What Are Wildcard Characters in the robots.txt File, and How Can They Be Used to Create More Dynamic Crawling Rules?


Wildcard characters in the robots.txt file allow webmasters to create more dynamic and flexible crawling rules for web crawlers. They help in specifying patterns in URLs that need to be blocked or allowed, thereby enhancing website management. This article provides a detailed overview of how wildcard characters can be used in robots.txt files, along with examples and authoritative references.

Understanding Wildcards in robots.txt

The robots.txt file is a standard used by websites to communicate with web crawlers and other web robots. It specifies which URLs the crawlers can access on the site, using the User-agent and Disallow directives as the most common instructions. Wildcard characters—such as the asterisk (*) and the dollar sign ($)—enhance these directives by making them more flexible and powerful.

The Asterisk (*)

The asterisk (*) is a wildcard character that represents any sequence of characters. It can be used in two primary ways:

  • Blocking patterns: To block a range of URLs that follow a specific pattern.
  • Allowing patterns: To allow URLs following a specific pattern, when used in conjunction with the Allow directive.


User-agent: *
Disallow: /private/
Disallow: /*.pdf$

In this example, any URL containing "/private/" and any files ending with ".pdf" will be disallowed for all user-agents.

The Dollar Sign ($)

The dollar sign ($) signifies the end of a URL. This is particularly useful for distinguishing between URLs that end with specific strings and those that do not.


User-agent: *
Disallow: /example-subpage$

Here, only the URL that exactly matches "/example-subpage" is disallowed, whereas other URLs such as "/example-subpage-page" will remain accessible to crawlers.

Practical Applications

Managing Dynamic URLs

Websites often create dynamic URLs, such as search result pages or session-based URLs. Wildcards can help manage these by preventing crawlers from indexing redundant or sensitive content.


User-agent: *
Disallow: /*?session=

This rule disallows any URL containing "?session=" in its query parameters, thus preventing session-based URLs from being crawled.

Pattern Matching

Wildcards enable users to block or allow groups of similar URLs efficiently without specifying each URL individually.


User-agent: Googlebot
Allow: /blog/page-*.html
Disallow: /blog/page-archive-*.html$

In this case, Googlebot is allowed to crawl all blog pages matching the pattern "/blog/page-*.html" but is disallowed from crawling any pages matching "/blog/page-archive-*.html$".

Best Practices

Test Your robots.txt File

Always test your robots.txt file to ensure that it behaves as expected. You can use the Google Search Console's Robots.txt Tester to check your rules.

Keep Your Rules Specific

While wildcards add flexibility, overly broad rules can unintentionally block important content. Always ensure that your rules are as specific as possible to avoid such issues.

Monitor and Update Regularly

Regularly review your robots.txt file to accommodate any changes in your website's structure or your crawling and indexing needs. This helps maintain optimal website performance and search engine visibility.


Wildcard characters in the robots.txt file enable webmasters to create more dynamic and flexible crawling rules. By using the asterisk (*) for pattern matching and the dollar sign ($) to signify the end of URLs, one can manage web crawlers more effectively, ensuring important content is indexed while redundant or sensitive content is excluded.