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Glossary Definition: Meta Robots Attribute

An ever-growing glossary of SEO Jargon

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What is a Meta Robots Attribute?

The Meta Robots attribute, or Robots Meta tag, is used to provide search engines with instructions on how web pages should be crawled, indexed, and presented in search results.

As with all meta elements, the content of Meta Robots tags are not directly visible to website visitors.

Robots Meta tags are more effective than robots.txt directives in preventing Google from indexing unimportant or duplicate content.

Robots Meta Tag Values

The Robots attribute can contain one or more of several available values, most of which are supported by Google, Yahoo!, and Bing:

  • Index & noindex: The noindex value disallows search engines from indexing a web page page that includes the instruction. The default value is index
  • Follow & nofollow: The nofollow value prevents all links on a web page page from being crawled. The default value is follow.
  • None: The none value is shorthand for noindex and nofollow
  • Noarchive: The noarchive value asks search engines not to store an archived (cached) copy of the web page
  • Nosnippet: The nosnippet value asks that search engines not include a Meta Description snippet from the page along with the page's listing in search results
  • Noodp: In the case of automatically generated Meta Descriptions, noodp prevents search engines from using descriptions from the Open Directory Project, if it lists the website
  • Noydir: In the case of automatically generated Meta Descriptions, the noydir attribute prevents search engines from using descriptions from the Yahoo! Directory, if it lists the website
  • Nocache: Same as the noarchive value, but only used by the MSN/Live search engine

Example Robots Meta Tags

Default values. A web page with index and follow Robots Meta tag values will be indexed and crawled normally, just as it would without the directives:

<meta name="robots" content="index, follow">

The combination of nofollow and noindex Robots Meta tag values will prevent a web page from being indexed. The page will accumulate PageRank, but will not pass it on to other pages, including to those on the same domain. Because the nofollow value prevents a page's link equity from passing on to other pages, it is generally discouraged to use the this combination of Robot meta tag values:

<meta name="robots" content="noindex, nofollow">

A better solution to prevent indexing doesn't prevent PageRank from flowing through to other web pages:

<meta name="robots" content="noindex, follow">

The Meta Robots attribute can be used to instruct all supporting search engines, or specific robots:

  • Google robot: Googlebot
  • Googlebot mobile robot: Googlebot-mobile
  • Googlebot news robot: Googlebot-news
  • Yahoo robot: Slurp
  • MSN and Live Search robot: Bingbot

To block a page from appearing in Google News results, but not is Google's main web search results:

<meta name="googlebot-news" content="noindex">

Search Engine Support for Robots Meta Tag Values

Robots value Google Yahoo! MSN / Live Ask
index Yes Yes Yes Yes
noindex Yes Yes Yes Yes
follow Yes Unlikely Unlikely Yes
nofollow Yes Yes Yes Yes
none Yes Unlikely Unlikely Yes
noarchive Yes Yes Yes Yes
nosnippet Yes No No No
noodp Yes Yes Yes No
noydir No Yes No No
Search engine support for Robots meta tag values
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