The Importance of a Robots TXT File for your Website
Increasing traffic to your website and staying on top of SEO is important for your business, but we know just how much of a rigorous process it can be. It takes a lot of analysis and patience, and between all the Google tools and intricate coding, the technicality of it all can get confusing and even overwhelming sometimes. To stay on top, the job is never done!
But what if we told you there is something that could make it a little bit easier? It’s called a robots.txt file, and in a nutshell, it’s a useful tool that gives you control on how search engines navigate or “crawl” through your site, and allows them to do so more efficiently.
It might sound intimidating, but it’s actually not as complicated as it seems, and you don’t have to be super tech-savvy to take advantage. Here we will break it all down for you, and explain exactly what a robots txt file is and how you can use it. Get ready—it’s a game-changer!
What is a robots.txt file?
The robots.txt file is a text file that tells web robots, usually search engine robots like Googlebot, which pages to crawl through on a website, and which ones not to crawl. Also referred to as the robot exclusion protocol, it is part of a larger group of web standards that controls how robots crawl the web, access and interpret content, and display that content to users. In this case with the robots.txt file, this is done by “disallowing” or “allowing” the actions of certain or all robots and user agents (web crawling software).
This is the basic body of the file:
The asterisk after “user-agent” means that the file applies to all web robots that visit the site, and the slash after “disallow” informs robots which pages they can’t, or aren’t allowed to follow—which, in this case means only the admin login page of this WordPress site (we know it’s a WordPress site because of the /wp-admin).
This is a complete robots.txt file on its own, but you can get more specific and add more lines of directives if needed. We’ll touch more on this later.
Consider the robots txt file to be a function that is meant to prevent your site from being overloaded with requests. It is not meant to stop your website from showing up on Google. There are other functions to keep your site out of Google, such as “no indexing” the site.
Why is the Robots File Important?
Along with keeping your website running smoothly, there are many other benefits to having control over site crawlers. Some of these could include:
- Keeping parts of your website private (for example, an internal or admin login page, or a duplicate printer-friendly version of a page).
- Restricting a page on your site that you don’t want users to access unless they take a specific action.
- Linking to your XML sitemap(s).
- Preventing certain files such as images or PDFs from getting indexed and showing up on search engines.
- Implementing a crawl delay to prevent your servers from being overloaded when multiple pieces of content are being loaded at once.
And that’s just to name a few! It is also worth considering that if you don’t give directions with a robots.txt file, search engines will have to take more time to unnecessarily crawl through every single page on your site, which will slow them down and make your site seem less reliable. All of this could put you lower in the search results. So why waste time? If you make it easier for the search bots, you’ll be rewarded.
How to Find and Create a Robots.txt File
Now that we’ve piqued your interest, it’s time to get your robots.txt file started.
The first thing is to know how to access it. All that you have to do is enter the URL of your website into the address bar and add “/robots.txt” to the end—like this: “ideazone.ca/robots.txt.” Head to the page, and you’ll find that it is either empty (meaning you don’t have a file) or that you already have a robots.txt file.
If you don’t have one, not to worry; it’s easy to create one from scratch. You can use any plain text editor, such as Notepad, TextEdit, or Editpad.org, and enter the lines of code there.
PRO TIP: Note that using a program like Microsoft Word is a big NO, as it could add additional code into the text that you don’t want.
If you do have a robots.txt file already, you can find it in your site’s root directory by going to your hosting account website, logging in, and heading to the file management section of your webpage.
Now, it’s time to begin with the basic format that we mentioned above. But you’re going to want to be more specific and only disallow certain pages. To do that, you would simply use the URL of the page, like this:
Notice that each command/directive is on a separate line.
With Googlebot, you can allow certain pages, as well:
Many robots txt files look just like this—short and simple. But once you get familiar with the syntax and language, you can get more advanced and include many more directives if you wish. Adding your sitemap and a crawl-delay function could be a good idea. To learn more about the technical syntax, Google is always a great resource.
We have just scratched the surface here, but hopefully this has given you a thorough introduction and encouraged you to set up a robots.txt file for your website. Whether it’s a text file you need, website design, or to develop an effective digital marketing strategy, our team of experts at IdeaZone can help you build a high-ranking website that delivers results. Call or email us today to learn how we can give your business a boost.