What is Robots.txt and how it works?

Andrei Iordache

Andrei Iordache

WordPress Developer

🚀 I Help People Get Found Online | WordPress Development, Core Web Vitals, Security&Maintenance

What is Robots.txt File?

A robots.txt file is a text file that is used to instruct web robots (also known as web spiders or crawlers) how to crawl and index a website.

The robots.txt file is part of the robots exclusion standard (REP), which is a protocol with a small set of commands that can be used to communicate with web robots.

The most common use of the robots.txt file is to prevent web robots from indexing all or part of a website. This is done by specifying one or more disallow rules in the robots.txt file. For example, a rule could be added to the robots.txt file to disallow web robots from indexing the /images/ directory on a website.

Robots.txt and Sitemap.xml


In general, a robots.txt file tells web robots, or “spiders”, which pages on your website to crawl and index. A sitemap.xml file provides additional information about the structure of your website, which can be very helpful for search engines.

The two files are complementary but not required to be used together. If you only have a robots.txt file, that’s perfectly fine. Similarly, if you only have a sitemap.xml file, that’s also perfectly fine. However, using both can be advantageous, especially if you have a large website with a complex structure.

A robots.txt file is generally placed in the root directory of a website. For example, if your website is www.example.com, then your robots.txt file would be www.example.com/robots.txt.

A sitemap.xml file can be placed anywhere on your website, but is generally placed in the root directory as well. For example, if your website is www.example.com, then your sitemap.xml file would be www.example.com/sitemap.xml.

The benefit of using a robots.txt file is that you can specify which pages on your website you do not want crawled and indexed. This can be useful if you have pages that contain sensitive information that you don’t want appearing in search results.

The benefit of using a sitemap.xml file is that you can provide additional information to search engines about the structure of your website. This can be very helpful, especially for large websites, as it can help search engines better understand the content on your website.

In general, it is a good idea to use both a robots.txt file and a sitemap.xml file if you have a large website with a complex structure. This will give search engines the most information about your website, and will help them crawl and index your website more effectively.

The robots.txt file is also used to specify the location of the sitemap for a website. The sitemap is a file that contains a list of all the pages on a website. By specifying the sitemap in the robots.txt file, web robots can easily find and index all the pages on a website.

Web robots are not required to obey the rules specified in the robots.txt file. However, most web robots support the robots exclusion standard and will obey the rules specified in the robots.txt file.

Robots.txt rules


The rules specified in the robots.txt file are applied to all web robots that crawl a website. It is not possible to specify rules for a specific web robot.

The robots.txt file must be placed in the root directory of a website. For example, if the URL of a website is http://www.example.com/, the robots.txt file must be located at http://www.example.com/robots.txt.

The robots.txt file can contain multiple rules. Each rule must be on a separate line.

A rule consists of two fields, a field name and a field value. The field name is followed by a colon (:) and the field value. For example:

User-agent: *

Disallow: /

The above rule would disallow all web robots from indexing any pages on the website.

Multiple field values can be specified for a field name by separating the values with a comma (,). For example:

User-agent: *

Disallow: /images/, /cgi-bin/

The above rule would disallow all web robots from indexing the /images/ and /cgi-bin/ directories on the website.

A rule can be specified without a field value. For example:

User-agent: *

Disallow:

The above rule would allow all web robots to index all pages on the website.

Comments can be added to the robots.txt file by starting a line with a hash character (#). Comments are ignored by web robots. For example:

# This is a comment

User-agent: *

Disallow: /

The above robots.txt file would disallow all web robots from indexing any pages on the website.

The order of the rules in the robots.txt file is important. The first matching rule is applied. For example, consider the following robots.txt file:

User-agent: *

Disallow: /

User-agent: Google

Disallow:

The above robots.txt file would disallow all web robots from indexing any pages on the website, except for the Google web robot.

Conclusion


If you own a WordPress website, then you should definitely be using a robots.txt file. This file is used to instruct search engine bots, also known as web crawlers, what pages on your website they are allowed to index and crawl.

You might be wondering why you would need to use a robots.txt file if your WordPress website is already set to be indexed by search engines. The answer is that a robots.txt file gives you more control over how search engines index your website.

For example, let’s say you have a WordPress website with a blog and anWooCommerce store. You might want the search engines to index your blog posts so people can find them when they search for keywords related to your content. However, you might not want the search engines to index your WooCommerce pages because you don’t want people to find your product pages before they reach your website.

In this case, you would use a robots.txt file to tell the search engines to only index your blog pages. This would give you more control over how people find your website and ensure that they reach your intended destination.

There are other reasons why you might want to use a robots.txt file on your WordPress website. For example, if you have pages that are password protected, you can use the robots.txt file to tell the search engines not to index these pages. This ensures that only people with the password can access the content on these pages.

Overall, using a robots.txt file on your WordPress website is a good idea if you want to have more control over how the search engines index your website. It’s also a good idea if you want to protect certain pages on your website from being indexed.

Bonus


This is a very short bonus tip: Don’t forget to add your sitemap link inside the robots.txt file.

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