6 Common Robots.txt Issues & And How To Fix Them

Search Engine Optimization

6 Common Robots.txt Issues & And How To Fix Them

06/09/2022 12:00 AM by TheChiefHustler in

Robots.txt is a handy and rather powerful tool for telling search engine crawlers how to explore your website. It isn't all-powerful (according to Google, "it isn't a technique for keeping a web page out of Google"), but it can assist protect your site or server from becoming overburdened with crawler queries. If you have this crawl block installed on your site, make sure it's being utilized correctly.

This is especially critical if you're using dynamic URLs or other methods that might produce an unlimited number of pages. We'll look at some of the most frequent issues with the robots.txt file in this tutorial, as well as the impact they can have on your website and search visibility, and how to correct them if you suspect they've happened.


What is Robot.txt?

Robots.txt is a simple but powerful way to tell search engines how to crawl your website. The greatest aspect is that fixing your robots.txt file will allow you to recover from any problems fast and (usually) completely. As a result, we'll look at some of the most prevalent robots.txt errors and how to remedy them in this post. Your website's root directory has a plaintext file titled Robots.txt. It must be towards the top of your website's ranking; placing it in a subfolder will lead Google to disregard it. Despite its strength, robots.txt is a simple document. Using an editor like Notepad, a rudimentary robots.txt file may be created in seconds.


Six Common Robots.txt Errors

Your robots.txt file is a fantastic place to examine for any problems, syntax issues, or overreaching rules if your website is performing weirdly in the search results.

Let's take a closer look at each of the above errors and how to make sure your robots.txt file is correct.


1. The Robots.txt file is not located in the root directory.

The file can only be found by search robots if it's in your root folder. That's why the URL of your robots.txt file should only include a forward slash between the.com (or comparable domain) of your website and the 'robots.txt' filename. Your robots.txt file is probably not accessible to search robots if there's a subdirectory in there, and your website is likely to behave as if there isn't one at all. Transfer your robots.txt files to your root directory to resolve this issue. It's worth mentioning that you'll need root access to your server to do this. Some content management systems may automatically upload files to a 'media' subfolder (or something similar), so you may need to go around this to get your robots.txt file where it belongs.


2. Ineffective use of wildcards

Two wildcard characters are supported by Robots.txt:

  • Any occurrence of a valid character, such as a Joker in a deck of cards, is represented by an asterisk *.
  • The dollar symbol $ signifies the end of a URL, allowing restrictions to be applied solely to the last component of the URL, such as the filetype extension.

Because wildcards have the ability to impose limits on a considerably larger area of your website, it's best to use them sparingly. With a badly positioned asterisk, it's also quite easy to prohibit robot access to your whole site. To resolve a wildcard problem, discover the wrong wildcard and relocate or remove it so that your robots.txt file functions properly.


3. In Robots.txt, noindex

This one is more commonly found on older web pages. As of September 1, 2019, Google will no longer honour noindex instructions in robots.txt files. If your robots.txt file was generated before that date or includes noindex instructions, such pages are likely to be indexed by Google. Implementing an alternate 'noindex' technique is the solution to this problem. The robot's meta tag, which you may put on the top of any web page you don't want Google to index, is one method.


4. Stylesheets And Blocked Scripts

Blocking crawler access to external JavaScripts or cascading stylesheets may appear rational (CSS). Remember, Googlebot need access to CSS and JS files in order to correctly "see" your HTML and PHP pages. Check whether you're preventing crawler access to essential external files if your pages are performing strangely in Google's results or it appears that Google isn't viewing them correctly. Delete the line from the robots.txt file that is limiting access as an easy remedy. If you do need to block any files, include an exception that allows you to access the essential CSS and JavaScript again.


5. No URL for a sitemap

This is primarily about search engine optimization. In your robots.txt file, you may enter the URL of your sitemap. Because this is the first location Googlebot checks while crawling your website, it provides the crawler a head start in understanding your site's structure and major pages. While this isn't exactly a mistake because missing a sitemap should have no effect on your website's essential functioning or visibility in search results, it's still important to add your sitemap Link to robots.txt if you want to increase your SEO efforts. 


6. Site Access

Allowing crawlers to crawl as well as index your pages that are still under creation is just as bad as blocking them from your live website. A forbid command should be included in the robots.txt file of a site under development so that the general public does not see it until it is complete. When you create a fully functional website, it's also critical to remove the forbid command. One of the most observed mistakes made by web developers is failing to delete this line from robots.txt, which might prevent your entire website from being properly scanned and indexed. Look for a universal user agent forbid rule in your robots.txt file if your development site appears to be receiving real-world traffic or if your newly released website isn't performing well in search:

User-Agent: *

Disallow: /

Make the appropriate modifications to your robots.txt file and confirm that your website's search appearance updates correctly if you see this when you shouldn't (or don't see it when you should).


Wrapping Up

A robots.txt file is a valuable tool for managing how search engines access your website's content, but it's simple to make mistakes that prevent Google from scanning your site as thoroughly as possible (or, in certain situations, allow Google to crawl portions of your site you didn't want it to). Six frequent difficulties with robots.txt files were discussed above, along with suggestions for how to resolve them.


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