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7 Common Robots.txt Issues and How To Fix Them

Robotstxt Issues

Robots.txt is a small and plain file that instructs search engine crawlers on how to crawl your website. These crawl blocks prevent Google bots from wasting their time on the unimportant and irrelevant pages on your website. This file must be placed in your site’s root directory. The primary goal of robots.txt is to block certain web pages on your site from being shown in the search engine. 

Although these pages might show up in the search result, the content won’t be displayed. It is also used for blocking media files, such as images, videos, infographics, tables, and other visual content from search engines. 

Here are 7 common robots.txt errors and ways to fix them. 

  1. Not Having Robots.txt File
  2. Not Placed in the Root Directory
  3. Improper Use of Wildcards
  4. Robots txt Disallow
  5. Adding No index Attributes
  6. Skipping Sitemap URL
  7. Giving Access to Under-progress Websites

1. Not Having Robots.txt File

Despite being an important element of website crawling, most website owners are not aware of the use of robots.txt files. Those who know about it don’t implement the file, as they don’t think it’s important for SERP ranking. Robots.txt might not directly affect your search rankings, but they have a significant impact on your website performance. 

Robots.txt files are important for proper website crawling. If you don’t implement this text file, Google bots will not know which web pages must be crawled and which must be avoided. Without a robots.txt file, Google bots will crawl every page on your site. It gives you control over which web pages you want to be indexed in the search engine. 

2. Not Placed in the Root Directory

Google can only detect this file if it’s placed in your root directory. The robots.txt file in the subdirectory or other places is ignored. A robot.txt in the subfolder will make no difference to your website. So, how do you check if the file is in the root directory? There must be only a single forward slash between your website domain and the robot.txt file name. Some content management systems store these small files in the subfolders by default. If that’s the case, you need to manually move the file to the root directory. 

3. Improper Use of Wildcards

Asterisk and the dollar symbol are the only wildcards supported by the robot.txt file. Incorrect use of the wildcard can place restrictions on a wider section of your website. If you misplace the asterisk in the robot.txt, it might block robot access altogether. It is best to avoid wildcards as much as possible. If you are using them, make sure they are placed correctly. 

4. Robots txt Disallow

One of the common mistakes of website owners is using disallow for blocking content on your website. This should be done via canonicals and not robots.txt. The issue arises when Dev and other CMS developers have difficulty adding custom canonicals to a website. In order to block search crawlers from crawling and indexing specific webpages, they use robots.txt files as an alternative to canonicals. Even a small error in the robots.txt file can block search bots from crawling the important pages of your website.

Read Also:- Do SiteMaps Affect Crawlers

5. Adding No index Attributes

This is the most common problem in older websites. On September 1, 2019, Google announced that it would no longer accept no-index attributes in the robots.txt file. Since then, Google has been ignoring the no-index lines and indexing your web pages normally in the search engine. If you have an older website with no-index attributes in the robots.txt files, these pages will most likely be visible in the search results. The only way to fix this problem is by implementing an alternative no-index method. Robots meta tag is a good alternative. Just add it to the head of any webpage you want to prevent Google bots from indexing.

6. Skipping Sitemap URL

The sitemap URL must be included in the robots.txt file for SEO purposes. Sitemap URL is the first thing the crawlers check to understand the structure of your website. Although omitting a sitemap URL isn’t a big issue, as it doesn’t affect the visibility of your website in the search engine, it is still important to add your sitemap to robots.txt for improved SEO.

7. Giving Access to Under-progress Websites

You can’t block Google bots from accessing your live website. That doesn’t mean you can allow them to crawl a website under development. You can use disallow instructions to avoid search crawlers from indexing pages still under construction. This will prevent the general public from viewing your website. Make sure you remove it once the website is developed.

Robots.txt mistakes can significantly impact your website’s visibility on Google, but these are often minor mistakes that can be fixed easily. The worst that can happen is the robots.txt file is ignored by Google bots because of incorrect structure. 

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