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A template for Hugo that allows for the inclusion of robots meta tags on pages.
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README.md

hugo-robots-meta-tags

A template for Hugo that allows for the inclusion of robots meta tags on pages. Not all Hugo themese include the ability to insert and control robots meta tags. Nor does it appear that Hugo itself has this capability. So this partial layout template was created.

Note: For a more thorough writeup on the functionality of this template, please see this blog post.

Including a <meta name="robots" content="index, follow" /> tag in the <head></head> section of a web page is one method of indicating to some search engines how they should process the page.

Sadly, not all search engines are well behaved and some will ignore the directives in the robots meta tag. So if you really want to keep content out of a search engine, you'll need to provide additional protections for content (password protecting a page, etc.) Your best bet though is to never include the content on a web page to begin with. Search engines are really good at discovering and indexing content.

The robots meta tag allows the index/noindex and follow/nofollow directives to be set singly. This template includes both for clarity of intent.

Also, this template doesn't allow for the generation of search engine crawler specific meta tags, just the more general robots tag.

The Robots Meta Tag In Hugo

The basic rules for generating and populating the values for the robots meta tag are as follows:

  1. By default, no robots meta tag should be generated.
  2. A robots meta tag should be generated if site configuration defines values for the tag, or if a page on the site defines values for the robots tag in the front matter configuration.
  3. By configuring site values for the robots meta tag, the tag should be generated for all pages.
  4. By configuring values for the robots meta tag on a page, then only the tag should be generated only for that page.
  5. If a robots tag is to be generated, by default the values would be "index, follow". They can be overriden in the site or page configuration settings.
  6. Site configuration values take precedence over the default values. Page configuration values take precedence over both the default and site configuration values.

One thing to be aware of, this template requires the index and follow configuration values to be either true or false. If for some reason, either the site or page configurations set them to something other than true or false, the robots meta tag will likely not generate.

Installing The Template File

Every Hugo theme is a bit different, so the instructions below are somewhat generic. You may need to modify them a bit for your specific theme.

Place the robots.html partial template file in the the /layouts/partials/ directory.

root
    layouts
        partials
            robots.html

Next, you'll need to copy a theme template file to the /layouts/ directory. The exact subdirectory that you will need to use is dependent upon your themes current directory structure. So most likely you'll need to replicate the approprate structure in the /layouts/ directory.

The theme layout template file you need to copy is the one that controls the <head> content for the pages on your site. For my site's theme, that was the baseof.html template. So I copied the file to the /layouts/_default/ directory, which matched the directory structure of my theme.

root
    layouts
        _default
            baseof.html

Next, modify the copy of baseof.html file to include the robots.html partial template.

<!DOCTYPE html>
<html lang="{{ .Site.LanguageCode }}">
    <head>
        ... Template Head stuff ...

        {{ partial "robots.txt" . }}

        ... More Template Head stuff ...
    </head>
    <body>
        ... Template Body Stuff
    </body>
</html>

The next time the site is compiled/generated, the robots.html template should be used to include the robots meta tag where appropriate. To include the robots meta tag, you'll need to set some configuration values in either the site configuration or the page front matter configuration.

The Site Configuration

The site configuration if optional. If no params.robots is defined, then by default no robots meta tag will be generated. However, if either the index or follow parameter is defined though, the robots meta tag will be generated for every page on the site.

To include the robots meta tag on only select pages of the site, see the next section for the page front matter configuration settings. You do not need to add the robots parameters to the site configuration if you only wish to include the robots meta tag on some pages.

The site configuration example below is using TOML for the configuration file. Make modifications appropriate to your site depending on the syntax your site configuration uses.

[params.robots]
    index = true
    follow = true

For the above example site configuration, after compiling/generated the site every page should include <meta name="robots" content="index, follow" /> in the <head> section of the web page source.

Set index = false if you would rather use noindex as the directive in the content. Set follow = false if you would rather have nofollow as the content directive.

If either of the index or follow site configuration robots paremters are not defined, the template default values of true will be used for the missing configuration parameter. In other words, you only need to include the parameter if you intend to set it to false. However, for clarity you should probably include both settings if you only need to set one to false.

The Page Front Matter Configuration

The page front matter robots parameters are also optional, as the code will use the site configuration values if defined, or the default values if no site configuration values are defined. If no site configuration or page front matter configuration parameter values are defined, then the robots meta tag will not be generated.

The page front matter example below is using TOML. If you use a different configuration syntax, you'll need to make modifications appropriate for your site.

+++
Title = "A Page That Should Not Be Indexed"
[robots]
    index = false
    follow = true
+++

After configuration, the next time the site is compiled/generated, the page should include a robots meta tag. For the above example page front matter configuration, the page should include <meta name="robots" content="noindex, follow" /> in the <head> section of the web page source.

You only need to set the robots parameters if you need to generate a specific robots meta tag for a page. The page front matter configuration settings will supercede the default and site configuration settings. You only need to define and set the value for the parameter you wish to override. However, if you define one of the robots parameters, it would be best to define the other one too for clarity.

Set index = true if you would rather use index as the directive in the content. Set follow = false if you would rather have nofollow as the content directive.

Conclusion

Although there is no guarantee a search engine will or will not index content on your site, setting the robots meta tags should help. Likewise, the sitemap.xml file will also assist (see the hugo-site-map-exclude repository for a template that will allow you exclude certain pages from Hugo generated sitemaps). Likewise, adding a robots.txt file to your site with disallow directives should also provide additional clarity to search engine crawlers.

But the best method to protect the content is to never to include the content on a public site in the first place. If the content is there, it is likely to indexed by a search engine at some point.

As always, test the template with your site before deploying to production. Throroughly test if you trying to trying to keep search engines from indexing certain content on your site.

I hope you found this useful.

Dereck

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