Recently one of our readers asked us how to optimize the robots.txt file to improve SEO.
The robots.txt file tells search engines how to crawl your website, which makes it an incredibly powerful SEO tool.
In this article, we will show you some tips on how to create a perfect robots.txt file for SEO.
What Is a Robots.txt file?
Robots.txt is a text file that website owners can create to tell search engine bots how to crawl and index pages on their sites.
It is typically stored in the root directory (also known as the main folder) of your website. The basic format for a robots.txt file looks like this:
User-agent: [user-agent name] Disallow: [URL string not to be crawled] User-agent: [user-agent name] Allow: [URL string to be crawled] Sitemap: [URL of your XML Sitemap]
You can have multiple lines of instructions to allow or disallow specific URLs and add multiple sitemaps. If you do not disallow a URL, then search engine bots assume that they are allowed to crawl it.
Here is what a robots.txt example file can look like:
User-Agent: * Allow: /wp-content/uploads/ Disallow: /wp-content/plugins/ Disallow: /wp-admin/ Sitemap: https://example.com/sitemap_index.xml
In the above robots.txt example, we have allowed search engines to crawl and index files in our WordPress uploads folder.
After that, we have disallowed search bots from crawling and indexing plugins and WordPress admin folders.
Lastly, we have provided the URL of our XML sitemap.
Do You Need a Robots.txt File for Your WordPress Site?
If you don’t have a robots.txt file, then search engines will still crawl and index your website. However, you will not be able to tell them which pages or folders they should not crawl.
This won’t have much impact when you first start a blog and don’t have a lot of content.
However, as your website grows and you add more content, then you will likely want better control over how your website is crawled and indexed.
Here is why.
Search bots have a crawl quota for each website.
This means that they crawl a certain number of pages during a crawl session. If they don’t finish crawling all pages on your site, then they will come back and resume crawling in the next session.
This can slow down your website indexing rate.
You can fix this by disallowing search bots from attempting to crawl unnecessary pages like your WordPress admin pages, plugin files, and themes folder.
By disallowing unnecessary pages, you save your crawl quota. This helps search engines crawl even more pages on your site and index them as quickly as possible.
Another good reason to use a robots.txt file is when you want to stop search engines from indexing a post or page on your website.
This is not the safest way to hide content from the general public, but it will help you prevent content from appearing in search results.
What Does an Ideal Robots.txt File Look Like?
Many popular blogs use a very simple robots.txt file. Their content may vary depending on the needs of the specific site:
User-agent: * Disallow: Sitemap: http://www.example.com/post-sitemap.xml Sitemap: http://www.example.com/page-sitemap.xml
This robots.txt file allows all bots to index all content and provides them with a link to the website’s XML sitemaps.
For WordPress sites, we recommend the following rules in the robots.txt file:
User-Agent: * Allow: /wp-content/uploads/ Disallow: /wp-admin/ Disallow: /readme.html Disallow: /refer/ Sitemap: http://www.example.com/post-sitemap.xml Sitemap: http://www.example.com/page-sitemap.xml
This tells search bots to index all WordPress images and files. It disallows search bots from indexing the WordPress admin area, readme file, and cloaked affiliate links.
By adding sitemaps to the robots.txt file, you make it easy for Google bots to find all the pages on your site.
Now that you know what an ideal robots.txt file looks like, let’s take a look at how you can create a robots.txt file in WordPress.
How to Create a Robots.txt File in WordPress
There are two ways to create a robots.txt file in WordPress. You can choose the method that works best for you.
Method 1: Editing Robots.txt File Using All in One SEO
It’s easy to use and comes with a robots.txt file generator.
If you don’t already have the AIOSEO plugin installed, you can see our step-by-step guide on how to install a WordPress plugin.
Note: A free version of AIOSEO is also available and has this feature.
Once the plugin is installed and activated, you can use it to create and edit your robots.txt file directly from your WordPress admin area.
Simply go to All in One SEO » Tools to edit your robots.txt file.
First, you’ll need to turn on the editing option by clicking the ‘Enable Custom Robots.txt’ toggle to blue.
With this toggle on, you can create a custom robots.txt file in WordPress.
All in One SEO will show your existing robots.txt file in the ‘Robots.txt Preview’ section at the bottom of your screen.
This version will show the default rules that were added by WordPress.
These default rules tell the search engines not to crawl your core WordPress files, allow the bots to index all content, and provide them a link to your site’s XML sitemaps.
Now, you can add your own custom rules to improve your robots.txt for SEO.
To add a rule, enter a user agent in the ‘User Agent’ field. Using a * will apply the rule to all user agents.
Then, select whether you want to ‘Allow’ or ‘Disallow’ the search engines to crawl.
Next, enter the filename or directory path in the ‘Directory Path’ field.
The rule will automatically be applied to your robots.txt. To add another rule, just click the ‘Add Rule’ button.
We recommend adding rules until you create the ideal robots.txt format we shared above.
Your custom rules will look like this.
Once you are done, don’t forget to click on the ‘Save Changes’ button to store your changes.
Method 2. Editing Robots.txt file Manually Using FTP
For this method, you will need to use an FTP client to edit the robots.txt file.
Simply connect to your WordPress website files using an FTP client.
Once inside, you will be able to see the robots.txt file in your website’s root folder.
If you don’t see one, then you likely don’t have a robots.txt file.
In that case, you can just go ahead and create one.
Robots.txt is a plain text file, which means you can download it to your computer and edit it using any plain text editor like Notepad or TextEdit.
After saving your changes, you can upload the robots.txt file back to your website’s root folder.
How to Test Your Robots.txt File
Once you have created your robots.txt file, it’s always a good idea to test it using a robots.txt tester tool.
There are many robots.txt tester tools out there, but we recommend using the one inside Google Search Console.
First, you will need to have your website linked with Google Search Console. If you haven’t done this yet, see our guide on how to add your WordPress site to Google Search Console.
Then, you can use the Google Search Console Robots Testing Tool.
Simply select your property from the dropdown list.
The tool will automatically fetch your website’s robots.txt file and highlight the errors and warnings if it found any.
The goal of optimizing your robots.txt file is to prevent search engines from crawling pages that are not publicly available. For example, pages in your wp-plugins folder or pages in your WordPress admin folder.
A common myth among SEO experts is that blocking WordPress categories, tags, and archive pages will improve the crawl rate and result in faster indexing and higher rankings.
This is not true. It’s also against Google’s webmaster guidelines.
We recommend that you follow the above robots.txt format to create a robots.txt file for your website.
We hope this article helped you learn how to optimize your WordPress robots.txt file for SEO. You may also want to see our ultimate WordPress SEO guide and our expert picks for the best WordPress SEO tools to grow your website.