What is Robots.txt?

The robots.txt file, often referred to as the robots exclusion protocol or standard, is a text file placed at the root of your website’s directory. This file communicates with web crawling bots and tells them which parts of your website they can or cannot crawl and index.

Why is Robots.txt Important for SEO?

  • Directing Search Engine Bots: Robots.txt files serve as guides for search engines, directing them to the content you do and do not want to be indexed. Proper use of robots.txt can prevent search engines from accessing duplicate pages, private areas, or unimportant resources on your site.
  • Conserving Crawl Budget: Search engines have a crawl budget for each website, which determines how many pages the bot will index during a crawl. By blocking unnecessary pages, you can ensure that search engines spend their crawl budget on high-value, index-worthy pages.
  • Preventing Indexing of Unwanted Content: There may be parts of your site you wish to keep out of search engine indices, such as admin pages, user login areas, or development environments. Robots.txt allows you to keep these areas private.

Best Practices and Considerations:

  • Precision: Be precise in what you decide to disallow. Overuse of disallow directives can prevent search engines from accessing content that should be indexed.
  • Regular Reviews: Regularly review your robots.txt file to make sure it’s up to date with your current site structure and SEO goals.
  • Use in Tandem with Other Tools: Robots.txt should be used in conjunction with other meta directives and tagging methods, such as “noindex” tags, for finer control over page-level indexing.

In SEO, the effective use of a robots.txt file is critical in managing the relationship between your site and search engine crawlers. It enables you to optimize your crawl budget and ensure that only the content you value most is being indexed. Remember, the robots.txt file is a public file, so it should not be used for hiding sensitive information.

Setting Up Your Robots.txt File

Setting up Robots.text with WordPress

  • Manually create and upload a robots.txt file to the root directory of the WordPress installation. This allows full control over the file contents. Source
  • Use a WordPress plugin like Yoast SEO or All In One SEO Pack which have built-in robots.txt generator tools. Makes it easy to create and manage the file. Source
  • Add robots.txt rules directly in WordPress by going to Settings > Reading in the dashboard. Limited flexibility but still works. Source

How do Squarespace users setup Robots.txt?

Squarespace users don’t need to manually setup or edit the robots.txt file, as it is automatically generated and managed by Squarespace:

  • Squarespace creates a default robots.txt file for all sites that disallows crawling of certain pages like search, account pages etc. Source
  • The Squarespace robots.txt file cannot be accessed or edited by users directly. It is centrally hosted and maintained by Squarespace. Source
  • For custom robots.txt rules, users can submit a request to Squarespace Support. But there is no self-service option.

How do Shopify users setup Robots.txt?

Here are the main ways Shopify users can setup and customize robots.txt for their store:

  • Shopify creates a default robots.txt file that disallows crawling of certain pages. Users can view and edit this file in Online Store > Themes > Edit Code. Source
  • Add a new robots.txt template in Theme Files and customize the rules. For example, allow crawling of certain pages or block bad bots. Source
  • Use the Robots.txt Editor app to easily customize robots.txt rules without editing code. Makes it beginner friendly. Source
  • For advanced users, robots.txt rules can be customized via API by making API calls to the Shopify store. Source
  • Submit robots.txt file for review to Google Search Console for indexing and crawling guidance. Source
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