Robots Meta Tags: How They Help Control Indexing, Crawling, & More

Are you struggling to optimize how search engine crawlers interface with your website? Then you need to utilize the power of robots meta tags to provide specific instructions for how crawlers should index your website

This provides a number of benefits, such as improving SEO and offering a better end-user experience. In this article, we’ll reveal the benefits of robots meta tags and the value they add to each web page. We’ll also share the best practices so you can hit the ground running.

For example, on Hike's Learn SEO page, you can see how meta robots has been configured with "index" and "follow", as well as a few other attributes:

What Is a Robots Meta Tag?

A robots meta tag is a HTML element used to control how search engines interact with and index the content of a web page. It provides instructions to web crawlers about which parts of the page should be indexed or ignored. Also, it dictates whether links on the page should be followed.

Furthermore, robot meta tags provide instructions that act as strong recommendations for how crawlers should handle indexation. However, similar to robots.txt files, crawlers are not obligated to follow these meta directives. This means that some malicious web robots may choose to ignore them.

Benefits of Robots Meta Tags for SEO

There are several advantages to choosing robots meta tags for instructing search engine crawlers. You’ll see they can positively impact your onsite SEO efforts and give you control over how search engines interact with your content. 

Control Over Indexing

Robots meta tags let you specify whether a page should be included in a search engine's index. This is useful for pages that may not be relevant to search results, such as thank-you pages, login pages, or other non-public pages.

Therefore, you can avoid filling the SERPs with pages that don’t make sense to have a presence. Hence, it will improve the user experience of your target audience. 

Controlling Link Crawling

You can dictate if search engines should follow links on a page. This helps manage how link equity is distributed across your site and can prevent search engines from following irrelevant or low-value links.

Therefore, you can set up your robots meta tags to funnel link juice toward your most important pages. These are the web pages that you're trying to rank in the SERPs to beat competitors

Handling Temporary Content

For pages that are under construction or temporarily unavailable, using “noindex” can prevent them from being indexed until they are ready. This ensures only fully functional and relevant content is indexed.

Additionally, If you have seasonal or time-sensitive content, using the “unavailable_after directive” can help manage its visibility in search results after a certain date.

Controlling Snippet Display

Meta tags like “noarchive” and “nosnippet” can prevent search engines from caching a page or displaying snippets of content in search results. This gives you more control over how your content is presented.

You may want to prevent the snippets that reduce your CTR because they answer the query within the search result pages. Hence, by getting rid of some snippets, you get users to search for the answer on your website. 

Managing the Crawl Budget

Search engines allocate a specific crawl budget to each website. Therefore, by using the robots meta tags to block non-essential pages, you can ensure that the crawl budget is used more effectively on pages that matter most. This improves the overall indexing of your site.

Additionally, with directives like “noindex, follow”, you can prevent certain pages from being indexed while still allowing search engines to follow links to important content. This helps crawlers discover and prioritize the right pages.

Cleaner Search Results

You can enhance the user experience by controlling which pages are indexed and how they appear in search results. This ensures that users find the most relevant and high-quality content to improve their search experience and potentially increase click-through rates.

What Are the Robots Meta Tag Values?

There are many different values that you can enter for the robots meta tags to provide different instructions. Learning these is important to understand the scope of what features are available. Here are the top robots meta tag values and their descriptions:

  • Index: This value instructs the crawler to index a web page, which at first glance seems pointless since that's what they do by default. However, you can use this value to instruct only specific search engines to index your web page.

  • NoIndex: Use this value to instruct search engines to avoid indexing your web page, which means it won’t appear in the SERPs.
  • NoImageIndex: This tells search engines to avoid indexing an image so it won’t appear in the SERPs. However, the image may still get indexed if it’s added elsewhere on the internet.
  • None: You can use this value to tell crawlers to ignore a page, so this instruction is a shortcut for “noindex” or “nofollow.”
  • Follow: This value tells the crawler to follow the links on the page.
  • NoFollow: Instruct search engine crawlers to avoid following the links of a web page. It’s possible to add this value to specific links for greater control.
  • NoArchive: Use this value to avoid showing archived copies of the web page.
  • NoCache: This value is identical to “NoArchive” but it’s used by MSN/Live.
  • NoSnippet: You can use this value to avoid displaying any snippets in the SERPs.
  • NoTranslate: This informs search engines to not provide translated versions of a web page in the SERPs.
  • Unavailbale_after: Use this value to instruct search engines to not display in the SERPs after a specific date.
  • NoYDir: This value tells the search engines to not use the Yahoo! Directory page description in the search snippet.
  • NoODP: Use this value to prevent the search engines from offering a page description from DMOZ in the search snippet.

Robots.txt File vs Robots Meta Tag: Top Differences

The robots.txt file is for your entire website and instructs the search engines if they should crawl or skip specific pages. Note that this file is separate from your website. 

In comparison, the robots meta tag goes into the HTML code of individual webpages. This offers you more control over how search engine crawlers interact with each web page. 

For instance, when you instruct search engine crawlers to not index a web page with a robots.txt file, it doesn’t guarantee your web page will not get indexed. That’s because it’s possible that crawlers can find your web pages via external sources. 

However, the same instruction from a robots meta tag guarantees the web page in question will not get indexed. 

SEO Best Practices When Using Robots Meta Tags

Now let’s turn our attention to the SEO best practices you must follow when using robots meta tags. This ensures you’ll get the biggest benefit to your efforts in climbing the search engine rankings. 

Identify Pages to Exclude From Indexing

You’ll need to create a list of pages that have no place in the SERPs. Then, you can use the “noindex” tag to avoid indexing these pages. Here are top examples of the page types you’ll want to exclude:

  • Login and admin pages

  • Archive or category pages
  • Duplicate content pages
  • Thank you or confirmation pages after form submission

Prevent Link Equity Dilution

Make sure to use the “nofollow” value to avoid passing link juice to unimportant web pages. Therefore, you can funnel the link juice to the pages that you want to rank highly in the SERPs. This might be the main landing page for your services or the homepage. 

Remember to Remove the NoIndex Tag

During website production, you may want to use the “noindex” tag to avoid search engine visibility when the content is unfinished. However, once the website goes live, make sure to remove the tags for web pages you want to rank. 

Otherwise, your organic traffic will grind to a halt, and you’ll miss out on the SEO boost that new websites can sometimes receive. 


Do robots meta tags help with SEO?

Yes, robots meta tags can help with SEO by providing control over how search engines interact with a website’s content. Use the robots meta tags strategically and you can protect sensitive information, avoid duplicate content issues, and manage the crawl budget effectively. All of which contribute to a more efficient and SEO-friendly website.

What are the most important robots meta tags for businesses?

The most important robots meta tags for businesses include noindex, nofollow, noarchive, nosnippet, noodp, and noimageindex. These meta tags provide features such as preventing search engines from indexing the wrong pages and showing outdated content. 

Why are robots meta tags important?

Robots meta tags are important because they help enhance your SEO strategy by providing detailed instructions to crawlers. They allow you to optimize your site’s structure, manage link equity, and improve the overall user experience.

Therefore, you can potentially beat competitors to the top of the SERPs that may not have the best robots meta tag practices. 

What is the easiest way to implement robots meta tags?

The easiest way to implement robots meta tags is to use a plugin or third-party tool. Ideally, the tool you choose will help identify the mistakes you make and provide suggestions for improvements. 

Hike SEO

Using robots meta tags is a no-brainer for improving your SEO and beating competitors to the top of the SERPs. At first glance, they may seem like a technical part of website building that requires experience. However, with the right tools, you can effortlessly add your robots meta tags in all the right places. 

Are you looking for further help with your website SEO? Then take advantage of the professional software here at Hike SEO. We provide a comprehensive package for optimizing your website SEO that’s ideal for small businesses and beginners. We also offer a service that provides hands-on support for implementing the best SEO strategy for your website. You can start with a free SEO audit today.