Robots.txt, An Online Marketers Friend Or Foe?
robots.txt is possibly the most miss understood file that a website can contain. Many people think that by using a robots.txt file on their website they are protecting pages and folders from thieves and hackers. In fact it is totally the opposite! robots.txt opens up an enormous security hole that hackers and theives will use to easily gain access to the parts of your website that you don't want them to.
What is robots.txt? robots.txt is a file that you create and upload to your websites root directory that is used by search engine spiders to determine which parts of your website they should index and which folders/pages that you, the website owner, don't want listed in search engine indexes. Why would not want pages indexed? There are many reasons why you might not want search engines to index pages on your website, such as private membership pages or exclusive training pages and such like. If you are an Internet Marketer selling your own ebook or other digital product, you wouldn't want your thank you pages indexed either! And this is where the misunderstanding comes to the fore, and robots.
txt becomes your foe. Many online marketers who provide ebooks or other digital products for instant download will list their download thank you pages in the robots.txt file because they obviously don't want those pages indexed in search engines. By using robots.txt this way though, you will be opening up your product to anyone who has a slight bit of knowledge about how the file works. robots.txt is easily readable by any human that opens a browser and types in http://www.yourdomain.com/robots.txt and if you have listed your thank you pages, all they have to do is go to that url and take your product(s)! It's that easy! And I'm living proof that this works, as this is exactly what happened to me.
I had listed my thank you pages in robots.txt and thought that they were safe from hackers and thieves, then one day I was checking my web site stats and BAM, someone had been to every single thank you page, and taken everything. The moral is, don't list any URL in robots.txt that you don't want humans to have free access to. Use robots.txt with great caution and secure your thank you pages using dedicated software.