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Showing posts with label A Brief Guide to Robots.txt and Five Mistakes to Avoid. Show all posts
Showing posts with label A Brief Guide to Robots.txt and Five Mistakes to Avoid. Show all posts

Friday, September 7, 2012

A Brief Guide to Robots.txt and Five Mistakes to Avoid

A Brief Guide to Robots.txt
It’s Guest Post Time!

Irish Wonder explains the origins of the Robots.txt file, why it’s one of the most important SEO documents you’ll ever write, and five mistakes that can damage your site.

What Is a Robots.txt File?

An important, but sometimes overlooked element of onsite optimization is the robots.txt file. This file alone, usually weighing not more than a few bytes, can be responsible for making or breaking your site’s relationship with the search engines.

Robots.txt is often found in your site’s root directory and exists to regulate the bots that crawl your site. This is where you can grant or deny permission to all or some specific search engine robots to access certain pages or your site as a whole. The standard for this file was developed in 1994 and is known as the Robots Exclusion Standard or Robots Exclusion Protocol. Detailed info about the robots.txt protocol can be found at robotstxt.org.

Standard Rules

The “standards” of the Robots Exclusion Standard are pretty loose as there is no official ruling body of this protocol. However, the most widely used robots elements are:

- User-agent (referring to the specific bots the rules apply to)
- Disallow (referring to the site areas the bot specified by the user-agent is not supposed to crawl – sometimes “Allow” is used instead of it or in addition to it, with the opposite meaning)

Often the robots.txt file also mentions the location of the sitemap.

Most existing robots (including those belonging to the main search engines) “understand” the above elements, however not all of them respect them and abide by these rules. Sometimes, certain caveats apply, such as this one mentioned by Google here:

While Google won’t crawl or index the content of pages blocked by robots.txt, we may still index the URLs if we find them on other pages on the web. As a result, the URL of the page and, potentially, other publicly available information such as anchor text in links to the site, or the title from the Open Directory Project (www.dmoz.org), can appear in Google search results.

Interestingly, today Google is showing a new message:

“A description for this result is not available because of this site’s robots.txt – learn more. “