Robots.txt is one of the simplest files on a website but is also the easiest one to make mistakes on. One mistake can lead to your SEO score nosediving and can prevent search engines from finding your site and the vital content present on your site.
If you are not a technical person, you might not know what a robots.txt file is. Well, that's where we come in. Read on to learn about the ins and outs of a robot.txt generator and how it impacts your SEO.
A robots.txt file is a set of rules that govern search engine bots. It is a file containing a list of areas of a website where a search engine bot is forbidden from crawling. It lists URLs that the webmaster doesn't want sites like Google or Bing to index and prevents them from visiting these sites.
When a bot comes across a site on the internet, it checks the robot.txt file to know which areas it can explore and which it should ignore.
However, you must remember that a robots.txt file is like a "Code of Conduct" of sorts in that there is no way to enforce these rules. Although search engines like Google and Bing follow these rules, a few completely ignore them.
If you don't know if you have a robots.txt, here are a few steps you can follow to find out:
If no .txt page appears, this means you don't have a do not have a robots.txt page that is running live. If you do not have a robots.txt file, you need to consider whether you need it. If you do, then use the guide below.
Here is a straightforward format of what a robots.txt file looks like:
Sitemap: [URL location of sitemap]
User-agent: [bot name]
User-agent: [bot name 2]
If this is your first time seeing one of these files, it may not seem easy to comprehend, but the syntax is quite simple. You set instructions for the bot by first mentioning them by name and then following that with their instructions.
A robots.txt file is simply a text file with no HTML markup code. It is typically hosted on the web server, just like any other file. You can view your robots.txt file by adding /robots.txt to your homepage URL.
This file is not linked to any other part of your site, which means visitors will not come across it, but most crawler bots will visit this page before exploring the rest of the page.
While a robots.txt file is essentially a set of rules for the bots to follow, it doesn't have the power to enforce them.
A 'good' bot will visit the file first and then follow the instructions, whereas a 'bad' bot will either ignore the robots.txt file or, in more malicious cases, process the file to find webpages that have been forbidden. Malware crawlers or email address scrapers usually do this.
Note that a web crawler bot will follow the most specific instructions. If the bot encounters instructions counter to a previous one, it will follow the most precise or granular one.
Remember that each subdomain on your website also requires a robot.txt file.
Since robot.txt has somewhat of control over bots accessing your site, there are a few reasons why this is beneficial for you.
Regarding SEO, a robots.txt file can be instrumental in your site's visibility on search engines. Below is a list of ways robot.txt is vital for SEO.
Robot.txt is the language used in a robots.txt file. There are five common terms that you will come across in the file:
To maximize the effectiveness of your SEO strategy, you must ensure that your robots.txt file doesn't contradict your plan.
Here is a list of best practices that will help your SEO rating.
If you do not have a live robots.txt file running on your server, you can add one following the steps below.
Alternatively, you can use a robots.txt generator to avoid errors in your file. You can use VISER X's robot.txt generator to create one for yourself within seconds.
Before you go live with your new robots.txt file, you will need to test it to ensure validity. This will help prevent issues with erroneous instructions that may have been added.
The robots.txt testing tool is only available on a previous version of Google Search Console. If your website is not integrated with Google Search Console, you must do that before continuing.
Visit Google's support page and click the "open robots.txt tester" button. Upload the file, and you will be taken to a page.
To test your new robots.txt file, delete everything in the box, replace it with your new instructions, and click "Test." If the response is "allowed," your code is valid, and you can revise your actual file with code.
Below are a few examples of robot.txt files and their most common instructions. These are here to illustrate what the code looks like, but if they happen to be helpful to you, you are welcome to copy-paste it into the text document, save it as robots.txt and upload it to the appropriate directory.
Remember that if you fail to declare a URL after instruction, it becomes redundant, which means the search engine will ignore it. This is why the above disallow instruction has no effect.
To see if you have a problem with your robots.txt file, open Google Search Console and check the Crawl Stats report to see if there's a dip in the number of pages crawled daily. If there is, then this indicates that there could be a problem with your robots.txt file.
The biggest problem in robots.txt files is accidentally disallowing pages you want to get crawled. You can find this information in your GSC Crawl Errors report.
Check for pages that have error code 500. This is the code for pages blocked by your robots.txt file. To fix this issue, check if the URLs that return this code are blocked in your robots.txt file.
Some more common issues with robots.txt files are:
A robot.txt file is a useful tool in your web arsenal. It can help avoid duplicate content in search results and hide pages currently undergoing maintenance or even pages you wish were unavailable to the public.
However, you must note that not all search engines will adhere to the instructions on a robots.txt file. Therefore, you should not rely on it to secure pages that may contain confidential or sensitive information, such as your payment information page or your employee information page, etc.
Hopefully, this article successfully gave you an idea of what a robots.txt is, how it works and why you should use it. You are welcome to use our free robot.txt generator tool for your purposes.