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

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Search engine optimization, in its a lot of standard sense, relies upon something above all others: Search engine spiders crawling and indexing your website.

But nearly every site is going to have pages that you don’t wish to include in this exploration.

For example, do you actually want your privacy policy or internal search pages showing up in Google results?

In a best-case scenario, these are doing nothing to drive traffic to your site actively, and in a worst-case, they might be diverting traffic from more vital pages.

Luckily, Google enables webmasters to inform online search engine bots what pages and material to crawl and what to overlook. There are several ways to do this, the most common being utilizing a robots.txt file or the meta robotics tag.

We have an outstanding and comprehensive explanation of the ins and outs of robots.txt, which you ought to absolutely read.

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

Robots.txt supplies crawlers with guidelines about the website as a whole, while meta robots tags include instructions for particular pages.

Some meta robots tags you might utilize consist of index, which tells online search engine to include the page to their index; noindex, which tells it not to add a page to the index or include it in search results; follow, which instructs a 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 robotics tags work tools to keep in your toolbox, however there’s also another method to advise online search engine bots to noindex or nofollow: the X-Robots-Tag.

What Is The X-Robots-Tag?

The X-Robots-Tag is another way for you to control how your web pages are crawled and indexed by spiders. As part of the HTTP header action to a URL, it controls indexing for a whole page, as well as the specific aspects on that page.

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

But this, obviously, raises the concern:

When Should You Utilize The X-Robots-Tag?

According to Google, “Any instruction that can be used in a robotics meta tag can likewise be defined as an X-Robots-Tag.”

While you can set robots.txt-related instructions in the headers of an HTTP response with both the meta robotics tag and X-Robots Tag, there are certain circumstances where you would wish to utilize the X-Robots-Tag– the two most typical being when:

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

For example, if you wish to obstruct a specific image or video from being crawled– the HTTP action technique makes this easy.

The X-Robots-Tag header is likewise beneficial because it enables you to combine several tags within an HTTP action or use a comma-separated list of regulations to specify directives.

Possibly you don’t want a certain page to be cached and desire it to be unavailable after a specific date. You can utilize a mix of “noarchive” and “unavailable_after” tags to advise online search engine bots to follow these guidelines.

Basically, the power of the X-Robots-Tag is that it is far more flexible than the meta robotics tag.

The benefit of using an X-Robots-Tag with HTTP actions is that it permits you to utilize regular expressions to perform crawl instructions on non-HTML, as well as use specifications on a larger, global level.

To assist you understand the difference in between these directives, it’s practical to classify them by type. That is, are they crawler regulations or indexer directives?

Here’s a convenient cheat sheet to explain:

Crawler Directives Indexer Directives
Robots.txt– utilizes the user agent, permit, disallow, and sitemap regulations to specify where on-site search engine bots are enabled to crawl and not permitted to crawl. Meta Robots tag– permits you to define and avoid online search engine from showing particular pages on a website in search results page.

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

X-Robots-tag– allows you to control how defined file types are indexed.

Where Do You Put The X-Robots-Tag?

Let’s say you wish to block specific file types. An ideal approach would be to include the X-Robots-Tag to an Apache setup or a.htaccess file.

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

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

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

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

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

In Nginx, it would appear like the below:

place ~ * . pdf$

Now, let’s take a look at a different scenario. Let’s say we wish to use the X-Robots-Tag to block image files, such as.jpg,. gif,. png, and so on, from being indexed. You could do this with an X-Robots-Tag that would look like the below:

Header set X-Robots-Tag “noindex”

Please note that understanding how these instructions work and the effect they have on one another is essential.

For instance, what happens if both the X-Robots-Tag and a meta robots tag are located when spider bots discover a URL?

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

If directives are to be followed, then the URLs consisting of those can not be disallowed from crawling.

Check For An X-Robots-Tag

There are a few various techniques that can be utilized to look for an X-Robots-Tag on the website.

The simplest method to inspect is to set up a web browser extension that will inform you X-Robots-Tag info about the URL.

Screenshot of Robots Exemption Checker, December 2022

Another plugin you can utilize to determine whether an X-Robots-Tag is being utilized, for instance, is the Web Designer plugin.

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

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

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

This will reveal you which areas of the website are using the tag, in addition to which specific regulations.

Screenshot of Screaming Frog Report. X-Robot-Tag, December 2022 Using X-Robots-Tags On Your Site Understanding and managing how online search engine interact with your website is

the foundation of search engine optimization. And the X-Robots-Tag is an effective tool you can utilize to do just that. Just understand: It’s not without its risks. It is extremely easy to slip up

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

So long as you utilize it carefully, take your time and inspect your work, you’ll find the X-Robots-Tag to be a helpful addition to your toolbox. More Resources: Featured Image: Song_about_summer/ Best SMM Panel