What is Robots.txt -Robot.txt is text file web masters created to instruct web robots how to crawl on their websites. Robot.txt file is a part of robot exclusion protocol (REP), which is a group of web standards that regulate how robots will crawl the web, access the indexed content and serve that content to the users.
What is Robots.txt
In practice, robot.txt file indicates whether certain user agent can or cannot crawl parts of a website. These crawl instructions are specified by “disallowing” or “allowing” the behaviour of certain (or all) user agents.
The basic format is:
User-agent: [user-agent name]
Disallow: [URL string not to be crawled]
These lines together are considered as a complete robot.txt file- though one file can contain multiple lines of user agents and directives. What is Robots.txt –
Within a robot.txt file, separate set of user agents can be separated by a line break. In a robots.txt file with multiple user-agent directives, each disallow or allow rule only applies to the useragent(s) specified in that particular line break-separated set. If the file contains a rule that applies to more than one user-agent, a crawler will only pay attention to (and follow the directives in) the most specific group of instructions.
How does robot.txt file work?
Search engines have two main jobs:
- Crawling the web for discovering the content
- Indexing that content so that it can be served up to searchers who are looking for information.
For crawling, search engines follow “spidering” behaviour. In this the search engines follow the links to get from one site to another, ultimately crawling across billions of links and websites. Before soldering it, the search crawler will look for a robot.txt file, if it finds one then the crawler will read it first then move to the next page.
This is because the robots.txt file contains information about how the search engine should crawl; the information found there will instruct further crawler action on this particular site. If the robots.txt file does not contain any directives that disallow a user-agent’s activity (or if the site doesn’t have a robots.txt file), it will proceed to crawl other information on the site.
Why do you need robots.txt file?
This file control crawler access to certain areas of your website. This can also be very dangerous if you disallow Googlebot from crawling on your entire site. Some common use cases include:
- Preventing duplicate content from appearing in SERPs (note that meta robots is often a better choice for this)
- Keeping entire sections of a website private (for instance, your engineering team’s staging site)
- Keeping internal search results pages from showing up on a public SERP
- Specifying the location of sitemap(s)
- Preventing search engines from indexing certain files on your website (images, PDFs, etc.)
- Specifying a crawl delay in order to prevent your servers from being overloaded when crawlers load multiple pieces of content at once
If you are not sure, whether you have a Robots.txt file or not then checking for that is a simple process. Simply type in your root domain, then add /robots.txt to the end of the URL. For instance, Moz’s robots file is located at moz.com/robots.txt.
There are different types of robots.txt files. One is robots.txt which is an actual text file, the other is meta and x-robots which are the directives. All these three serve different purpose. Robots.txt dictates site or directory-wide crawl behavior, whereas meta and x-robots can dictate indexation behavior at the individual page (or page element) level.
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