Robots.txt is a text that informs search engines about the rules on a particular website. For example, when using SEO services, a website sends signals to search engines in which they use robots.txt to communicate their crawling preferences. The text tells web robots how they need to crawl pages.
|Also Read: Advanced SEO Tips & Techniques|
The instructions that a robots.txt file gives to search engines are called directives. Search engines will search for these directives before crawling the entire website. While most search engines respect the directives, there are some parts that they can ignore. Either way, these directives are optional and not mandatory for search engines.
How does robots.txt work for search engines?
SEO services in the USA use search engines with two primary goals in mind when scanning through websites. Those are:
- Crawling the website to discover content
- Indexing content so that they answer relevant search queries made by people on the internet
While crawling, search engines go from one website to the other. Multiple links are added to a single piece of content, and search engines find themselves crawling around millions of pages on the web. Whenever the search engine approaches a new website, it looks for the robots.txt file. This file helps them in navigating and crawl through the content. It can also prohibit some sections from being crawled. If there are no directives, the search engine will crawl to the other information available on the website.
What makes up the syntax of a robots.txt file?
Five common terminologies should be included in the robots.txt file as they constitute its technical syntax.
- User-agent: The particular web crawler to which you are giving the set of instructions to follow while crawling.
- Disallow: This command the user-agent which URL shouldn’t be crawled. Only one “Disallow” command is allowed for each URL.
- Allow: This command applies only to GoogleBot. It tells the GoogleBot which page or subfolder it can access even though the parent page is disallowed.
- Crawl-delay: This determines the waiting time of the crawler between loading and crawling through the page content. Although Googlebot doesn’t recognize this command, the crawl rate can be set through the Google Search Console.
- Sitemap: It calls out the location of the XML of the URL. This command is supported only by Google, Bing, and Yahoo.
Five reasons why SEO services should be using robots.txt
Some of the reasons why SEO services should be using robots.txt for SEO are:
- Google has a crawl budget, which means it will only spend a specific time crawling through a website. Google fixes this budget by calculating the crawl rate limit and crawl demand. If the URL slows down due to crawling, it will hamper the user experience. This will eventually mean that Google will not quickly crawl through the new content you put up on your website, which can negatively impact SEO.
- If the demand is high, the URL will receive more crawlers. It gives the webmaster the authority to control the sections of their website that should be crawled, thereby saving time. In addition, the crawlers can be kept away from less important or repetitive pages on the site.
- Robots.txt can prevent the appearance of duplicate content. Sometimes, your website may need another copy of the same page for particular usage. Google can levy an identical content penalty fee. But with robots.txt, you can avoid this too.
- If you are revamping certain pages on your website, you can use the robots.txt file to stop crawlers from accessing these pages. They will not be able to index unfinished pages until they are completed.
- You can hide certain pages from the public using a robots.txt file. For example, the login page can be kept private as nobody wants their login details to be seen by others. Furthermore, such pages are not of much value to Google or any other search engines.
Setting up and using robots.txt is relatively simple. Once you set up robots.txt files, you are helping crawlers spend their crawl budgets wisely, avoiding wasting time and resources. This ensures that your website ranks better on SERPs and enjoys greater visibility than before.