Robots.txt is a complex term that very few small business owners would understand.
At first glance, it looks like a technical jargon known only by web developers and programmers. This does not have to be the case.
In this brief guide, we will explain what robots.txt is in a way that can be easily understood and utilized by a small business website.
Robots.txt: An Introduction
What is robots.txt? Robots.txt is a text file that instructs search engine robots what web pages it can access on a website.
This is not a way to keep certain web pages out of a search engine, but a mechanism to avoid overloading a website with requests.
Think of robots.txt as road signs.
Let’s pretend that search engine bots are people driving in cars headed to the amusement park. They see a road sign that reads “10 miles to Dream Park. Drive straight ahead.”
Following the directions on the sign will lead them to their intended destination. If they see a sign that says “Heavy Traffic. Take Alternate Route”, they are warned not to proceed to avoid getting stuck in traffic.
Similar to the principle of robots.txt, the sign would not completely hinder them from proceeding, but it gives them a warning that it is not smart to do so and instead points them in the right direction.
What Is It Used For?
Now it’s time to ask, what is robots.txt used for?
A robots.txt file is used to manage crawler traffic to a website. It can have slightly differing functions depending on the types of files in the site.
For web pages, a robot.txt file is utilized to manage traffic, so a server would not be overwhelmed by requests from search engine crawlers.
In the cases of media and resource files on a website, robots.txt can manage crawl demand and prevent image, video, audio, and resource files from actually appearing in search engine results. However, this won’t prevent other sites from linking to the site’s media files.
The proper use of a robots.txt file will result in a more search engine optimized website. We will discuss what search engine optimization (SEO) is and how it can help small businesses in our next point.
Robots.txt sounds pretty technical, huh? Well that's not all. Here's a post talking all about technical SEO and it's explained in an accessible way.
How Robots.txt Can Help Small Businesses
What is SEO? Search engine optimization is a set of best practices implemented to increase a website’s chances of appearing higher in organic search results.
It can help small businesses succeed because organic traffic as a result of high search rankings is the most common way for potential clients and customers to find and access content online.
A business with an optimized site is more likely to appear at the top of search results which translates to high amounts of SEO traffic to the website.
Naturally, a website gathering high amounts of traffic can mean more sales and inquiries that are directly beneficial to the small business.
Thinking about doing SEO yourself? Thinking about hiring someone local to do it? Maybe you want to hire a college kid. Here are 9 reasons why outsourcing SEO efforts to SEO professionals isn't only the best way to do it, it's also the most cost-effective way to do it. Yep, even more cost-effective than doing it yourself.
Here are some frequently asked questions about robots.txt files:
Is a Robots.txt File Necessary?
A robots.txt file is not required for a website. However, it’s highly recommended to use one, so search engines can access your website’s content more efficiently. It helps bring up more accurate search results that are relevant to the organic search. Once more, major search engines will expect your site to have one.
Is Robots.txt a Vulnerability?
Robots.txt in itself does not pose any kind of security threat. However, it can be used to get information about private areas of a website’s contents.
How Do I Open a Robots.txt File?
Opening a robots.txt file is simple. Just type in the root domain, then add /robots.txt at the end of the URL.
We hope that this brief guide has been helpful in understanding what a robots.txt file is.
Trying to be an expert in robots.txt and other technical SEO jargon should not consume your precious time as a small business owner.
It’s more important to find out if your website can perform at all. But how do you do that? Won't that cost a ton of money?
Nope. Check out our free, guided, and helpful website assessment to learn more.