All the things You Want To Know About The X-Robots-Tag HTTP Header

Everything You Need To Know About The X-Robots-Tag HTTP Header

SEO, in its most simple sense, depends upon one factor above all others: Search engine spiders crawling and indexing your web site.

However almost each web site goes to have pages that you simply don’t wish to embody on this exploration.

For instance, do you actually need your privateness coverage or inner search pages exhibiting up in Google outcomes?

In a best-case situation, these are doing nothing to drive visitors to your web site actively, and in a worst-case, they might be diverting visitors from extra necessary pages.

Fortunately, Google permits site owners to inform search engine bots what pages and content material to crawl and what to disregard. There are a number of methods to do that, the most typical being utilizing a robots.txt file or the meta robots tag.

We have an excellent and detailed explanation of the ins and outs of robots.txt, which it’s best to undoubtedly learn.

However in high-level phrases, it’s a plain textual content file that lives in your web site’s root and follows the Robots Exclusion Protocol (REP).

Robots.txt offers crawlers with directions concerning the web site as an entire, whereas meta robots tags embody instructions for particular pages.

Some meta robots tags you would possibly make use of embody index, which tells engines like google so as to add the web page to their index; noindex, which tells it to not add a web page to the index or embody it in search outcomes; comply with, which instructs a search engine to comply with the hyperlinks on a web page; nofollow, which tells it to not comply with hyperlinks, and an entire host of others.

Each robots.txt and meta robots tags are helpful instruments to maintain in your toolbox, however there’s additionally one other strategy to instruct search engine bots to noindex or nofollow: the X-Robots-Tag.

What Is The X-Robots-Tag?

The X-Robots-Tag is one other means so that you can management how your webpages are crawled and listed by spiders. As a part of the HTTP header response to a URL, it controls indexing for a whole web page, in addition to the precise components on that web page.

And whereas utilizing meta robots tags is pretty simple, the X-Robots-Tag is a little more sophisticated.

However this, in fact, raises the query:

When Ought to You Use The X-Robots-Tag?

Based on Google, “Any directive that can be utilized in a robots meta tag may also be specified as an X-Robots-Tag.”

Whilst you can set robots.txt-related directives within the headers of an HTTP response with each the meta robots tag and X-Robots Tag, there are specific conditions the place you’d wish to use the X-Robots-Tag – the 2 commonest being when:

  • You wish to management how your non-HTML information are being crawled and listed.
  • You wish to serve directives site-wide as an alternative of on a web page degree.

For instance, if you wish to block a particular picture or video from being crawled – the HTTP response methodology makes this straightforward.

The X-Robots-Tag header can be helpful as a result of it means that you can mix a number of tags inside an HTTP response or use a comma-separated listing of directives to specify directives.

Perhaps you don’t desire a sure web page to be cached and wish it to be unavailable after a sure date. You need to use a mixture of “noarchive” and “unavailable_after” tags to instruct search engine bots to comply with these directions.

Primarily, the facility of the X-Robots-Tag is that it’s way more versatile than the meta robots tag.

The benefit of utilizing an X-Robots-Tag with HTTP responses is that it means that you can use common expressions to execute crawl directives on non-HTML, in addition to apply parameters on a bigger, international degree.

That will help you perceive the distinction between these directives, it’s useful to categorize them by kind. That’s, are they crawler directives or indexer directives?

Right here’s a useful cheat sheet to elucidate:

Crawler Directives Indexer Directives
Robots.txt – makes use of the person agent, permit, disallow, and sitemap directives to specify the place on-site search engine bots are allowed to crawl and never allowed to crawl. Meta Robots tag – means that you can specify and forestall engines like google from exhibiting explicit pages on a web site in search outcomes.

Nofollow – means that you can specify hyperlinks that ought to not cross on authority or PageRank.

X-Robots-tag – means that you can management how specified file varieties are listed.

The place Do You Put The X-Robots-Tag?

Let’s say you wish to block particular file varieties. A perfect method can be so as to add the X-Robots-Tag to an Apache configuration or a .htaccess file.

The X-Robots-Tag might be added to a web site’s HTTP responses in an Apache server configuration through .htaccess file.

Actual-World Examples And Makes use of Of The X-Robots-Tag

In order that sounds nice in concept, however what does it appear like in the true world? Let’s have a look.

Let’s say we needed engines like google to not index .pdf file varieties. This configuration on Apache servers would look one thing just like the under:

<Information ~ ".pdf$">
  Header set X-Robots-Tag "noindex, nofollow"

In Nginx, it might appear like the under:

location ~* .pdf$ 
  add_header X-Robots-Tag "noindex, nofollow";

Now, let’s have a look at a unique situation. Let’s say we wish to use the X-Robots-Tag to dam picture information, reminiscent of .jpg, .gif, .png, and so forth., from being listed. You may do that with an X-Robots-Tag that may appear like the under:

<Information ~ ".(png|jpe?g|gif)$">
Header set X-Robots-Tag "noindex"

Please notice that understanding how these directives work and the influence they’ve on each other is essential.

For instance, what occurs if each the X-Robots-Tag and a meta robots tag are situated when crawler bots uncover a URL?

If that URL is blocked from robots.txt, then sure indexing and serving directives can’t be found and won’t be adopted.

If directives are to be adopted, then the URLs containing these can’t be disallowed from crawling.

Test For An X-Robots-Tag

There are a number of totally different strategies that can be utilized to verify for an X-Robots-Tag on the location.

The simplest strategy to verify is to put in a browser extension that can let you know X-Robots-Tag details about the URL.

Robots Exclusion CheckerScreenshot of Robots Exclusion Checker, December 2022

One other plugin you should utilize to find out whether or not an X-Robots-Tag is getting used, for instance, is the Web Developer plugin.

By clicking on the plugin in your browser and navigating to “View Response Headers,” you’ll be able to see the assorted HTTP headers getting used.

web developer plugin

One other methodology that can be utilized for scaling with a purpose to pinpoint points on web sites with 1,000,000 pages is Screaming Frog.

After operating a web site by means of Screaming Frog, you’ll be able to navigate to the “X-Robots-Tag” column.

This may present you which ones sections of the location are utilizing the tag, together with which particular directives.

Screaming Frog Report. X-Robot-TagScreenshot of Screaming Frog Report. X-Robotic-Tag, December 2022

Utilizing X-Robots-Tags On Your Website

Understanding and controlling how engines like google work together along with your web site is the cornerstone of SEO. And the X-Robots-Tag is a strong instrument you should utilize to do exactly that.

Simply bear in mind: It’s not with out its risks. It is vitally straightforward to make a mistake and deindex your complete web site.

That stated, in case you’re studying this piece, you’re most likely not an website positioning newbie. As long as you employ it properly, take your time and verify your work, you’ll discover the X-Robots-Tag to be a helpful addition to your arsenal.

Extra Sources:

Featured Picture: Song_about_summer/Shutterstock

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