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

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Seo, in its most standard sense, trusts one thing above all others: Search engine spiders crawling and indexing your site.

But nearly every site is going to have pages that you do not want to include in this expedition.

For example, do you really want your privacy policy or internal search pages appearing in Google results?

In a best-case circumstance, these are not doing anything to drive traffic to your website actively, and in a worst-case, they could be diverting traffic from more crucial pages.

Fortunately, Google enables webmasters to tell online search engine bots what pages and content to crawl and what to neglect. There are several ways to do this, the most common being utilizing a robots.txt file or the meta robots tag.

We have an outstanding and in-depth description of the ins and outs of robots.txt, which you need to certainly read.

However in top-level terms, it’s a plain text file that lives in your site’s root and follows the Robots Exemption Protocol (REPRESENTATIVE).

Robots.txt offers spiders with instructions about the website as a whole, while meta robots tags consist of directions for particular pages.

Some meta robots tags you might use consist of index, which informs search engines to include the page to their index; noindex, which tells it not to add a page to the index or include it in search engine result; follow, which advises an online search engine to follow the links on a page; nofollow, which tells it not to follow links, and an entire host of others.

Both robots.txt and meta robots tags work tools to keep in your tool kit, but there’s also another method to instruct online search engine bots to noindex or nofollow: the X-Robots-Tag.

What Is The X-Robots-Tag?

The X-Robots-Tag is another method for you to control how your web pages are crawled and indexed by spiders. As part of the HTTP header reaction to a URL, it controls indexing for an entire page, along with the particular components on that page.

And whereas using meta robots tags is relatively uncomplicated, the X-Robots-Tag is a bit more complicated.

But this, obviously, raises the concern:

When Should You Use The X-Robots-Tag?

According to Google, “Any directive that can be utilized in a robots meta tag can also be defined as an X-Robots-Tag.”

While you can set robots.txt-related directives in the headers of an HTTP response with both the meta robotics tag and X-Robots Tag, there are particular scenarios where you would wish to use the X-Robots-Tag– the 2 most typical being when:

  • You wish to control how your non-HTML files are being crawled and indexed.
  • You want to serve instructions site-wide instead of on a page level.

For example, if you want to obstruct a particular image or video from being crawled– the HTTP response approach makes this easy.

The X-Robots-Tag header is also useful since it allows you to combine several tags within an HTTP response or utilize a comma-separated list of directives to specify instructions.

Perhaps you do not want a particular page to be cached and desire it to be unavailable after a particular date. You can use a combination of “noarchive” and “unavailable_after” tags to advise search engine bots to follow these directions.

Essentially, the power of the X-Robots-Tag is that it is much more versatile than the meta robotics tag.

The benefit of utilizing an X-Robots-Tag with HTTP actions is that it permits you to utilize regular expressions to carry out crawl instructions on non-HTML, along with apply specifications on a larger, international level.

To help you understand the difference in between these directives, it’s helpful to categorize them by type. That is, are they crawler instructions or indexer regulations?

Here’s a handy cheat sheet to explain:

Spider Directives Indexer Directives
Robots.txt– uses the user representative, permit, prohibit, and sitemap instructions to specify where on-site search engine bots are enabled to crawl and not permitted to crawl. Meta Robots tag– allows you to specify and avoid search engines from revealing particular pages on a site in search engine result.

Nofollow– allows you to specify links that need to not hand down authority or PageRank.

X-Robots-tag– enables you to manage how defined file types are indexed.

Where Do You Put The X-Robots-Tag?

Let’s state you want to block specific file types. An ideal technique would be to add the X-Robots-Tag to an Apache setup or a.htaccess file.

The X-Robots-Tag can be added to a site’s HTTP reactions in an Apache server setup via.htaccess file.

Real-World Examples And Utilizes Of The X-Robots-Tag

So that sounds great in theory, however what does it appear like in the real life? Let’s have a look.

Let’s say we wanted online search engine not to index.pdf file types. This setup on Apache servers would look something like the below:

Header set X-Robots-Tag “noindex, nofollow”

In Nginx, it would appear like the below:

location ~ *. pdf$

Now, let’s look at a different circumstance. Let’s say we want to utilize the X-Robots-Tag to block image files, such as.jpg,. gif,. png, etc, from being indexed. You could do this with an X-Robots-Tag that would appear like the below:

Header set X-Robots-Tag “noindex”

Please keep in mind that understanding how these regulations work and the effect they have on one another is vital.

For instance, what takes place if both the X-Robots-Tag and a meta robotics tag lie when spider bots find a URL?

If that URL is obstructed from robots.txt, then specific indexing and serving regulations can not be discovered and will not be followed.

If instructions are to be followed, then the URLs containing those can not be disallowed from crawling.

Check For An X-Robots-Tag

There are a couple of different methods that can be used to look for an X-Robots-Tag on the site.

The easiest way to examine is to install an internet browser extension that will inform you X-Robots-Tag details about the URL.

Screenshot of Robots Exemption Checker, December 2022

Another plugin you can use to figure out whether an X-Robots-Tag is being utilized, for instance, is the Web Developer plugin.

By clicking on the plugin in your browser and navigating to “View Reaction Headers,” you can see the different HTTP headers being used.

Another approach that can be used for scaling in order to identify issues on websites with a million pages is Shrieking Frog

. After running a website through Screaming Frog, you can browse to the “X-Robots-Tag” column.

This will show you which sections of the site are utilizing the tag, in addition to which particular regulations.

Screenshot of Screaming Frog Report. X-Robot-Tag, December 2022 Utilizing X-Robots-Tags On Your Site Understanding and controlling how online search engine connect with your site is

the cornerstone of search engine optimization. And the X-Robots-Tag is an effective tool you can utilize to do just that. Simply be aware: It’s not without its dangers. It is very simple to make a mistake

and deindex your whole website. That said, if you read this piece, you’re most likely not an SEO beginner.

So long as you use it wisely, take your time and check your work, you’ll find the X-Robots-Tag to be an useful addition to your toolbox. More Resources: Featured Image: Song_about_summer/ SMM Panel