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Google appears to be ignoring my robots.txt (despite being valid)

How do I noindex, follow a specific category without plugins?

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There are several robots.txt generators online. Here is one of my favorites. After you've generated your file, I highly recommend testing it with Google's Webmaster Tools tester.

I've done this for dozens of sites, and never have a problem.

Just remember the following:

  • Most Wordpress sites treat categories as if they're folders/directories. So, to make a rule for the breads category, you may need /topics/breads/, or /category/breads/, or even /cat/breads/ ... depending on your site's Settings.
  • If you continue to have trouble, you can Deny All by default. Then you would have to expressly permit each category/folder/topic/etc. that you want to have indexed.

EDIT Google provides the following recommendation, which have also worked for me:

//To prevent only most web crawlers from indexing a page:
<meta name="robots" content="noindex">

- or -

//To prevent only Google web crawlers from indexing a page:
<meta name="googlebot" content="noindex">

EDIT I recommend you use a category template. This WPBeginner Article explains how to create them, in case you have not done this before. Basically, you'll usually start by copying your "index.php" or "page.php" to a new "category.php" file. Then, make a couple of simple edits.

Depending on how many categories should be ignored, my typical suggestion might be to create a single category.php template, then use an "If" statement like the following in the template:

// noIndex = list of categories that should be ignored by bots
$noIndex = array('cats','rats','bats',...);
// current_category = category of the page currently being prepared
$current_category = get_the_category();
// If the current_category is in the list of those to be ignored...
if ( in_array($current_category, $noIndex) ){
    // add a filter to insert the meta tag
    function ignore_category_indexing() {
        echo '<meta name="robots" content="noindex" />';
    }
    add_action( 'wp_head', 'ignore_category_indexing' );        
}

Good luck!

P.S. If this works for you, I could use a Vote Up..

  • Thanks for your answer, I used a robots.txt generator already, and Google is ignoring it. I already have a few categories I'm using, however there are a select number of ID's I'd like to noindex if possible – PublicDisplayName Aug 24 at 0:21
  • Sorry! Didn't realize what you were after. I think I have your solution in my latest edit. Add one or both of the recommended meta tags near the top of your <head> section(s) to block bots from select pages. – Mike Baxter Aug 24 at 0:37
  • How do I add this to one category page only? My understanding is the head section of categories are dynamically generated, I have 5 categories with only 1 I want to noindex – PublicDisplayName Aug 24 at 13:40
  • I just re-read your follow-up question and realized you only have one category to exempt from indexing. Based on that, you should probably create a custom category template for that specific category "category-{slug}.php". Then, implement the filter above without the if statement. – Mike Baxter Aug 26 at 20:18

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