What Is Robots.txt?


Robots.txt is a text (not html) file you put on your site to tell search robots which pages you would like them not to visit. Robots.txt is by no means mandatory for search engines but generally search engines obey what they are asked not to do. It is important to clarify that robots.txt is not a way from preventing search engines from crawling your site (i.e. it is not a firewall, or a kind of password protection) and the fact that you put a robots.txt file is something like putting a note “Please, do not enter” on an unlocked door – e.g. you cannot prevent thieves from coming in but the good guys will not open to door and enter. That is why we say that if you have really sen sitive data, it is too na├»ve to rely on robots.txt to protect it from being indexed and displayed in search results.

The location of robots.txt is very important. It must be in the main directory because otherwise user agents (search engines) will not be able to find it – they do not search the whole site for a file named robots.txt. Instead, they look first in the main directory (i.e. http://mydomain.com/robots.txt) and if they don't find it there, they simply assume that this site does not have a robots.txt file and therefore they index everything they find along the way. So, if you don't put robots.txt in the right place, do not be surprised that search engines index your whole site.

The concept and structure of robots.txt has been developed more than a decade ago and if you are interested to learn more about it, visit http://www.robotstxt.org/ or you can go straight to the Standard for Robot Exclusion because in this article we will deal only with the most important aspects of a robots.txt file. Next we will continue with the structure a robots.txt file.
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