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Glossary Definition: Robots.txt

An ever-growing glossary of SEO Jargon

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What is a Robots.txt File?

Robots.txt is an optional web server file, used to prevent search engine robots and other web crawlers from accessing all or part of a website.

The Robot Exclusion Standard is not enforceable; however, most reputable crawlers will respect the directives in a robots.txt file.

Google will not crawl or index pages blocked by robots.txt, but might still index the content if it is linked to from elsewhere on the Web. A better method of preventing a web page from being listed in Google's index is the noindex meta robots tag.

Bandwidth-saving Robots.txt

A good argument for using a robots.txt file is to save server bandwidth. Disallowing robots access to web pages or images which don't need to be indexed will save bandwidth every time a website is crawled.

In fact, the presence alone of a robots.txt file can save bandwidth: Since most web crawlers try to fetch the robots.txt file before attempting to access a website, a missing robots.txt file will trigger a 404 error. In the event that a website has custom error pages, continual 404's will use up additional bandwidth for nothing.

How to Create a Robots.txt File

To create a robots.txt file, rules are added to a simple text file which should be named robots.txt, and the file added to the root directory of a domain or subdomain.

Basic Examples of Robots.txt Entries

Disallow all web spiders for the entire site:

User-agent: *
Disallow: /

Allow all web spiders for the entire site:

User-agent: *
Disallow: 

Disallow all web spiders for the images, cgi-bin, and tmp directories:

User-agent: *
Disallow: /images/
Disallow: /cgi-bin/
Disallow: /tmp/

Disallow Googlebot for the about directory, with the exception of one particular file:

User-agent: Googlebot
Disallow: /about/
Allow: /about/staff.html

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