Prevent Robot Indexing with Response Headers

By  on  

Every so often you have parts of your website that would be better off not indexed by search engines.  API calls, search result pages, PDF documents -- all examples of responses which may not have value outside of the current user.  No we all know we can signal to the search engines not to index pages using a META tag, but oftentimes service calls and documents don't get the luxury of a META tag.  Luckily you can add a header to prevent these responses from being indexed.

The header name is X-Robots-Tag should be easy to add using the server-side language you prefer.  For example, adding this header with PHP may look like:

header('X-Robots-Tag: noindex');

If you're using a Django-based python site, the could would look like:

response['X-Robots-Tag'] = 'noindex'

This header can also be set within your .htaccess or httpd configuration files:

<Files ~ "\.pdf$">
  Header set X-Robots-Tag "noindex"
</Files>

The truth is that there's no guarantee that something your server serves wont be indexed by a search engine, but small tweaks like this can ensure your search engine standing can improve and that users don't find their way to "dead" parts of your site via search engines.

Recent Features

  • By
    Page Visibility API

    One event that's always been lacking within the document is a signal for when the user is looking at a given tab, or another tab. When does the user switch off our site to look at something else? When do they come back?

  • By
    Creating Scrolling Parallax Effects with CSS

    Introduction For quite a long time now websites with the so called "parallax" effect have been really popular. In case you have not heard of this effect, it basically includes different layers of images that are moving in different directions or with different speed. This leads to a...

Incredible Demos

  • By
    Xbox Live Gamer API

    My sharpshooter status aside, I've always been surprised upset that Microsoft has never provided an API for the vast amount of information about users, the games they play, and statistics within the games. Namely, I'd like to publicly shame every n00b I've baptized with my...

  • By
    Create a Twitter AJAX Button with MooTools, jQuery, or Dojo

    There's nothing like a subtle, slick website widget that effectively uses CSS and JavaScript to enhance the user experience.  Of course widgets like that take many hours to perfect, but it doesn't take long for that effort to be rewarded with above-average user retention and...

Discussion

  1. Chris

    I have a big problem with spam registration on an ExpressionEngine site I help manage. Could this help? I have no development experience, fyi…

  2. This a really old post, but for those who are using nGinx instead of Apache, you can do

    location ~* \.(doc|pdf)$ {
        add_header  X-Robots-Tag "noindex, noarchive, nosnippet";
    }
    

Wrap your code in <pre class="{language}"></pre> tags, link to a GitHub gist, JSFiddle fiddle, or CodePen pen to embed!