Python SEO

Python has become ubiquitous. That means it’s found everywhere today. It has replaced Perl as the standard language included with nearly every Linux distribution, fortifying it in the world of tech in ways which even JavaScript can not compete. The fact that Python only continues to rise in popularity in the face of everything that should have killed it tells you a lot.

You can’t take up web development (webdev) without needing to program a little JavaScript. The JavaScript frameworks like ReactJS and VueJS are just big enough that they can consume you and become your main focus. While plenty of people do manage to find the love in JavaScript, it’s necessity for web-oriented work makes it feel like more of a logical choice as a general purpose programming language than it is.

The love for Python runs deep in a way that you will not encounter with many other programming languages. The story starts with a language called ABC which was designed to be friendly to beginners. While it’s still not perfect, what is? Python hitting this good enough 80/20-rule sweet-spot for so long across so many industries and in education makes it the one language to take up if you must choose only one.

  1. Crash Course in Python
    1. You Encounter Imports Right Away
    2. Imports Create Namespaces
    3. Imports Load Functions Into Memory
    4. Built-in’s, Functions and Classes
    5. Indents Matter (White space)
    6. Top-Down Order of Execution
    7. Primitive and Object Data Types
    8. Lists, Tuples and Dicts
    9. Assigning Values Versus Equivalency Operators
    10. All Objects Can Evaluate True or False
  2. Python Dict as Database
    1. Python Wrappers Simplify Complexity
    2. The Context Manager Opens and Closes Connections
    3. Things to Notice
    4. Endlessly Useful Database Trick

Crash Course in Python

There’s plenty of great resources on Python. I want to jump right into the SEO Notebooks, but before we do there are just a few words I’d like to say to get rid of the biggest questions you may have. They concern imports, the line indents, the dot-notation, and the top-down order-of-execution. If you need more, use one of the many books or online resources on learning Python. And as a bonus, double-quotes and single-quotes are used pretty much interchangeably.

You Encounter Imports Right Away

Almost every Python code example you see will start with an import statement. This is because Python like many languages does not load everything it might need into memory every time it is run. Instead, you have to explicitly tell Python what you’re going to be using if it’s not part of the small set of built-in’s. But the import system is still easy enough to wrap your mind around.

If foo is being imported, somewhere on your system there is a file named even though you might not be able to see it. Such files can be in the directory you’re working out of, but also there are special paths where Python always checks, including standard libraries, plus things that have been explicitly installed afterward, using the pip install command.

Imports Create Namespaces

When such an import occurs, a namespace is created for it which contains all its stuff that you can access using dot notation.

Let’s say a file named contains only the following single line of code:

bar = 123

If you import foo from a file named and try to print it’s bar value like so:

import foo


…it will produce the following output when you run the program:

>> 123

Imports Load Functions Into Memory

Notice while a value is set in the file that gets imported, you don’t see any side effects of the code having actually run until it is invoked by the print function being called. So importing import from gives access to bar in foo’s namespace.

Built-in’s, Functions and Classes

The print() command is a built-in function. It is one of the built-in functions that doesn’t require an import and is loaded into the global namespace. Imports might also load a special type of function called a class into memory, which are like functions but use a lot of dot notation in part of a coding style called object oriented.

There’s plenty more to learn, but the high-level idea of what imports are doing is one of the most important to know since it’s one of the first things you encounter, being the first line of code in many programs. As I freshen up Pipulate, I will be moving many of its more complex bits of reusable code into an importable module. The term library, package and module are often used interchangeably.

Indents Matter (White space)

The next thing to know about Python that is very different from other languages is that the amount of indent at the beginning of each line matters. Lines that are indented the same amount get grouped together. This is also done by in almost every other language, but the decision to abide by this in other languages is by convention and not enforced like it is in Python. Those other languages usually use curly braces for code-blocks and semicolons for line-breaks. Sometimes they’ll use keywords instead of curly braces.

Python assumes that if you’re going to be formatting all your code with indents and line breaks anyway, it might as well mean something, thus dramatically improving code readability and reducing the overall amount of code that you need to write and look at. Code written in other languages often looks unnecessarily bloated after working in Python for awhile.

Top-Down Order of Execution

Sometimes Python will look ridiculously easy and other times it will look mind bogglingly complex. Working in Jupyter Notebooks as we are here, the goal is to keep it all easy and work in very small chunks, each of which easily fits in a Notebook that doesn’t need you to scroll much. My goal is to make a number of discrete stand-alone notebooks. They can chain-up to achieve greater things, but whenever there is complexity, we externalize the complex bits into an importable library.

As such, we favor Python’s default top-down code execution style. When Python encounters a function or a class which you will recognize with the def keyword or the class keyword at the top of a series of lines that are indented underneath of it, Python defers execution until when that function or class is explicitly called. You can recognize a function being called because it always is followed by parenthesis. If Python’s top-down execution style is being overwritten because even the main body of the program is in a function, you will often see this weird bit of code:

if __name__ == "__main__":

We will avoid doing this in our Notebooks here, but you should know that’s a trick to keep the main function from running if it ever gets imported as a library instead of being run directly.

Primitive and Object Data Types

There are many types of data in Python and other programming languages. The tiniest ones are called primitives and are mostly integers, floats and strings which are just numbers and alphanumeric data. Sometimes you’ll hear them referred to as low-level datatypes. But there are also larger and more feature-rich types of data we call objects.

Lists, Tuples and Dicts

The three most popular higher-level datatype object models in Python are lists, tuples and dicts. We call them models because when you’re using a list, tuple or dict, you’re using an instance of that model which you have created, sort of like stamping something out from a template. Lists, tuples and dicts (dictionaries) are what really differentiate Python and give it a lot of its distinct personality as a programming language, turning it into more of a framework of prefabricated components than just a general programming language.


Lists let you add and remove items from a list, much like it sounds. They can grow longer and shorter, and are thus referred to as mutable or dynamic objects. Position in the list matters and you can use numbers to access data at positions in the list. You can create lists using square brackets.

alist = ["Item one", "Item two", "Item three"]

You can do things like append to a list and pop items off a list. Having such unique capabilities built into an object type is what makes it special.

alist.append("Item four")  # Adds a fourth item to the list
last_item = alist.pop()  # Sets last_item to last item and removes it from list

And you can access items in a list using their zero-based index.

print(alist[1])  # Prints 2nd item in list


>> Item two


Tuples are like lists of a fixed-size and often referred to as static or immutable. They’re used all over the place in Python to pass data where fixed-positions have meaning. They use parenthesis instead of square brackets.

atuple = ("Item one", "Item two", "Item three")

At first lists and tuples look very similar, but their use cases are very different. Because they don’t have dynamic capabilities like appending and popping, they are more memory efficient, so when you nest objects to achieve data structures like the rows and columns of a spreadsheet, you would typically use a list as the outer object and tuples inside. The following is a 3x3 grid constructed of three rows of tuples inside one list.

list_of_tuples = [(1, 2, 3), (4, 5, 6), (7, 8, 9)]


A Python dictionary (or just dict) contains key/value pairs. You’ll sometimes here key-value pairs, name-value pairs, or label-value pairs. These terms are all used to describe a data structure that consists of a pair of data elements: a key (or name or label) and a value. The key is a unique identifier, and the value is the associated data. They’re like lists, but instead of having numeric locations to access values, they have other values. Dicts can be created with curly braces.

adict = {"one": "Item one", "two": "Item two", "three": "Item three"}

The keys are the one, two and three to the left of the colon. The values are to the right. Dict keys must be unique. The Web is like a giant dictionary with URLs being keys and webpages being the values. You access values in a dict using the keys. Square brackets are used just like with indexes in a list, but instead of numerical values, you use the key.


Which displays:

>> Item one

We can likewise add new keys to the dictionary like so:

adict["Arbitrary key"] = "Arbitrary value"

This ability to throw new key/value pairs into a Python dictionary object is what we will be building upon in a moment for our web crawler. This is the key knowledge we’re building upon (pun intended). We’ll be using this key/value setting everywhere in these Jupyter Notebook FOSS SEO examples, making it persistent with the dictionary trick to follow.

Assigning Values Versus Equivalency Operators

There’s plenty more to learn about Python. It’s often said Python is a language you can learn in a weekend and then spend the rest of your life mastering. If I were to leave you with one last important piece of information before we dive into our web crawler, it would be that a double-equals == is a comparison operator whereas a single equals = is an assignment operator. And the hash symbol # is for comments. So…

a = 1  # Sets the variable named a to 1
a == 1  # Tests wether the value in a is 1, and will return True in this case

All Objects Can Evaluate True or False

Many things when tested directly in Python will return True or False depending on the value they contain. If something contains a zero 0, an empty string or a special value called None, it will return False when tested. If they contain anything else, they return True. This is often used to make code more concise. Colons : are used at the end of conditional operators like so:

if a:
    print("A has a value.")

The above has given a bare minim overview of Python so that we can get our web crawler underway.

Python Dict as Database

URLs and webpages make for perfect key/value pairs in a Python dictionary. So it makes sense to crawl a site into a dictionary. The problem with that is the content will be lost the moment the Python program stops running. And so we use the sqlitedict library from If you’re on a system built by the mykoz script, you already have it installed. If not, pip install sqlitedict.

Python Wrappers Simplify Complexity

A very useful, popular and lightweight database is distributed with Python. It’s called SQLite. Technically, it’s sqlite3. Python lets you use this database directly with the sqlite3 built-in package, but we’re not going to be using it because we can use the dict datatype interface much more easily. Wrapping one thing whose interface or API is somewhat complicated or cumbersome in another thing with a simpler interface is a common trick in tech, and particularly common in Python. So SQLite’s SQL interface is being wrapped to look like the dict interface.

The Context Manager Opens and Closes Connections

Part of the API simplification trick is getting rid of explicit open and close instructions to the connection to the database. Whenever Python or any system needs to interact with an outside physical resources such as storage (databases, files, etc.), there is the necessity to manage that connection to that resource. Of course computers being computers, this tedious housekeeping can be automated. Python’s way of doing it is with something called the context manager. For devices that support it, Python can use the with keyword to get rid of all this opening and closing. The sqlitedict package adds the Python dict API and context manager support to the built-in SQLite database.

from sqlitedict import SqliteDict as sqldict

with sqldict("name.db") as db:
    db[""] = "HTML of the page"

Things to Notice

Two things to notice about the above example are that on the import, we rename a single component we’re plucking out of the sqlitedict library to make it easier to use later. And we have to explicitly commit the change we just made to the dict in order for it to get saved permanently. Otherwise, the change is only in-memory. This is different than with a normal dict, but it is a small price to pay to use the dict API for a persistent database.

Endlessly Useful Database Trick

I believe this simple database trick of making a Python dict persistent is so fundamental and useful that it should be built into Python. It does away with mountains of complexity and unnecessary deliberation over what database and API to use for key-based data storage. Something similar can be done with a Python library called pickle, but the code is more complicated and it does not use SQLite for the actual data, so the performance is much slower and you’re not setting the stage to learn SQL later on at some point, another very powerful and important language, but not one you need to learn up-front when the dict API will do.