Classic and reliable ways of manipulating Search Engine Robots
Robots that indexes your website
You may not be fully aware of the control that we have on search engines; you can control and manipulate the pages to be displayed in Google with the help of search engine robots. These robots crawl and index the website, drilling down to individual pages. You can use the robots.txt file to gain control of the search engine robots. This is a simple text file placed in the root directory of a website. When a search request is received, this text file instructs the robots to crawl on specific pages and avoid certain other pages. This is a powerful tool that helps you to display a website to Google as preferred. It is important to make good impressions with search engines; hence, utilizing the tool appropriately enhances the crawl frequency and the SEO efforts.
Know the Robots.txt file better
When the Internet was just born with a great deal of space to improve things, developers created a way to scan through the pages and retrieve queried information. They developed ‘robots’ also called as ‘spiders’ to crawl and index new pages on the web. At times, these tiny little fellas would set foot on other websites not intended to be crawled and indexed. Aliweb, who created the first search engine came up with a solution, he suggested a roadmap for all the robots to follow. This roadmap was finalized as the “Robots Exclusion Protocol”. The robots.txt file is the executable file of this protocol. The protocol comprises of guidelines that every authorized robot, including Google bots, should follow.
Create the Robots.txt File
This file is placed in the root directory of any website. The file is not huge, but a few hundred bytes. The robots.txt file is a basic text file and is easy to create. Open a notepad editor and save the empty page as, ‘robots.txt’. Find the public_html folder to gain access to the website’s root directory. Then, drag and drop the text file in that folder. Set appropriate permissions to read, write, and edit the file as the owner. The permission code is “0644”.
Exploring the syntax of Robots.txt
Now that you have created a robot.txt file, you must prepare the guidelines for the robots to follow. The file comprises of multiple sections of ‘directives’ commencing with a specified user-agent. The user agent refers to the specific crawl bot that the code must address.
How do you address the search engines? Well,
- Use a wildcard to address all search engines at once.
- Or address them individually.
As a bot prepares to crawl through the website, it is attracted to the blocks that address it.
For example, if you want to call the Googlebot Video and give instructions, start with: User-agent: Googlebot-Video. A bot that comes along with the user-agent ‘Googlebot-Video’ will follow the instructions.
Following is the list of directives for bots:
- Host Directive - It enables the user to decide on showing ‘www’ before a URL.
- Disallow Directive – This directive helps to specify the sections on the website that the bots cannot access. An empty disallow does not restrict the bots and allows them to visit or not visit sections.
- Sitemap Directive (XML Sitemaps) – This tells the bots the location of the XML sitemap.
- Crawl-Delay Directive – It restricts the crawl for a while. The bots wait until the specified delay time before crawling the site.
Directives show an 80% success rate, but Google is dropping this feature. Hence, you must think twice before implementing this approach, as this might be eliminated in the future. We reviewed the benefits of such directives, let us see the other side of them when they operate differently devastating your SEO efforts.
- Overuse of Crawl-Delay – Using this too often limits the pages that are crawled by the bots leading to a low ranking and traffic.
- Preventing content indexing – Suppose a page opens from an external link, the bots still crawl through those pages and index them.
- Hiding malicious and duplicate content – This applies to printer-friendly content. Google and certain other search engines smartly identify those pages that you try to hide and printer-friendly content.
The need for robots.txt file
There are certain key benefits that you must understand in using a robots.txt file.
- Point the bots away from private folders. Bots will not check private folders that make it difficult to find and index.
- Customize robots.txt file to save resources by restricting bots to access individual scripts and images. Because every time a bot crawls through the site, it consumes bandwidth and other resources in the server.
- Control access to specific pages to provide the search engines with the most important pages on the website.
- Specifying the location of sitemaps.
- Preventing duplicate content being displayed in SERPs.
- Preventing internal pages being displayed in SERPs.
If the robots.txt file is created appropriately, SEO and the user experience of visitors are enhanced. If you allow the bots to crawl on the right pages, they will retrieve appropriate content and satisfy the purpose in the SERPs.