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A Complete Guide to Robots.txt and its Uses for SEO


Search engines, including Bing, Google, Yandex, and Yahoo, use robots.txt to crawl, index, and display websites in search results. Robots.txt is a set of optional directives that instruct web crawlers on which parts of your website they can and cannot access.

A web crawler, also known as search bot, site crawler, or spider robot, is an internet bot that search engines such as Bing and Google use. As its name suggests, a web crawler crawls the internet to dive deep into websites and web pages and make sure that users can retrieve the information anytime that they want.

How many types of crawlers are there?

There are mainly six types of crawlers, and they are the following:

  • Search engine spiders: A search engine spider is one of the most common SEO crawlers search engines such as Bing and Google to crawl and scrape the web. They use robots.txt to understand websites’ crawling preferences. You can optimize your robots.txt by better understanding the search engine spider and making sure that it works.
  • Personal website crawlers: A personal crawler bot helps individuals and businesses monitor their site performance and scrape data from search results. Unlike a search engine spider, a personal website crawler has limited functionality and scalability. There are several guides on the web to help you build a personal crawler bot that operates from your device.
  • Commercial site crawlers: A Commercial web spider is a tool that enables website owners to collect data from public sites or their platforms. Many software solution providers develop these, and some provide guidelines on how to build such crawlers. If you want to build a commercial site crawler, consider joining hands with a commercial web crawling developer to design an efficient SEO crawler for your specific needs.
  • Desktop crawler robots: A desktop site crawler operates from a desktop computer and analyzes small websites. This, however, may not be useful if you are analyzing several thousand web pages. Desktop crawler robot does not support proxy servers or custom setup.
  • Copyright website crawlers: A copyright crawling robot looks for content that violates copyright law. Individuals or companies that own copyrighted material run these crawlers to ensure their materials are safe and not accessed without permission. 
  • Cloud-based crawling bots: A cloud-based crawler robot, also known as Software as a Service (SaaS), runs on any device that has an internet connection. This crawler is popular as it crawls websites of all sizes and does not need multiple licenses to run on different devices.

How is Robots.txt useful in SEO?

Robots.txt is immensely helpful in SEO. The various directives and commands accomplish several purposes. We discuss some of them here:

  • Prevent overloading your web pages: Robots.txt prevents overloading your website and web pages with search bot and web crawl requests. This makes your website fast and smooth to run.
  • Prevent bots from accessing incomplete and private pages: Robots.txt disallow command prevents bots from accessing the parts of your website that are incomplete or private. Robots.txt Nofollow directive tells search engine spiders not to crawl the links on your webpage.
  • Safeguard your website from bad and malicious bots: You can use robots.txt to block all directives to block the bad bots from accessing your website and web pages. The bad bots can affect your website and its ranking, and blocking them will greatly help your site.
  • Limit the number of web crawlers at any particular time: When Google bots and search engine spiders crawl too many pages in a short time, it can slow down your website’s speed and leave your server exhausted. Robots.txt allows you to set a limit on the number of web spiders and search engine bots that can crawl on your website in a given time.
  • Enhance your website indexability and crawlability: Robots.txt noindex directive prevents web crawlers from crawling and indexing specific pages and parts of your website. Taking care of your website navigability, creating a clear robots.txt sitemap, and submitting robots.txt to Google will enable you to improve your website indexability and crawlability.

Best practices while using robots.txt

Here are some best practices you should follow when it comes to using robots.txt for your website.

  1. Use a robots.txt checker to run audits at regular intervals. Google provides a free robots txt checker that can enable you to find out if there is a robots.txt issue on your website.
  1. Use the robots.txt block to hide the unfinished and work-in-progress pages and private files on your website from search bots.
  1. To determine how many web crawlers are crawling your website, monitor your crawl report on Google Search Console (GSC). The report shows the entire crawl requests by file type, purpose, response, and Googlebot type.
  1. Find out whether or not your website is generating requests and traffic from bad bots. Bad bots are designed to perform many types of harmful activities such as hacking, content scraping, spamming, among others. Some bad bots are spambots, content scraping bots, click fraud bots, and credential stuffing bots. If you find any on your website, block them by using robots.txt to block all directives.
  1. If your website has 500 errors and 404 pages, resulting in web crawling issues, consider implementing 301 redirects. In case the errors are increasing fast, use robots.txt to block all directives.
  1. Check your server logs and learn the process of adding a sitemap to robots.txt. After that, apply it to your robots.txt file.
  1. Get the help of a professional digital marketing company and technical SEO services that can implement robots.txt allow, robots.txt block all, and other directives on your robots.txt syntax.

In the end,

Robots.txt is the language you use to communicate with web crawlers. They have significant implications on a website’s SEO. Conducting robots.txt optimization can be critical if you don’t have the right expertise and resources. Entrust a professional digital marketing company to optimize robots.txt and provide digital marketing services. At PeddleWeb, we just have the right solutions for you. All you have to do is contact us today.

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