When referring to search engines, “bots” (short for “robots”), also commonly known as “spiders”, “crawlers”, or “web crawlers”, are automated programs or scripts that browse the World Wide Web in a methodical and automated manner. Their primary purpose is to index (or update existing indexes of) web content so that search engines can present accurate and timely search results to users.
Crawling: Bots start by visiting web pages, following links on those pages, and then moving on to other pages. In this way, they “crawl” vast segments of the internet, discovering new content or updates to existing content.
Content Collection: As bots crawl pages, they gather and process information on those pages — this includes the page content, meta tags, headings, links, and more.
Indexing: After collecting the content, bots store and organize the information in massive databases. This indexed content is then used by search engines to provide relevant results to user queries.
Following Directives: Bots respect directives provided by website owners, which can be found in “robots.txt” files. These directives might instruct the bot not to crawl certain parts of a website or to wait for a specific duration between crawls. Additionally, meta tags on individual pages can be used to provide more granular instructions, such as preventing the indexing of a specific page.
Refresh and Update: Since websites often update content, bots regularly revisit sites to ensure the indexed information is current and relevant.
While search engine bots are benign and essential for the functioning of search engines, it’s worth noting that not all bots on the web are good. Some bots are designed for malicious purposes, such as scraping content, injecting spam, or launching cyber-attacks. As a result, website administrators often need to monitor and manage bot traffic to ensure the security and efficiency of their sites.