How to use robots.txt file in SEO

Last Updated in August 2021 by Lukasz Zelezny

Reading Time:4 minutes

You may have had many questions regarding the privacy of the information on your website pages. Well, then look no further, because in this article today, we shall learn everything that will equip you with knowledge of protecting your information and even manipulating what people can or cannot see on your sites.

What is robots.txt in SEO?

This may come to you as a surprise but, you have the power to control who indexes and crawls your site, and you can go with this as far as to the individual pages. To be able to explore these manipulations, you will need the help of the robots.txt file. This is a file that contains a set of instructions to search engine crawlers. It works hand in hand with the robots, informing them of the pages to crawl and ones to overlook. You may have already figured out how powerful this tool is, giving you the ability to present your website to the world in a way that you want people to see and create a good impression. When used accurately, they can increase the frequency of crawlers and positively impact your SEO efforts.

What is the use of robots.txt in SEO?

The instructions that are contained in the txt file have substantial implications on your SEO, as it gives you the power to control the search robots. The following are essential functions played by the robots.txt.

  • Protecting your private data: You can use the robots.txt to redirect the search bots away from private folders that you don’t want to be accessed. This will make it challenging to find and index.
  • Have control of your resources: For websites containing vast sums of content, for example, the E-Commerce sites, which can have thousands of pages; it is important to protect and preserve some resources for their most valued visitors. The bandwidth, including other vital resources, is sucked up each time bots crawl through the site. For such sites with vast chunks of data, it means that the resources will be quickly exhausted even before the high-value visitors can access them. This is where the robots.txt comes in handy as they can be used to make it difficult for some materials to be found, thereby preserving them.
  • They can also be used to guide the crawlers to the site map so they can have a clear view of your website with more ease.
  • Just by having rules in the robots.txt file, you can keep off the crawlers restricted from indexing duplicated content or pages that are duplicated.

Naturally, every website owner wants the search engines to access the correct information and the most crucial pages on your website. Making good use of this tool lets you manipulate what comes in the front of the search pages. It is advisable not to completely disallow the search engines to access certain pages as this may also come with adverse consequences.

How to use robots.txt in SEO?

Here are some of the best practices to use to ensure you make good use of the robots.txt in SEO.

  • Always ensure that the information you want your visitors to crawl on your website is not blocked.
  • When the robots.txt blocks some links on pages, these links will no longer be followed unless they’re linked from other pages that the search engines can access. When robots.txt is used as a blocking mechanism on a particular page, link unity cannot be passed on such blocked pages to the link destination.
  • It is not good to use robots.txt to block personal data from occurring in SERP This is because some other pages may have direct links to the pages containing these personal details, therefore, able to bypass the robots.txt instructions, hence it may still be indexed.
  • There are search engines with more than one user agent, like Google, which has Google bot and google-image for organic and image searches, respectively. Such user agents emanating from the same search engine usually follow the same set of rules. Therefore, there is no need to be specific on the multiple crawlers of the search engines, but this ability allows you to fine-tune the crawling of content on your website.

The search engine always caches the robots.txt’s content and updates it at least once in 24 hours. If you wish to switch the files and have a higher frequency of updates, you may need to submit your robots.txt URL to Google.

Is robots.txt legally binding?

Officially, no law categorically states that robots.txt has to be obeyed. There also doesn’t exist any contract that binds a site owner to the user. However, having the robots.txt can be of significant use in a court of law, in legal cases.

What is the limit of a robots.txt file?

The directives of a robots.txt may not have support from all search engines. Although you may have instructions in your robots.txt files, you are not in control of the crawler’s behavior. Some renowned web crawlers like googlebot, among others, respect the robots.txt file instructions, but others may not respect them. To protect some vital information, you may want to use other methods like passwords.

Each crawler may have its interpretation of syntax. It is essential to understand the correct syntax to use when addressing the different crawlers, as some may not understand some instructions.

If the robots.txt file instructions have blocked a page or specific content, but it still has been linked from another page, it is still possible for it to be indexed.

As mentioned earlier, Google may not look into files that robots.txt files have blocked; it is still possible that these blocked pages have links on other not restricted pages. In such cases, the URL address, among other publicly available information like the anchor text found in the links to these pages, could still be found in the Google search results. The proper way to avoid such occurrences is to use other methods of protecting your information like passwords or just entirely away with the page.