When it comes to posting content on the web, privacy is a serious consideration. Many companies and organizations have their own proprietary systems for managing content and making it available only to select audiences. For this reason, they often use microfilters that keep search engine spiders from accessing certain pages or sites entirely.
This makes sense when you want to protect intellectual property, trade secrets, or sensitive data that isn’t available to the average user. It also helps your site rank higher by reducing the amount of competition the crawler has to wade through before submitting its findings back into the index.
What is a Robot.txt File?
Robots.txt is a file that functions as a filter for search engine crawlers. By preventing these bots from accessing certain parts of your site, you can often improve the way it ranks in searches on major engines.
This was first developed by WebCrawler, one of the early search engines, back in 1994 and has been an integral part of content management since then. All major engines support this feature to some degree; however, not all will adhere to it. Those that don’t are essentially breaking their own protocols when they access your files without giving any consideration to copyright protections or other elements you might include in your robots.txt files.
However, many do respect them and handle them according to protocol, even if they’re not specifically required to do so. That’s why it’s important to know how they work and how they can help you with your system.
What Robots.txt Can Do for Your Site
At its most basic level, a robot.txt file can be used to prevent search crawlers from accessing any pages on your website that you’d rather not have included in the search results. This includes both category-based pages as well as individual posts or products within specific sections of your site: They’ll never be indexed if the crawler doesn’t see them in the first place.
Even if it does find them, the bots will simply ignore those files when submitting information back into their database (or index). So it effectively cuts off access to certain crawl paths and keeps them from appearing in Google, Yahoo or Bing. That way, you can focus on the content you want people to be able to find rather than those pages that might detract from your site’s overall value. You might consider hiring an SEO as well to assist with setting up your robot.txt properly.
The best thing about robots.txt files is their flexibility: They’re not just for search engines or SEO; they work equally well with other bots like link checkers, translators, scrapers, and so forth to help ensure that unwanted processes are unable to access your website.
How Can I Use a WordPress Robots.txt File?
Essentially, any time you’d normally add an index file or directory to your system, you should instead use the robot’s text file. It will perform the same function as an ordinary index file and filter out those elements specifically.
While this file is often used to keep search crawlers from duplicating your site’s content, it can be just as effective against other types of bots or applications that might try to access your system without permission. That way, you can choose the information they gain access to and make certain that nothing falls through the cracks.
It’s not uncommon for sites with valuable trade secrets or proprietary information to use this kind of filtering. It helps keep their processes and assets secure by preventing outside sources from gaining unauthorized access. A robot’s text file will help ensure that unwanted applications don’t index any critical pages that you’d prefer to remain private for more general uses.
The Robots.txt File: How Do I Create It?
Creating a robot’s text file is relatively simple. All you need to do is create a new document on your desktop called “robots.txt” and save it as plain text. Place the following lines of code into that file:
# This line tells bots not to index this directory
User-agent: * Disallow: /cgi-bin/ Disallow: /wp-admin/ There’s really nothing else to it; however, you don’t have to use those exact directives or even include them at all if you don’t want to.
Don’t worry about taking up space with redundant commands, either. For example, if there are no files or directories listed for the crawler to access, it will simply move onto the next directory down until it finds one that does have the information it can index.
Although you can use this file by itself, most people elect to pair it with the .htaccess rewrite rules instead. That way, the crawler will be redirected away from any directory filtered in the robot’s text file and toward an alternative location where those files are still available for search results.
As a bonus, many major search engines recognize your default homepage as a valuable resource regardless of whether or not they can find anything else on your site. So they’ll still include it in their results if they think they might gain traffic and increase their profits with that move alone!
How Can You Edit Robots.txt Files?
As long as you have access to a working FTP or SFTP client, there’s no reason why you can’t edit your robot’s text files. Unfortunately, however, many people make the mistake of using an ordinary text editor instead. While that may seem like it’ll work just fine at first glance, all those formatting errors will force search engines to ignore your site altogether.
If possible, try using a plain-text word processing program like Microsoft Word when editing these files, and make sure you’re logged into the main directory of your WordPress installation every time you save changes. Otherwise, bots won’t be able to read its contents correctly, and they’ll ignore the file entirely.
Whenever possible, avoid changing the format of any existing directives in your robot’s text file. These strings of commands are formatted in a specific way for a reason, so make sure you’re aware of the rules before you attempt to circumvent them.
How To Test Our WordPress Robots.txt?
If you’ve taken the time to create a robot’s text file and test it thoroughly, there’s no reason for you to stop just yet. There are still some measures you can take to ensure that your directives will work as planned by testing them in an environment like Google Webmaster Tools. That way, if something changes unintentionally, you’ll have a record of what was changed and why so that you can track down any bugs before they affect search results or cause problems with site visitors.
Once logged into your account, click on “Site Configuration,” then click the “Crawl” link within that section. Next, choose “Robots.txt Tester” from the drop-down menu and enter your new robots text file’s URL where it asks you to, making sure the Include directives from the menu are set to ” Yes. “
If you see the value ” User-agent: *, “then no pages have been blocked. If, instead, you’ve got a section that says Disallow: / since your last crawl appears in that same list, it’s because Google has found an issue with at least one of your directives. If that’s the case, review the contents and compare them to what you intended. Try to remember if there are any other areas where new code was added (like an extra space at the end of a directory name, for example) and delete those empty lines before saving for good measure.
Robots text files are an easy yet effective way of telling search engines what to do on your site and where they can look for specific content as soon as they hit a given page. Now that you know how to create them make sure you keep yours up-to-date at all times. That way, you’ll never accidentally disallow access to something that visitors need to see.
Moving forward, remember that it’s always a good idea to use the access file whenever possible instead of trying to place simple instructions within your main content when creating the robot’s text files. That way, if you ever need to edit them after they’ve been set up, you’ll have easy access without having to worry about breaking existing links after moving things around.
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