With all of the search engine optimization concepts floating around these days, it’s difficult to know which ones are current and useful for your website and which ones are a little more outdated. One term you might’ve heard during your time running a website is the robots.txt file. You’ve heard that it’s helpful for SEO, but you’re not sure if you really need it. Here’s what you need to know about your site’s robots.txt file and whether or not you need one.
What is robots.txt?
If you’re at all familiar with the way search engines work, you’ve likely heard of crawlers before. These are special little robots that examine your site and determine which pages should be indexed and visible on a results page. Say you have certain sensitive pages on your site, like staging pages that your development team is working on. How do you prevent these crawlers from accessing those pages? The easiest way is with a robots.txt file.
At its core, a robots.txt file instructs web crawlers on which pages they can and cannot access and serve up during a search. This is done by either allowing or disallowing the behavior of these crawlers. It’ll also help you know whether any URLs need to be removed . It’s a valuable tool for all web owners because it effectively gives you a greater level of control over how your site is viewed by search engines. It also gives you more authority over the sensitive aspects of your website.
The benefits of robots.txt
While the primary benefit of using a robots.txt file is instructing crawlers on how they should be accessing your site, you have plenty of other reasons to incorporate this file to your website. Outside of the aforementioned privacy concerns , you might have other reasons you don’t want certain content on your site to be crawled. For example, certain files, such as image files and PDFs you don’t want to be displayed above other site content can be blocked off from crawler access. That way you’re not being ranked for files that don’t add value to your site.
A robots.txt file is also useful for specifying the location of your sitemap . This makes it that much easier for crawlers to catch a quick glimpse of how your site is laid out, which makes crawling that much more intuitive. Also, your robots.txt file is good for enacting a crawl delay so your web server isn’t overloaded by crawlers attempting to access multiple pieces of content at once.
Verifying your file
Now that you know you need a robots.txt file, how do you make sure it’s set up correctly? Well, first, you’ll want to see whether your site already has the file. Unless you’ve set up your site by yourself, there’s a chance that your development team already incorporated the file. The easiest way is by typing in your root domain followed by /robots.txt. If this doesn’t return a .txt file, there isn’t one on your site.
Once you’ve verified that you have the file on your site, you should test it. The easiest way is by using a tool to test robots.txt like the Robots Text Validator from LinkGraph. It’ll provide a quick snapshot of your robots.txt file and let you know if it’s correctly blocking or permitting crawler access to your site or even specific URLs.
Boosting your presence
If you’re looking to improve your website’s SEO, the best way to start is with a properly formatted and implemented robots.txt file. It’s essential to crawlers correctly accessing and interpreting your site. Without it, you might find it hard to get the rankings results you desire. If you’re unsure of how to generate and implement the file, reach out to a qualified digital marketing agency to see how you can get your SEO campaign off the ground.