What is a robots.txt file? | I-AM-SEO (2024)

Robots.txt is a crucial file that helps search engine crawlers navigate and index your website effectively. However, despite its importance, many website owners and developers do not fully understand the robots.txt file and its capabilities. In this comprehensive guide, we will explain what robots.txt is, how it works, and how you can use it to improve your website’s search engine optimization (SEO) and user experience.

What is robots.txt?

Robots.txt is a plain text file that webmasters create to instruct search engine robots or crawlers on how to crawl and index their websites. This file is typically placed in the root directory of your website and contains rules that tell search engine bots which pages or sections of your website should be crawled and indexed and which ones should not.

The robots.txt file is not mandatory, but it is highly recommended as it can help prevent search engine bots from crawling pages that are not relevant to your website’s content, improving your website’s overall SEO and user experience.

What is a robots.txt file? | I-AM-SEO (1)

What is robots.txt?

How does robots.txt work?

When a search engine bot crawls your website, it looks for a robots.txt file in the root directory of your website. If it finds one, it reads the file and follows the instructions contained within it. The instructions in the robots.txt file can tell the bot to crawl certain sections of your website or exclude certain pages or directories from crawling and indexing.

If a search engine bot cannot find a robots.txt file, it will assume that it is allowed to crawl and index all pages on your website. However, if it finds a robots.txt file, it will follow the instructions contained within it.

The syntax of robots.txt

The syntax of robots.txt is relatively simple and easy to understand. The file consists of one or more records, and each record contains one or more directives. A directive is a command that tells a search engine bot how to crawl and index your website.

User-agent

The User-agent directive identifies the search engine bot to which the following directives apply. You can specify multiple User-agent directives in your robots.txt file, each with its own set of instructions.

For example, if you want to block all bots from crawling a specific page, you can use the following syntax:

User-agent: * Disallow: /page-to-block

Disallow

The Disallow directive tells search engine bots not to crawl or index a specific page or directory on your website. You can use this directive to block bots from accessing pages that are not relevant to your website’s content or to prevent duplicate content issues.

For example, if you want to prevent search engine bots from crawling a specific directory on your website, you can use the following syntax:

User-agent: * Disallow: /directory-to-block/

Allow

The Allow directive tells search engine bots which pages or directories they are allowed to crawl and index, even if they are located in a directory that has been disallowed. You can use this directive to allow bots to crawl pages that you want to be indexed, but that may be located in a directory that has been disallowed.

For example, if you want to allow search engine bots to crawl a specific page that is located in a directory that has been disallowed, you can use the following syntax:

User-agent: * Disallow: /directory-to-block/ Allow: /directory-to-allow/page-to-allow.html

Sitemap

The Sitemap directive tells search engine bots the location of your sitemap file, which provides a list of all the pages on your website that you want to be indexed. Including a sitemap in your robots.txt file can help search engine bots crawl and index your website more efficiently.

For example, if you have a sitemap file located at https://www.example.com/sitemap.xml, you can use the following syntax:

Sitemap: https://www.example.com/sitemap.xml

Crawl-delay

The Crawl-delay directive tells search engine bots to wait a certain amount of time before crawling your website. This directive can be useful if you want to limit the amount of server resources used by search engine bots.

For example, if you want to tell search engine bots to wait 10 seconds before crawling your website, you can use the following syntax:

User-agent: * Crawl-delay: 10

Wildcards

Wildcards can be used in robots.txt to match multiple URLs. The * character is used to match any string of characters, while the $ character is used to match the end of a URL.

For example, if you want to block all URLs that end with .pdf, you can use the following syntax:

User-agent: * Disallow: /*.pdf$

What is a robots.txt file? | I-AM-SEO (2)

The syntax of robots.txt

Best practices for robots.txt

To ensure that your robots.txt file is effective and does not harm your website’s SEO, follow these best practices:

Do not use robots.txt to hide sensitive information

Using robots.txt to hide sensitive information from search engine bots is not effective, as it only prevents bots from crawling and indexing the information, but it does not prevent the information from being accessed through other means.

Use robots.txt to block harmful bots

If you notice that certain bots are causing issues on your website, such as excessive crawling or spamming, you can use robots.txt to block them from accessing your website.

Be specific when disallowing pages

When using the Disallow directive, be specific and only block the pages or directories that you do not want to be crawled or indexed. Blocking entire sections of your website can harm your SEO and user experience.

Use a sitemap to complement your robots.txt file

Including a sitemap in your robots.txt file can help search engine bots crawl and index your website more efficiently.

Test your robots.txt file

Before uploading your robots.txt file to your website, test it using Google’s robots.txt Tester to ensure that it is functioning correctly.

What is a robots.txt file? | I-AM-SEO (3)

Best practices for robots.txt

Common mistakes with robots.txt

Avoid these common mistakes when creating and using your robots.txt file:

Disallowing all bots

Blocking all bots from accessing your website can harm your SEO and prevent your website from being indexed by search engines.

Blocking CSS and JavaScript files

Blocking CSS and JavaScript files can harm your website’s user experience and prevent search engine bots from properly crawling and indexing your website.

Using incorrect syntax

Using incorrect syntax in your robots.txt file can cause search engine bots to ignore the file and crawl all pages on your website.

What is a robots.txt file? | I-AM-SEO (4)

Common mistakes with robots.txt

Conclusion

In conclusion, the robots.txt file is a crucial element of your website’s SEO and user experience. By understanding how it works and following best practices, you can ensure that search engine bots crawl and index your website correctly, while also protecting sensitive information and preventing harmful bots from accessing your website. Remember to be specific when disallowing pages and directories, and to use a sitemap to complement your robots.txt file. Testing your robots.txt file before uploading it to your website is also important to ensure that it is functioning correctly and not causing any issues.

If you are unsure about how to create or modify your robots.txt file, it is recommended that you consult with an SEO expert or web developer who can provide guidance and ensure that your robots.txt file is optimized for your website’s specific needs.

FAQs

What happens if I do not have a robots.txt file?

If you do not have a robots.txt file, search engine bots will crawl and index your website’s pages by default, unless they are instructed not to do so through other means, such as meta tags or HTTP headers.

Can robots.txt be used to improve my website’s SEO?

Yes, by using robots.txt to block harmful bots and ensure that search engine bots crawl and index your website correctly, you can improve your website’s SEO and user experience.

Can I use robots.txt to hide sensitive information from search engine bots?

No, using robots.txt to hide sensitive information from search engine bots is not effective, as it only prevents bots from crawling and indexing the information, but it does not prevent the information from being accessed through other means.

How often should I update my robots.txt file?

You should update your robots.txt file whenever you make changes to your website’s pages or directory structure, or if you want to modify how search engine bots crawl and index your website.

Can I use wildcards in robots.txt?

Yes, wildcards can be used in robots.txt to match multiple URLs. The * character is used to match any string of characters, while the $ character is used to match the end of a URL.

What is a robots.txt file? | I-AM-SEO (2024)

FAQs

What is a robots.txt file? | I-AM-SEO? ›

A robots.txt file tells search engine crawlers which URLs the crawler can access on your site. This is used mainly to avoid overloading your site with requests; it is not a mechanism for keeping a web page out of Google

Google
The Google Search Network is a group of search-related websites and apps where your ads can appear. When you advertise on the Google Search Network, your ad can show near search results when someone searches with terms related to one of your keywords.
https://support.google.com › google-ads › answer
. To keep a web page out of Google, block indexing
indexing
The Google index is similar to an index in a library, which lists information about all the books the library has available. However, instead of books, the Google index lists all of the webpages that Google knows about. When Google visits your site, it detects new and updated pages and updates the Google index.
https://support.google.com › programmable-search › answer
with noindex or password-protect the page.

Where is the robots.txt file? ›

Crawlers will always look for your robots. txt file in the root of your website, so for example: https://www.contentkingapp.com/robots.txt . Navigate to your domain, and just add " /robots. txt ".

What should be in my robots.txt file? ›

A robots. txt file contains directives for search engines. You can use it to prevent search engines from crawling specific parts of your website and to give search engines helpful tips on how they can best crawl your website.

What is a robots.txt file in react? ›

A robots. txt file tells search engine crawlers which pages or files the crawler can or can't request from your site. The robots. txt file is a web standard file that most good bots consume before requesting anything from a specific domain.

How do I read a robots.txt file? ›

In order to access the content of any site's robots. txt file, all you have to do is type “/robots. txt” after the domain name in the browser.
...
Conclusions
  1. The robots. ...
  2. The robots. ...
  3. Hiding unhelpful website content with the disallow directive saves the crawl budget.
Oct 23, 2020

What is robots txt file & How do you create it? ›

Robots. txt is a text file with instructions for search engine robots that tells them which pages they should and shouldn't crawl. These instructions are specified by “allowing” or “disallowing” the behavior of certain (or all) bots.

Why is it called robots txt? ›

A robots. txt file contains instructions for bots that tell them which webpages they can and cannot access. Robots. txt files are most relevant for web crawlers from search engines like Google.

Do I need a robots txt file? ›

txt file is not required for a website. If a bot comes to your website and it doesn't have one, it will just crawl your website and index pages as it normally would. A robot. txt file is only needed if you want to have more control over what is being crawled.

What does robots txt on a website control? ›

The robots. txt file controls which pages are accessed. The robots meta tag controls whether a page is indexed, but to see this tag the page needs to be crawled.

Is Robots txt file bad for SEO? ›

The robots. txt file is a code that tells web crawlers which pages on your website they can and cannot crawl. This might not seem like a big deal, but if your robots. txt file is not configured correctly, it can have a serious negative effect on your website's SEO.

How many robot txt files are in a website? ›

Your site can have only one robots.txt file. The robots.txt file must be located at the root of the website host to which it applies. For instance, to control crawling on all URLs below https://www.example.com/ , the robots.txt file must be located at https://www.example.com/robots.txt .

How do I edit a robots.txt file? ›

To do this, follow the steps below.
  1. Log in to your WordPress website. When you're logged in, you will be in your 'Dashboard'.
  2. Click on 'Yoast SEO' in the admin menu.
  3. Click on 'Tools'.
  4. Click on 'File Editor'. ...
  5. Click the Create robots. ...
  6. View (or edit) the file generated by Yoast SEO.

How do I get robots.txt from my website? ›

You can find your domains robots. txt file by entering the website with the following extension into the browser: www.domain.com/robots.txt. Many website-management-system like WordPress do generate those files automatically for you and let you edit them within the backend.

How do I know if a website has robots txt? ›

Checking if you have a robots.txt file

Not sure if you have a robots.txt file? Simply type in your root domain, then add /robots.txt to the end of the URL. For instance, Moz's robots file is located at moz.com/robots.txt.

How are txt files created? ›

Open and use Notepad

The easiest way to create a text file in Windows is to open up the Notepad software program on your computer. The Notepad is a text editor included with Microsoft Windows. A text file is considered a plaintext file and Notepad is only capable of creating and editing plaintext files.

Can you have two robots txt files? ›

NOTE: There can be only one robots.

For example, if your domain name is www.domain.com, it should be found at https://www.domain.com/robots.txt. It's also very important that your robots. txt file is actually called robots.

What is a TXT used for? ›

In a Windows operating system (OS), a text file is created using a text editor, such as Notepad or Word. It has a file extension of . txt. Besides simply text, a text file is used to write and store source code for virtually all programming languages, such as Java or PHP.

Is robots.txt a vulnerability? ›

The presence of the robots. txt does not in itself present any kind of security vulnerability. However, it is often used to identify restricted or private areas of a site's contents.

How can I keep Google from indexing my website? ›

noindex is a rule set with either a <meta> tag or HTTP response header and is used to prevent indexing content by search engines that support the noindex rule, such as Google.

Are .TXT files important? ›

txt files are useful if you want search engines not to index: Duplicate or broken pages on your website. Internal search results pages. Certain areas of your website or an entire domain.

Are .TXT files always safe? ›

The plain text file format . txt is considered relatively safe. Even if this type of file contains malicious code, it can't be executed. However, criminals can use a double extension to trick users into clicking on a file, such as “attachment.

What is indexing in SEO? ›

Indexing is the process by which search engines organize information before a search to enable super-fast responses to queries. Searching through individual pages for keywords and topics would be a very slow process for search engines to identify relevant information.

Why do websites keep asking if I'm a robot? ›

Proving that you are human and not a computer programme is mainly to prevent automated software (Robots/bots) and spammers from performing actions on your behalf. CAPTCHA is a programme that is used to protect you.

Can I delete robot txt? ›

You can test changes using Google's robots. txt Tester. You can also delete the contents of the template and replace it with plain text rules.

Where do robots find what pages are on a website? ›

txt file, also known as the robots exclusion protocol or standard, is a text file that tells web robots (most often search engines) which pages on your site to crawl.

How robots.txt could lead to a security risk? ›

For instance, robots. txt files can contain details about A/B test URL patterns or sections of the website which are new and under development. In these cases, it might not be a true security risk, but still, there are risks involved in mentioning these sensitive areas in an accessible document.

Is robots.txt same as sitemap? ›

Robots. txt files should also include the location of another very important file: the XML Sitemap. This provides details of every page on your website that you want search engines to discover.

How do I get the robots.txt file from a website? ›

You can find your domains robots. txt file by entering the website with the following extension into the browser: www.domain.com/robots.txt. Many website-management-system like WordPress do generate those files automatically for you and let you edit them within the backend.

Where is robots.txt in Linux? ›

Please note that a robots. txt file is a special text file and it is always located in your Web server's root directory. It should be noted that Web Robots are not required to respect robots. txt files, but most well-written Web Spiders follow the rules you define.

What happens if you don't have a robots.txt file? ›

No, a robots. txt file is not required for a website. If a bot comes to your website and it doesn't have one, it will just crawl your website and index pages as it normally would.

How to use robots.txt file for SEO? ›

A robots.txt file tells search engine crawlers which URLs the crawler can access on your site. This is used mainly to avoid overloading your site with requests; it is not a mechanism for keeping a web page out of Google. To keep a web page out of Google, block indexing with noindex or password-protect the page.

What does robots.txt on a website control? ›

The robots. txt file controls which pages are accessed. The robots meta tag controls whether a page is indexed, but to see this tag the page needs to be crawled.

Can I delete the robots.txt file? ›

The robots file is located in the root directory of your web hosting folder, this normally can be found in /public_html/ and you should be able to edit or delete this file using: FTP using a FTP client such as FileZilla or WinSCP.

What is robots.txt in Linux? ›

The robots. txt file contains a list of directories and files from a web server. The entries within the robots. txt file are created by the website owner or web administrator and are used to hide directory locations from web crawlers.

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