We may have added an entire heap of interesting and relevant content for our website, but there could be some little details that we forget. Our website could be optimized fully for specific keywords and keyphrases. One thing that makes or breaks our website is how robots.txt is used. The file may make a whole world of difference and without proper configuration. When search engine bots visit our website, the first thing that it looks for is the robots.txt file, not our index.php or index.html file. Robots.txt is located in the root and it contains instructions on things that search engine bots can and can’t see in the website.
The first line in robots.txt file is usually “User-agent: *” and it means that robots.txt applies to all search engine robots. The second line could “Disallow: /cgi-bin/” and it means that search engine bots are disallowed to enter the /cgi-bin folder. We could remove the folder or add other folders. The third line is intentionally blank and it is probably for aesthetics purposes. The fourth line could be”Sitemap: /sitemap.xml.gz” and it informs search engine bots that the structure of our website has been indexed and it can be accessed as sitemap.xml.gz file. One big question is whether we need a robots.txt file.
In general, robots.txt file isn’t really needed and often, search engine bots are able to immediately index our whole website, even if we don’t have robots.txt in our website. It is not required for search engine bots to read robots.txt. As an example, bots can be launched by bad individuals to scan our website for possible vulnerabilities. It means that we may need to prevent bots to access specific parts of our website, such as /cgi-bin folder. The easiest way to access robots.txt file is by looking for it and we could simply type our domain name followed with robots.txt in the web browser. If we get Error 4040 Not Found message, then the file is probably not there.
Another thing to consider is whether we got anything to hide. Private and sensitive data could be accessible for specific groups of users and we don’t want them to be available for the general public. Other than making some file and database configuration, we also need to provide some details in robots.txt file. Search engine bots behave a bit like insects and their sole purpose in life is to index any website content, but it could be instructed not to index specific locations. It is also important to encrypt sensitive and private data, not just preventing bots from entering specific folders.
However, messing around with robots.txt can also be harmful to our SEO effort. As an example, we may mistakenly disallow the root or “/” of our website. It means that the starting folder of our website won’t be accessed by search engine bots. For this reason, we need to make sure that robots.txt won’t accidentally turn away search engine bots.