robots.txt is a text file that tells search engine robots which pages on your website to index and which to ignore. The robots meta tag can also be used to achieve the same thing, but it is generally less effective. The canonical tag is another option for controlling which pages are indexed, but it should be used with caution.
robots.txt is the only method that offers 100% control over which pages are indexed, so it should be your first choice. However, robots.txt does have some drawbacks. First, it requires that you have access to the server where your website is hosted. Second, robots.txt must be updated each time you add or remove pages from your website. Despite these drawbacks, robots.txt is still the best way to improve your search ranking by controlling which pages are indexed.
Many times, search engine spiders take important pages as junk and index content. Thus, they don’t consider them eligible to serve for a user as an entry point. Worse still, crawlers take them to be pages generating duplicate content. In addition, there are several other search engine issues with these pages. However, there is a way to deal with such search engine issues.
All you need to do is guide the search engine robots through your business website in order to leverage upon each visit of the search spiders. This means, you need to use the safety gates for restricting robot from accessing those pages to improve your search ranking.
Unfortunately, most optimizers overlook this component and do not restrict the access of the search robots to their junk pages. There are several tools to keep the search engine spiders to keep away from such pages. The followings are few of them:
Meta Robots Tag:
These tags enable you to provide the search engine robots with page-level instructions. Place your Meta robots tag in the HTML document’s head section. This is a “noindex” tag, which helps in keeping content of your page out of the reach of search engine index. Simultaneously, these tags let the spider follow your internal links so that you can leverage upon the link juice. However, using the ‘noindex, nofollow’ tags together may jeopardize you chances of enjoying the link juice flow, which is essential for search engine ranking.
You can control the access of search engine robot to an extent with this file. They are very easy to use and are great for pointing out the files of your XML Sitemap. But have no confusion, Robots.txt file does not guarantee preventing your page from being indexed by search engines. In fact, using the Meta tag “noindex” is a better option, as you should use Robots.txt files only when it is necessary. They can block your link juice by restricting search engine spiders from crawling your page content and following the internal links.
Related reading: How incorrect 301 redirects can ruin your SEO effort
This page level Meta tag is placed in the HTML header of your web page. This tag guides the search engine crawler about your URL, the canonical version of the web page being displayed. While consolidating your web page’s strength into one ‘canonical’ page, this tag keep duplicate content of your website away from being indexed by search engine robots.
An example of Canonical Tag code is <link rel=”canonical” href=”http://example.com/quality-wrenches.htm”/>. You can easily implement this tag. Better yet, use them to source content across your domains. However, it is a signal and not a command and cannot correct the core issue.