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What is the Robots.txt File? Directives to Better Crawling

If you’ve ever asked, “What is a robots.txt file?” you’re in the right place. The robots.txt file serves as a guideline that speaks directly to web crawlers and other automated bots about which parts of a website they should or shouldn’t interact with. Understanding the concept is essential for SEO – Search Engine Optimization.

The current article is "2.26. Robots.txt File" of our Complete SEO Guide Box.
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The Basic Elements of a Robots.txt File

At its core, the robots.txt file is a simple text file placed in the primary directory of your domain:


This foundational website component instructs web crawlers on areas they need to avoid. These instructions are crucial for websites that wish to control which parts get indexed in search engines.

Why is the Robots.txt File Beneficial?

But what is a robots.txt file benefit for your site?

1. It grants website owners Control Over Crawling. Defining which parts should remain untouched ensures irrelevant or duplicate content isn’t indexed. This streamlined indexing enhances the site’s SEO value.

2. It aids in the Conservation of Server Resources. Preventing bots from overloading your server with unnecessary crawl requests ensures the server remains efficient and responsive. Web robots, “crawlers,” or “spiders,” scour the internet to gather website data. A robots.txt file helps control where these robots go on your site. For instance, if your website is massive or has limited bandwidth, this file ensures the site isn’t overwhelmed.

3. The Prevention of Indexing Unwanted Content means you can decide which content appears on search engine results, allowing you to craft your online presence.

4. While not its primary function, a robots.txt file can enhance Website Security by preventing certain parts from appearing on search engine results.

5. Duplicate content can harm your website’s search ranking. Sometimes, websites have multiple versions of the same page, like a print-friendly version. With the file, you can tell search engines which is the main content and which to ignore.

6. Test Servers Should Stay Hidden. If you’ve got a test or draft version of your site, you don’t want it appearing in search results. Use a robots.txt file to keep these versions hidden.

7. Sitemaps: The “robots” file also points search engines to your site’s structure through an XML sitemap. The sitemap helps these engines understand and index your site faster.

We will implement robots.txt through the Yoast SEO WordPress plugin in later chapters.

Points to Remember

However, when pondering what is a robots.txt file, there are caveats to bear in mind. It’s a guideline, not an impervious barrier. It suggests compliant web bots where not to go but doesn’t actively block them. For genuine security, consider options like password protection.

Furthermore, always handle the “robots” file with care. An inadvertent error can deter search engines from indexing essential content, impacting the website’s visibility.

Read More

Read more about the What is Robots.txt file on Google Docs.


Understanding tools like the “robots” becomes pivotal in the digital age. So, when someone asks you what is a robots.txt file, you now possess the knowledge to elucidate its importance in the vast world of SEO.

The current article is "2.26. Robots.txt File" of our Complete SEO Guide Box.
Previous Article: 2.25. XML Sitemap. Next Article: 2.27. Breadcrumbs


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