textual content, we would like to current one thing that appears user-friendly to Googlebot. If it will possibly’t render your client-side web site, how will it know? (Word: a web site would possibly show as anticipated in Google’s cache, however that isn’t the identical as what Googlebot sees.)

  • Do web sites redirect based mostly on location? Googlebot largely crawls from US-based IPs.

It relies upon how in-depth you need to go, however Chrome itself has many helpful options for technical Web optimization audits. I typically examine its Console and Community tab knowledge for a common customer vs. a Googlebot go to (e.g. Googlebot is likely to be blocked from recordsdata which might be important for web page format or are required to show sure content material).

How to arrange your Googlebot browser

As soon as arrange (which takes about a half hour), the Googlebot browser answer makes it straightforward to rapidly view webpages as Googlebot.

Step 1: Obtain and set up Chrome or Canary

If Chrome isn’t your default browser, use it as your Googlebot browser.

If Chrome is your default browser, obtain and set up Chrome Canary. Canary is a growth model of Chrome the place Google exams new options, and it may be put in and run individually to Chrome’s default model.

Named after the yellow canaries used to detect toxic gases in mines, with its yellow icon, Canary is simple to spot within the Home windows Taskbar:

Screenshot of the yellow Chrome Canary icon in a Windows 10 taskbar

As Canary is a growth model of Chrome, Google warns that Canary «will be unstable.» However I am but to have points utilizing it as my Googlebot browser.

Step 2: Set up browser extensions

I put in 5 browser extensions and a bookmarklet on my Googlebot browser. I am going to checklist the extensions, then advise on settings and why I take advantage of them.

For emulating Googlebot (the hyperlinks are the identical whether or not you utilize Chrome or Canary):

Not required to emulate Googlebot, however my different favorites for technical Web optimization auditing of JavaScript web sites:

Consumer-Agent Switcher extension

Consumer-Agent Switcher does what it says on the tin: switches the browser’s user-agent. Chrome and Canary have a user-agent setting, however it solely applies to the tab you’re utilizing and resets in the event you shut the browser.

I take the Googlebot user-agent string from Chrome’s browser settings, which on the time of writing would be the newest model of Chrome (be aware that under, I’m taking the user-agent from Chrome and never Canary).

To get the user-agent, entry Chrome DevTools (by urgent F12 or utilizing the hamburger menu to the top-right of the browser window, then navigating to Extra instruments > Developer instruments). See the screenshot under or observe these steps:

  1. Go to the Community tab

  2. From the top-right Community hamburger menu: Extra instruments > Community situations

  3. Click on the Community situations tab that seems decrease down the window

  4. Untick «Use browser default»

  5. Choose «Googlebot Smartphone» from the checklist, then copy and paste the user-agent from the sphere under the checklist into the Consumer-Agent Switcher extension checklist (one other screenshot under). Remember to swap Chrome again to its default user-agent if it is your essential browser.
    • At this stage, in the event you’re utilizing Chrome (and never Canary) as your Googlebot browser, it’s possible you’ll as nicely tick “Disable cache” (extra on that later).

Screenshot of DevTools showing the steps described above

To entry Consumer-Agent Switcher’s checklist, right-click its icon within the browser toolbar and click on Choices (see screenshot under). “Indicator Flag” is textual content that seems within the browser toolbar to present which user-agent has been chosen — I selected GS to imply “Googlebot Smartphone:”

Screenshot showing User-Agent Switcher options described in the paragraph above

I added Googlebot Desktop and the bingbots to my checklist, too.

Why spoof Googlebot’s person agent?

Net servers detect what’s looking a web site from a user-agent string. For instance, the user-agent for a Home windows 10 gadget utilizing the Chrome browser on the time of writing is:

Mozilla/5.0 (Home windows NT 10.0; Win64; x64) AppleWebKit/537.36 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/102.0.5005.115 Safari/537.36

When you’re excited by why different browsers appear to be named within the Chrome user-agent string, learn History of the user-agent string.

Net Developer extension

Net Developer is a must-have browser extension for technical SEOs. In my Googlebot browser, I swap between disabling and enabling JavaScript to see what Googlebot would possibly see with and with out JavaScript.

Why disable JavaScript?

Brief reply: Googlebot doesn’t execute any/all JavaScript when it first crawls a URL. We would like to see a webpage earlier than any JavaScript is executed.

Lengthy reply: that will be a complete different article.

Windscribe (or one other VPN)

Windscribe (or your selection of VPN) is used to spoof Googlebot’s US location. I take advantage of a professional Windscribe account, however the free account permits up to 2GB knowledge switch a month and contains US places.

I don’t assume the particular US location issues, however I faux Gotham is a actual place (in a time when Batman and co. have eradicated all villains):

Windscribe browser extension showing location set to New York: Gotham, with a background of the United States of America flag behind a blue overlay

Guarantee settings which will influence how webpages show are disabled — Windscribe’s extension blocks adverts by default. The 2 icons to the top-right ought to present a zero.

For the Googlebot browser situation, I choose a VPN browser extension to an utility, as a result of the extension is restricted to my Googlebot browser.

Why spoof Googlebot’s location?

Googlebot largely crawls web sites from US IPs, and there are a lot of causes for spoofing Googlebot’s main location.

Some web sites block or present completely different content material based mostly on geolocation. If a web site blocks US IPs, for instance, Googlebot could by no means see the web site and subsequently can’t index it.

One other instance: some web sites redirect to completely different web sites or URLs based mostly on location. If a firm had a web site for patrons in Asia and a web site for patrons in America, and redirected all US IPs to the US web site, Googlebot would by no means see the Asian model of the web site.

Different Chrome extensions helpful for auditing JavaScript web sites

With Hyperlink Redirect Hint, I see at a look what server response a URL returns.

The View Rendered Supply extension permits straightforward comparability of uncooked HTML (what the online server delivers to the browser) and rendered HTML (the code rendered on the client-side browser).

I additionally added the NoJS Facet-by-Facet bookmarklet to my Googlebot browser. It compares a webpage with and with out JavaScript enabled, inside the identical browser window.

Step 3: Configure browser settings to emulate Googlebot

Subsequent, we’ll configure the Googlebot browser settings in step with what Googlebot doesn’t help when crawling a web site.

What doesn’t Googlebot crawling help?

  • Service employees (as a result of individuals clicking to a web page from search outcomes could by no means have visited earlier than, so it doesn’t make sense to cache knowledge for later visits).

  • Permission requests (e.g. push notifications, webcam, geolocation). If content material depends on any of those, Googlebot is not going to see that content material.

  • Googlebot is stateless so doesn’t help cookies, session storage, native storage, or IndexedDB. Knowledge will be saved in these mechanisms however can be cleared earlier than Googlebot crawls the subsequent URL on a web site.

These bullet factors are summarized from an interview by Eric Enge with Google’s Martin Splitt:

Step 3a: DevTools settings

To open Developer Instruments in Chrome or Canary, press F12, or utilizing the hamburger menu to the top-right, navigate to Extra instruments > Developer instruments:

Screenshot showing the steps described above to access DevTools

The Developer Instruments window is mostly docked inside the browser window, however I typically choose it in a separate window. For that, change the “Dock aspect” within the second hamburger menu:

Screenshot showing the 'Dock side' of DevTools
Disable cache

If utilizing regular Chrome as your Googlebot browser, you might have finished this already.

In any other case, by way of the DevTools hamburger menu, click on to Extra instruments > Community situations and tick the “Disable cache” possibility:

DevTools screenshot showing the actions described above to disable cache
Block service employees

To dam service employees, go to the Software tab > Service Staff > tick “Bypass for community”:

Screenshot showing the steps described above to disable service workers

Step 3b: Basic browser settings

In your Googlebot browser, navigate to Settings > Privateness and safety > Cookies (or go to chrome://settings/cookies immediately) and select the “Block all cookies (not beneficial)” possibility (is not it enjoyable to do one thing «not beneficial?»):

Screenshot showing how to block cookies in Chrome settings

Additionally within the “Privateness and safety” part, select “Website settings” (or go to chrome://settings/content) and individually block Location, Digicam, Microphone, Notifications, and Background sync (and certain something that seems there in future variations of Chrome):

Screenshot of Chrome's privacy settings

Step 4: Emulate a cell gadget

Lastly, as our purpose is to emulate Googlebot’s mobile-first crawling, emulate a cell gadget inside your Googlebot browser.

In direction of the top-left of DevTools, click on the gadget toolbar toggle, then select a gadget to emulate within the browser (you possibly can add different gadgets too):

Screenshot showing mobile device emulation in Chrome

No matter gadget you select, Googlebot doesn’t scroll on webpages, and as an alternative renders utilizing a window with a lengthy vertical peak.

I like to recommend testing web sites in desktop view, too, and on precise cell gadgets in case you have entry to them.

How about viewing a web site as bingbot?

To create a bingbot browser, use a latest model of Microsoft Edge with the bingbot user agent.

Bingbot is similar to Googlebot when it comes to what it does and doesn’t help.

Yahoo! Search, DuckDuckGo, Ecosia, and different serps are both powered by or based mostly on Bing search, so Bing is accountable for a larger proportion of search than many individuals notice.

Abstract and shutting notes

So, there you may have your very personal Googlebot emulator.

Utilizing an present browser to emulate Googlebot is the best methodology to rapidly view webpages as Googlebot. It’s additionally free, assuming you already use a desktop gadget that may set up Chrome and/or Canary.

Different instruments exist to assist “see” what Google sees. I take pleasure in testing Google’s Vision API (for photos) and their Natural Language API.

Auditing JavaScript web sites — particularly once they’re dynamically rendered — will be advanced, and a Googlebot browser is a method of creating the method less complicated. When you’d like to study extra about auditing JavaScript web sites and the variations between normal HTML and JavaScript-rendered web sites, I like to recommend wanting up articles and displays from Jamie Indigo, Joe Hall and Jess Peck. Two of them contribute within the under video. It’s a good introduction to JavaScript SEO and touches on factors I discussed above:

Questions? One thing I missed? Tweet me @AlexHarfordSEO. Thanks for studying!





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