Robots.txt: Everything You Need To Know


As a concept, robots.txt is pretty straightforward. Even as things become a little more complex, your core understanding of everything robots.txt does will remain largely untouched. However, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take robots.txt seriously. This is a small element to your website, but it’s a significant one.

A single mistake in your robots.txt can create an elaborate disaster for your website. This is definitely a concept that you want to appreciate in full.

Defining Robots.txt

As the name might imply, a robots.txt file is indeed a text file. It follows a strict syntax. This syntax has to remain strict for the fact that it has to remain device readable. The search engine spiders that look for this text file are also known as robots. This is where the name comes from. Another name for robots.txt would be “Robots Exclusion Protocol.”

The file was essentially created from an agreement. This agreement was amongst some of the earlier search engines. The end result isn’t a universal standard per say, but it is something that all current search engines continue to utilize. The relationship between the bots that populate search engines like Google or Bing, and this specific file, is a crucial element to how search engines continue to work. It is the first thing the bots are going to look for, when they come across your site.

When it comes to your website and robots.txt, there are three priorities you need to address.

  • You need to make sure you have the file.
  • You also need to make sure that it is not harming or damaging your ranking. Within that, you must also make sure it isn’t blocking content you don’t want blocked.
  • Finally, you must decide if you actually need one.

Robots.txt Priorities For Your Site

Adding “/robots.txt” to the end of your domain will let you know if your site has robots.txt. You should come to a file. You will have a file with words, or a file without words. In some cases, you won’t find a file at all.

Next, you want to make sure the robots.txt file isn’t causing any problems. Test your file at the Google search console. Look for the robots.txt Tester tool. Follow all of the instructions carefully.

Your final step is to determine whether or not your site needs one of these files. Many do. Some don’t. It is important in this situation to consider the pros and cons of robots.txt.

In the first place, you can block certain pieces of your content from search engine spiders. Since these spiders will only crawl over a certain amount of your site, blocking off certain sections can be beneficial. It can put your “crawl” allowance towards other parts of the site.

Paid ads or links with special instructions for the crawl spiders can also benefit from robots.txt. You might be developing a website that’s live, but still not in a condition that you want to draw attention to. Robots.txt can keep the search engines away.

In certain situations, robots.txt can even help you to follow certain Google guidelines.

But there are some downsides. For one thing, you still can’t tell search engines which URLs cannot appear in their search results. You should also keep link value in mind. Using robots.txt can prevent spiders from getting to certain parts of your site. That also means you won’t be able to spread your link value around.

What Else Do I Need To Know?

You can actually use notepads or plain text editors to create one of these files. You can also use a code editor. In fact, you can even cut and paste one.

Your robots.txt instructions will lead to one of three outcomes. Full allow means all content will be crawled. Full disallow means no content will be crawled. Conditional allow features directives that indicate that only some content will be crawled.

Furthermore, if you want to block one search engine, you can do this. If you want to block all of the search engines, you can do that. If you want all of your content to be crawled, you may not need to do anything. Otherwise, you will want to create an empty file called robots.txt. You can also create a file that will be called robots.txt, containing “User-agent: *”, with the second line reading “Disallow:”

If you put a “/” at the end of “Disallow:”, you get “Disallow: /”. This will mean that no content may be crawled. Keep in mind that doing this means that search engines will be unable to index or display any of your webpages. You can also put specific things behind it. For example, if you put in “Disallow: /Photo”, you’re telling the crawlers to avoid that part of your site.

Additional directives are available. This includes an allow directive, a noindex directive, a host directive, and a crawl-delay directive.

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