Web Robots (also known as Web Wanderers, Crawlers, or Spiders), are programs that traverse the Web automatically. Search engines such as Google use them to index the web content, spammers use them to scan for email addresses, and they have many other uses.
The Robot Exclusion Standard, also known as the Robots Exclusion Protocol or robots.txt protocol, is a convention to prevent cooperating web crawlers and other web robots from accessing all or part of a website which is otherwise publicly viewable. Robots are often used by search engines to categorize and archive web sites, or by webmasters to proofread source code. The standard is different from, but can be used in conjunction with, Sitemaps, a robot inclusion standard for websites.
One way to tell search engines which files and folders on your Web site to avoid is with the use of the Robots metatag. But since not all search engines read metatags, the Robots matatag can simply go unnoticed. A better way to inform search engines about your will is to use a robots.txt file.
Robots.txt is a text (not html) file you put on your site to tell search robots which pages you would like them not to visit. Robots.txt is by no means mandatory for search engines but generally search engines obey what they are asked not to do. It is important to clarify that robots.txt is not a way from preventing search engines from crawling your site (i.e. it is not a firewall, or a kind of password protection) and the fact that you put a robots.txt file is something like putting a note “Please, do not enter” on an unlocked door – e.g. you cannot prevent thieves from coming in but the good guys will not open to door and enter. That is why we say that if you have really sen sitive data, it is too naïve to rely on robots.txt to protect it from being indexed and displayed in search results.
The location of robots.txt is very important. It must be in the main directory because otherwise user agents (search engines) will not be able to find it – they do not search the whole site for a file named robots.txt. Instead, they look first in the main directory (i.e. http://mydomain.com/robots.txt) and if they don’t find it there, they simply assume that this site does not have a robots.txt file and therefore they index everything they find along the way. So, if you don’t put robots.txt in the right place, do not be surprised that search engines index your whole site.