Find out how 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 replicate 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 a web site as Googlebot.

We’ll arrange an internet browser particularly for Googlebot shopping. Utilizing a user-agent browser extension is usually shut sufficient for Search engine optimization audits, however additional 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 simple when auditing web sites, with HTML and CSS being internet design’s cornerstone languages. JavaScript was typically used for elaborations (comparable to small animations on a webpage).

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

Initially, internet servers despatched full web sites (totally rendered HTML) to internet browsers. Lately, 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 – which means the person’s browser and machine should do the work to render a webpage.

Search engine optimization-wise, some search bots don’t render JavaScript, so gained’t see webpages constructed utilizing it. Particularly when in comparison with HTML and CSS, JavaScript may be very costly to render. It makes use of far more of a tool’s processing energy — losing the machine’s battery life— and far 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 perhaps 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 as a rule 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 typically, I believe client-side rendered web sites are a foul thought. Web sites needs to be designed to work on the bottom widespread 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 typically tougher to make use of for individuals who depend on accessibility units comparable to 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 potential for search engines like google and yahoo to crawl, render, and index (for probably the most related key phrases and subjects). Prefer it or lump it, the way forward for technical Search engine optimization, not less than for now, consists of plenty of JavaScript and completely different webpage renders for bots and customers.

Viewing a web site as Googlebot means we will see discrepancies between what an individual sees and what a search bot sees. What Googlebot sees doesn’t must be equivalent to what an individual utilizing a browser sees, however essential navigation and the content material you need the web page to rank for needs 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, not less than, 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 will by no means be precisely positive of what Googlebot sees. For instance, no settings enable for a way Googlebot processes JavaScript web sites. Generally JavaScript breaks, so Googlebot would possibly see one thing completely different than what was supposed.

The goal is to emulate Googlebot’s mobile-first indexing as intently as potential.

When auditing, I exploit my Googlebot browser alongside Screaming Frog SEO Spider’s Googlebot spoofing and rendering, and Google’s personal instruments comparable to 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 obtainable instruments aren’t 100% correct in displaying what Googlebot sees. However together with the Googlebot browser and Search engine 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 modify between the default browser user-agent and Googlebot extra typically than regular. 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 classes. 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 (comparable to process administration, social media, or e mail purposes).

Except for having a coder who can code a headless Chrome answer, the “Googlebot browser” setup is a straightforward technique to spoof Googlebot.

2. Improved accuracy

Browser extensions can impression how web sites look and carry out. This method 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 classes, 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 may simply examine what Googlebot sees to what a basic 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 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 impression 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 basic web site guests.

  • Is the web page structure 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 need 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 Search engine optimization audits. I generally examine its Console and Community tab information for a basic customer vs. a Googlebot go to (e.g. Googlebot may be blocked from information which might be important for web page structure or are required to show sure content material).

Find out how to arrange your Googlebot browser

As soon as arrange (which takes a couple of half hour), the Googlebot browser answer makes it simple to shortly 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 checks 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 growth 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 checklist the extensions, then advise on settings and why I exploit them.

For emulating Googlebot (the hyperlinks are the identical whether or not you employ 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, however it solely applies to the tab you’re utilizing and resets for those who 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 comply with 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 checklist, then copy and paste the user-agent from the sector under the checklist into the Consumer-Agent Switcher extension checklist (one other screenshot under). Do not forget to modify Chrome again to its default user-agent if it is your essential browser.
    • At this stage, for those who’re utilizing Chrome (and never Canary) as your Googlebot browser, you might as properly 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 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 checklist, too.

Why spoof Googlebot’s person agent?

Net servers detect what’s shopping a web site from a user-agent string. For instance, the user-agent for a Home windows 10 machine 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 eager about 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 change 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 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 alternative of VPN) is used to spoof Googlebot’s US location. I exploit a professional Windscribe account, however the free account permits as much as 2GB information switch a month and consists of US areas.

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 that will impression 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 desire a VPN browser extension to an software, 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 numerous 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 an organization 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 allows simple 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 similar browser window.

Step 3: Configure browser settings to emulate Googlebot

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

What doesn’t Googlebot crawling help?

  • Service staff (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 information 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 shall 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 usually docked inside the browser window, however I generally desire 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 executed this already.

In any other case, by way of 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 staff

To dam service staff, go to the Utility tab > Service Employees > 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 instantly) 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 “Web site settings” (or go to chrome://settings/content) and individually block Location, Digital camera, 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 machine

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

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

Screenshot showing mobile device emulation in Chrome

No matter machine you select, Googlebot doesn’t scroll on webpages, and as a substitute renders utilizing a window with an extended vertical top.

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 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 search engines like google and yahoo are both powered by or based mostly on Bing search, so Bing is accountable for the next share of search than many individuals notice.

Abstract and shutting notes

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

Utilizing an current browser to emulate Googlebot is the simplest methodology to shortly view webpages as Googlebot. It’s additionally free, assuming you already use a desktop machine 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 photographs) and their Natural Language API.

Auditing JavaScript web sites — particularly once they’re dynamically rendered — may be complicated, and a Googlebot browser is a technique of creating the method easier. When 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 trying up articles and shows from Jamie Indigo, Joe Hall and Jess Peck. Two of them contribute within the under video. It’s an excellent 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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