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SES: I, Robots.txt

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Danny Sullivan keyed the Robots.txt Summit session during SES New York, where representatives from major search engines discussed the future of the humble file used to manage crawler behavior.

SES: I, Robots.txt
SES: I, Robots.txt
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Robots.txt serves as a tool to guide obedient search engine spiders to the content a webmaster wants indexed. It also blocks those spiders from reaching content as the webmaster desires.

It’s a relatively simple concept to implement, and it began out of a cooperative discussion between search engines over a decade ago. Since then, robots.txt hasn’t come up in conversations regarding changes that may need to be made to it.

That’s what brought Danny and people from Ask, Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo together at SES New York.

The search engines have ideas about enhancing the now-venerable standard.

Keith Hogan, Director of Program Management, Search Technology, Ask.com, talked about Ask’s views on robots.txt. He put forth a handful of concepts they are puzzling over, like controlling when a crawler can traverse a site or even passing meta directives in HTML to the engine from the robots.txt file.

Eytan Seidman, Senior Program Manager Lead, Live Search, noted how hotelier Hilton.com thinks robots.txt can universally control indexing times already.

In Hilton’s file, the text "Do not visit Hilton.com during the day!" appears.

"This is very helpful to a search engine bot," he added in an eye-rolling way.

Sean Suchter, Director of Yahoo! Search Technology, Yahoo! Search, said Yahoo currently supports "crawl-delay," but it is frequently misused. "We would like to replace this with something that is better," he said.

Dan Crow, Product Manager, Google, said his long term goal for robots.txt is to standardize the common core feature set.

He suggested the term ‘robots.txt’ is incomplete, given the existence of robots meta tags.

SES: I, Robots.txt
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