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How to Display Different Content to Search Engines Versus Visitors :

A variety of strategies exist to segment content delivery. The most basic is to serve content that is not meant for the engines in un-spiderable formats (e.g., placing text in images, Flash files, plug-ins, etc.). You should not use these formats for the purpose of cloaking. You should use them only if they bring a substantial end-user benefit (such as an improved user experience). In such cases, you may want to show the search engines the same content in a search-spider-readable format. When you’re trying to show the engines something you don’t want visitors to see, you can use CSS formatting styles (preferably not display:none, as the engines  have filters to watch specifically for this), JavaScript, user-agent, cookie, or session-based delivery, or IP delivery (showing content based on the visitor’s IP address).

Be very wary when employing cloaking such as that we just described. The search engines expressly prohibit these practices in their guidelines, and though there may be some leeway based on intent and user experience (e.g., your site is using cloaking to improve the quality of the user’s experience, not to game the search engines), the engines do take these tactics seriously and may penalize or ban sites that implement them inappropriately or with the intention of manipulation.  In addition, even if your intent is good, the search engines may not see it that way and penalize you anyway.

The robots.txt file:

This file is located on the root level of your domain (e.g., http://www.yourdomain.com/robots.txt), and it is a highly versatile tool for controlling what the spiders are permitted to access on your site. You can use robots.txt to:

  • Prevent crawlers from accessing nonpublic parts of your website
  • Block search engines from accessing index scripts, utilities, or other types of code
  • Avoid the indexation of duplicate content on a website, such as “print” versions of HTML pages, or various sort orders for product catalogs
  • Auto-discover XML Sitemap

The robots.txt file must reside in the root directory, and the filename must be entirely in lowercase (robots.txt, not Robots.txt, or other variations including uppercase letters). Any other name or location will not be seen as valid by the search engines. The file must also be entirely in text format (not in HTML format).

When you tell a search engine robot not to access a page, it prevents the crawler from accessing the page. when the search engine robot sees a direction in robots.txt not to crawl a web page.

Google, Bing, and nearly all of the legitimate crawlers on the Web will follow the instructions you set out in the robots.txt file. Commands in robots.txt are primarily used to prevent spiders from accessing pages and subfolders on a site, though they have other options as well. Note that subdomains require their own robots.txt files, as do files that reside on an https: server.

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