On occasion, you may require that certain areas of your website be invisible to both search engines and visitors. The causes vary, as do the methods of implementation. You can use any of the following tools to assist you in controlling the indexing process: meta robots tag, X-Robots-Tag, robots.txt file, sitemap. In this blog article, we’ll discuss the peculiarities of X-Robots-Tag use, as well as its key risks and benefits.
X-Robots-Tag and Its Companions
The X-Robots-Tag is an essential component of the REP – Robots Exclusion Protocol. The REP (or robots exclusion standard) is a collection of rules that governs how search robots act on your website, including what material they crawl and index. The so-called ‘directives’ come into play when determining how the material on your web page is displayed. In reality, several directives instruct search engine robots which specific sites and material to crawl and, obviously, index. The most common is robot.txt files, which work with the meta robots tag. Despite being a pair, they are self-sufficient.
The robots.txt file is placed in the website’s root directory. Search robots should crawl portions of the website based on that information. It might be a page, a subdirectory, or other site elements. In general, Google robots should crawl parts of your website that you provide information first and should be pushed less or even ignored. The directives ‘allow’ and ‘disallow’ in robots.txt take effect. However, keep in mind that these bots are not required to follow the regulations you specify. Google formally invalidated robots.txt instructions in July 2019.
If you work with page content and wish to control it, you should use the meta robots tag. The meta robots tag, inserted in the head> portion of a web page, contains a slew of useful advice.
However, you should mention another method of managing noindex and nofollow directives. This is X-Robots-Tag, and it differs from the preceding members in a few ways.
When Should You Use X-Robots-Tag?
Of course, you can manage the bulk of website crawling issues with the aid of robots.txt files and the meta robots tag. However, there are a few instances where X-Robots-Tag appears to be a better fit:
- You don’t want particular video, picture, or PDF file formats indexed. Let’s say you wish to make a certain URL inaccessible for a defined length of time.
- Make good use of your crawl budget. The primary goal is to guide a robot in the appropriate path. Robots do not need to waste time indexing irrelevant areas of the webpage (such as admin and thank-you pages, shopping cart, promotions, etc.). But it doesn’t imply these sections aren’t essential to users, and you don’t have to spend your optimization time improving the quality of these pages.
- You must noindex a whole subdomain, subfolder, pages with specified criteria, or anything else that necessitates mass modification.
How To Implement X-Robots-Tag On A Website
X-Robots-Tag is an HTTP header supplied by the webserver (hence the name response header). Remember that X-Robots-Tag is the only way to noindex non-HTML files such as PDFs or picture files (jpeg, png, gif, etc.). The X-Robots-Tag can be introduced to a site’s HTTP replies using the .htaccess file in an Apache server setup.
One should note that the X-Robot-Tag implementation technique is fairly hard because it occurs at the code level. Web admins typically set up X-Robot-Tags. Any blunder might lead to major problems. For example, a syntax problem might cause the site to fail. It’s also a good idea to check for faults in the X-Robots-Tag frequently because it’s a big location for all types of problems.
If you opt not to index the page, the X-Robots-Tag header will appear like this:
HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Date: Tue, 25 May 2019 20:23:51 GTM
Compared to the meta robots tag:
<meta name=”robots” content=”noindex” />
If several directions are used simultaneously, it will appear the following way:
HTTP/1.1 200 OK
Date: Tue, 25 May 2019 20:23:51 GTM
X-Robots-Tag: noindex, nofollow
3.1 Directives Concerning X-Robots
The instructions are, for the most part, the same as those of the meta robots tag:
- follow – directs search robots to the page and instructs them to crawl all available links on the page
- nofollow – prevents robots from crawling all available links on the page
- index – directs bots to the page and allows them to index the page
- noindex – prevents bots from indexing the page, preventing it from appearing in SERPs
- noarchive — prevents Google from caching the page.
How To Examine X-Robots-Tag For Potential Issues
There are several different approaches for searching the web for an X-Robots-Tag.
One option is to use Screaming Frog.
After running a site via Screaming Frog, go to the “Directives” page and look for the “X-Robots-Tag” column to see which areas of the site use the tag, as well as which individual directives.
A few plugins are available that allow you to identify whether an X-Robots-Tag is being utilized, such as the Web Developer plugin.
You may examine the various HTTP headers used by clicking on the plugin in your browser and then heading to “View Response Headers.”
The breadth of X-Robot-Tag benefits for page indexing and crawling is rather extensive. The X-Robots-Tag header intends to help search engine crawlers in utilizing their crawl budget wisely, especially if the website is large and has a variety of materials. So here are the important takeaways:
In conjunction with the robots meta tags, the use of X-Robots-Tag is to optimize the crawl budget by directing a robot to be crucial for indexing sites.
Because the X-Robots-Tag appears in the HTTP response header, SEOs frequently require the aid of web admins to apply it on the website.
Review all directives with Screaming Frog Spider or other SEO crawlers regularly, as their power might affect future indexing of the website and potentially lead to ranking decreases.