Contrary to some SEO beliefs, you often need more than just keywords and backlinks for search engines to start ranking a site. If you want your site to continue climbing on the search engine results page (SERP) rankings, it’s important to control what a search engine can see. A robots.txt protocol can help with that.
Knowing the best robots.txt practices is key to ensuring your website ranks better. Specific internal SEO strategies related to this will depend on your own website, but here some of the best tips tricks when using robots.txt to ensure you get the results you want.
What Is Robots.txt?
The robots.txt is a robots exclusion protocol, which means it’s a small text file and a means of crawl optimization. According to Google, a robots.txt file tells search engine crawlers which pages or files the crawler can or can’t request from your website.
“This is an instruction for search engines on how they can read your website. This file is created so you can tell crawlers what you want them to see and what you don’t want them to see in order to improve your SEO performance,” says Grace Bell, a tech writer at State Of Writing and Boomessays.
The robots.txt file lets you control which pages you want and don’t want search engines to display, such as user pages or automatically generated pages. If the website doesn’t have this file, search engines will proceed to crawl the entire website.
The purpose of robots.txt isn’t to completely lock pages or content so that search engines can’t see it. It’s to maximize the efficiency of their crawl budgets. Their budget is broken down into crawl rate limit and crawl demand. You are telling them that they don’t need to crawl the pages which are not made for the public.
Crawl rate limit represents the number of connections a crawler can make on a given website. This includes the time between fetches. If your website responds quickly, you have a higher crawl rate limit and they can have more connections with the bot. Sites are crawled based on the demand.
You are making the crawler’s job easier. They will find and rank more of the top content on your site. This is useful when you have duplicate pages on your website. Because they are really harmful for SEO, you can use robots.txt to tell crawlers not to index them. For instance, this is beneficial for websites that have printer-friendly pages on their site.
“Most of the time, you don’t want to mess with this a lot. You won’t be tampering with it frequently either. The only reason to touch it is if there are some pages on your website that you don’t want your bot to crawl,” says Elaine Grant, a developer at Paper Fellows and Australianhelp.
Open up a plain text editor and then write the syntax. Identify the crawlers which are referred to as User-agent: *.
So, for instance: User-agent: Googlebot. After you identify the crawler, you can then allow or disallow certain pages. This can then block any specific file type. It’s a very simple thing and all you have to do is type it up and then add to the robots.txt file.
When you find and modify your robots.txt file, you have to test it to validate that it’s working properly. To do this, you have to sign your Google Webmasters account and then navigate to crawl. This will expand the menu and you will find the tester there. If there are any kind of problems, you can edit your code right there. However, they don’t get changed entirely until you copy it to your website.
Your robots.txt needs to be named robots.txt for you to find it and for it to be found. It has to be in the root folder of your website. Anyone can see this file and all that has to be done is to type in the name of your robots.txt file with your website URL. So, don’t use this to be sneaky or deceptive since it’s public information.
Don’t make specific rules for specific search engines. It’s less confusing that way. You should add a disallow syntax to your robots.txt file but it won’t prevent it from being indexed, you have to use a noindex tag. Crawlers are incredibly advanced and they see your website as you do. So, if your website uses CSS and JS to work, you shouldn’t block those files from your robots.txt file.
If you want this to be recognized right away, you should add it to Google immediately instead of waiting for the site to get crawled. Links on pages that have been disallowed can be considered nofollow. So, some of the links will not be indexed unless they are on other pages. Sitemaps should be put at the bottom of this file.
Implementing these robots.txt best practices should help your site rank better in search engines, as it makes the crawler’s job easier.