Methods to Use Chrome to View a Web site as Googlebot

The writer’s views are solely his or her personal (excluding the unlikely occasion of hypnosis) and will not all the time mirror the views of Moz.

Introduction to Googlebot spoofing

On this article, I will describe how and why to make use of Google Chrome (or Chrome Canary) to view an internet site as Googlebot.

We’ll arrange an online browser particularly for Googlebot shopping. Utilizing a user-agent browser extension is usually shut sufficient for Search engine optimization audits, however further steps are wanted to get as shut as doable to emulating Googlebot.

Skip to “How to set up your Googlebot browser”.

Why ought to I view an internet site as Googlebot?

For a few years, us technical SEOs had it simple when auditing web sites, with HTML and CSS being net design’s cornerstone languages. JavaScript was usually used for gildings (reminiscent of small animations on a webpage).

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

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

Search engine optimization-wise, some search bots don’t render JavaScript, so received’t see webpages constructed utilizing it. Particularly when in comparison with HTML and CSS, JavaScript could be very costly to render. It makes use of rather more of a tool’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 – generally for days or even weeks, relying on the web site. After I see “Found – at present 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.

Trying to get round potential Search engine 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 Search engine 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 nasty thought. Web sites ought to be designed to work on the bottom frequent denominator of a tool, with progressive enhancement (via JavaScript) used to enhance the expertise for folks, utilizing units 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 harder to make use of for individuals who depend on accessibility units reminiscent of a display reader. There are situations the place technical SEO and usability crossover.

Technical Search engine optimization is about making web sites as simple as doable for engines like google to crawl, render, and index (for probably the most related key phrases and matters). Prefer it or lump it, the way forward for technical Search engine optimization, a minimum of for now, consists of a number of JavaScript and totally different webpage renders for bots and customers.

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

That’s the place this text is available in. For a correct technical Search engine optimization audit, we have to see what the most typical 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?


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

The goal is to emulate Googlebot’s mobile-first indexing as carefully as doable.

When auditing, I take advantage of my Googlebot browser alongside Screaming Frog SEO Spider’s Googlebot spoofing and rendering, and Google’s personal instruments reminiscent of URL Inspection in Search Console (which may be automated utilizing Search engine 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 Search engine optimization Spider, they’ll level in 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 an internet site in seconds.

Whereas auditing an internet site that served totally different content material to browsers and Googlebot, and the place points included inconsistent server responses, I wanted to modify between the default browser user-agent and Googlebot extra usually than normal. 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 (reminiscent of job administration, social media, or e mail functions).

Other than having a coder who can code a headless Chrome answer, the “Googlebot browser” setup is a straightforward option to spoof Googlebot.

2. Improved accuracy

Browser extensions can affect 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 simple to overlook to modify Googlebot spoofing off between shopping periods, which may result in web sites not working as anticipated. I’ve even been blocked from web sites for spoofing Googlebot, and needed to e mail them with my IP to take away the block.

For which Search engine optimization audits are a Googlebot browser helpful?

The commonest use-case for Search engine optimization audits is probably going web sites utilizing client-side rendering or dynamic rendering. You’ll be able to simply evaluate what Googlebot sees to what a normal 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 Search engine optimization and content material audits:

  • Is the principle navigation totally different?

  • Is Googlebot seeing the content material you need listed?

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

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

  • Is the web page structure totally different to what the final web site customer sees? For instance, I usually see hyperlinks as blue textual content on a black background when spoofing Googlebot. Whereas machines can learn such textual content, we need to current one thing that appears user-friendly to Googlebot. If it will probably’t render your client-side web site, how will it know? (Be aware: an internet 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 principally crawls from US-based IPs.

It relies upon how in-depth you need to go, however Chrome itself has many helpful options for technical Search engine optimization audits. I generally evaluate its Console and Community tab knowledge for a normal customer vs. a Googlebot go to (e.g. Googlebot is perhaps blocked from recordsdata which are important for web page structure or are required to show sure content material).

Methods to arrange your Googlebot browser

As soon as arrange (which takes a couple of half hour), the Googlebot browser answer makes it simple 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 improvement 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 identify within the Home windows Taskbar:

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

As Canary is a improvement model of Chrome, Google warns that Canary “may 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 will listing 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 Search engine 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, nevertheless it solely applies to the tab you’re utilizing and resets when 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 (observe that beneath, 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 beneath or observe these steps:

  1. Go to the Community tab

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

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

  4. Untick “Use browser default”

  5. Choose “Googlebot Smartphone” from the listing, then copy and paste the user-agent from the sphere beneath the listing into the Consumer-Agent Switcher extension listing (one other screenshot beneath). Remember to modify Chrome again to its default user-agent if it is your principal browser.
    • At this stage, when 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 listing, right-click its icon within the browser toolbar and click on Choices (see screenshot beneath). “Indicator Flag” is textual content that seems within the browser toolbar to indicate 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 listing, too.

Why spoof Googlebot’s consumer agent?

Internet servers detect what’s shopping an internet 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

Should you’re serious about why different browsers appear to be named within the Chrome user-agent string, learn History of the user-agent string.

Internet Developer extension

Internet 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?

Quick reply: Googlebot doesn’t execute any/all JavaScript when it first crawls a URL. We need 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 as much as 2GB knowledge switch a month and consists of US places.

I don’t suppose the particular US location issues, however I faux Gotham is an 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 affect how webpages show are disabled — Windscribe’s extension blocks advertisements by default. The 2 icons to the top-right ought to present a zero.

For the Googlebot browser state of affairs, I want a VPN browser extension to an software, as a result of the extension is particular to my Googlebot browser.

Why spoof Googlebot’s location?

Googlebot principally crawls web sites from US IPs, and there are various causes for spoofing Googlebot’s main location.

Some web sites block or present totally different content material based mostly on geolocation. If an internet site blocks US IPs, for instance, Googlebot could by no means see the web site and due to this fact can’t index it.

One other instance: some web sites redirect to totally different web sites or URLs based mostly on location. If an organization had an internet site for purchasers in Asia and an internet site for purchasers 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 simple comparability of uncooked HTML (what the net 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, throughout the similar 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 an internet site.

What doesn’t Googlebot crawling help?

  • Service employees (as a result of folks 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 won’t see that content material.

  • Googlebot is stateless so doesn’t help cookies, session storage, native storage, or IndexedDB. Knowledge may be saved in these mechanisms however might be cleared earlier than Googlebot crawls the following URL on an internet 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 usually docked throughout the browser window, however I generally want it in a separate window. For that, change the “Dock facet” within the second hamburger menu:

Screenshot showing the 'Dock side' of DevTools
Disable cache

If utilizing regular Chrome as your Googlebot browser, you could have completed this already.

In any other case, through the DevTools hamburger menu, click on to Extra instruments > Community circumstances 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 Employees > tick “Bypass for community”:

Screenshot showing the steps described above to disable service workers

Step 3b: Normal browser settings

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

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 sure something that seems there in future variations of Chrome):

Screenshot of Chrome's privacy settings

Step 4: Emulate a cellular gadget

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

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

Screenshot showing mobile device emulation in Chrome

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

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

How about viewing an internet site as bingbot?

To create a bingbot browser, use a current 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 engines like google are both powered by or based mostly on Bing search, so Bing is chargeable for a better proportion of search than many individuals notice.

Abstract and shutting notes

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

Utilizing an current browser to emulate Googlebot is the best technique 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 get pleasure from testing Google’s Vision API (for photographs) and their Natural Language API.

Auditing JavaScript web sites — particularly after they’re dynamically rendered — may be complicated, and a Googlebot browser is a method of creating the method less complicated. Should you’d wish to study extra about auditing JavaScript web sites and the variations between commonplace 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 beneath video. It’s 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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