How to Use the robots.txt File to Your Advantage
The robots.txt file can make or break your website and unless you know exactly what you are doing, it’s not something you should play with. However, that being said, once you know what it does and how to use it, you will understand just how important it is. By understanding exactly what the robots.txt file is you will undoubtedly begin to see just how advantageous it can be if used properly.
Let’s Start with a Brief Explanation of robots.txt
The purpose of the robots.txt file is to direct the web crawlers to the content on your site you would like indexed and ranked. One small error can cause huge problems resulting in the content being ignored. In other words, not only will it not rank highly, but it may not rank at all.
The robots.txt file is located in the root of your site. Anyone can find your file in the root directory by typing /robots.txt at the end of the URL you are trying to access. This is how the search engines find the content/information you want to be found, as well as the pages you don’t want to be crawled.
The Primary Advantage – Expedient Crawling
The primary advantage of a robots.txt file is that the search crawlers aren’t wasting time and using an exorbitant amount of bandwidth crawling your site to find quality content worth indexing. Many search engines won’t act like a rodent on a treadwheel and will not go on forever if you have hundreds or thousands of pages to be ranked.
The Next Important Advantage – Avoiding Duplicate Content
Most commercial sites are niche-specific. As a result, there are terms and phrases used often and there are only so many ways to reword something. If the crawlers pick up an excessive amount of duplicate content, your site can be penalized. This results in important content not being indexed or ranked.
Most consumers find products and services by searching online. Gone are the days of letting your fingers do the walking through the yellow pages because online searches yield results so much quicker and easier.
If duplicate content is going to cause you to lose rank, they may never find you! Most searchers will only click through to the first two or three results on the SERPs, so if you are ranked on the second page or beyond, you will probably never be found. Duplicate content is deadly to organic searches.
Beyond the Written Word
Finally, one last advantage to mention is that the search engines don’t only rank articles and blogs. Other types of content that can help propel your web pages to the first page of the SERPs are such things as videos, graphics, charts, infographics, and photographs.
These can also be given directives in the robots.txt file as would be your site map. Although it wasn’t previously mentioned, Google and other search engines absolutely love a site map because it can be quickly crawled as an adjunct to the robots.txt file. In other words, the easier you make it for the crawlers to find content of value, the better your chances of getting ranked highly.
Putting It All Together
It is important to understand the need for a robots.txt file but it must follow a very specific format of commands/directives. Although you can easily find great examples online by adding the “/robots.txt” to the end of a URL, you must also understand that it has to be edited for your website.
The command lines follow a very specific format, so tread carefully when writing or editing your own file. While they are not that complicated, a small mistake could cost you dearly with the crawlers, which are the #1 way in which visitors find your site.
So, what is the biggest advantage of the robots.txt file? That would be directing massive amounts of traffic to your site because the crawlers were able to find and rank your site highly in the Search Engine Results Pages. With a little effort and the knowledge that you’ve gained, there’s no reason why you can’t reap all these advantages and so many more.