I found a strange search result for a resource blocked by robots.txt. Why ist there the Chinese (guessed) text followed by the text Hello nighthawk!. Is this an esteregg of Google?

Google Hello Nighthawks

Yesterday I tried to remove the URL from google with Webmaster Tools. There was no Hello Nighthawk!, only the 'blocked by robots.txt' message. The issue was reported by a co-woker.

reported issue

This is the content of the robots.txt:

User-agent: * Disallow: /en

The domains gets redirected in the following way:

www.domain.com/en -> (301) https://domain.com/en

The page https://domain.com/en show the normal page with the correct title of the page.

The title of domain.com/en does not contain any of the words. I have searched the whole project to find the word 'nighthawk'. It is not included. And we never had any Chinese translations.

  • If you are blocking /en in robots.txt then the Googlebot is not going to see the 301 redirect. Since the page is blocked, the text "Hey nighthwak" is probably coming from some malformed anchor. – MrWhite Oct 20 '16 at 19:58
  • @w3dk I updated the question. I did not found the word in the project. We might had have the phrase hello nighthawk in the project in the past. But we never had a Chinese translation. This feels a bit strange for me. – Mark Oct 20 '16 at 20:04
  • Google includes uncrawlable pages in the index when they are linked from other sites. – Stephen Ostermiller Oct 20 '16 at 20:08
  • @StephenOstermiller Can you explain this problem in an answer? Does it mean that a link to the website like <a href="domain.com/en">[CHINESE] - Hey nighthawk</a> shows up in the search results? – Mark Oct 20 '16 at 20:50
  • That is exactly what it means. – Stephen Ostermiller Oct 20 '16 at 21:22

Google includes uncrawlable pages in the index when they are linked from other sites.

That means that a link to the website like<a href="domain.com/en">[CHINESE] - Hey nighthawk</a> can show up in the search results.

Some have suggested that such occurrences are temporary. They aren't always. Google indexes uncrawlable pages because sometimes important pages are blocked by robots.txt. Matt Cutts explains:

You might wonder why Google will sometimes return an uncrawled url reference, even if Googlebot was forbidden from crawling that url by a robots.txt file. There’s a pretty good reason for that: back when I started at Google in 2000, several useful websites (eBay, the New York Times, the California DMV) had robots.txt files that forbade any page fetches whatsoever. Now I ask you, what are we supposed to return as a search result when someone does the query [california dmv]? We’d look pretty sad if we didn’t return www.dmv.ca.gov as the first result. But remember: we weren’t allowed to fetch pages from www.dmv.ca.gov at that point. The solution was to show the uncrawled link when we had a high level of confidence that it was the correct link.

You are unlikely to see this page from your search result except for the site: query that you did. Otherwise somebody would have to search for [CHINESE] Hey nighthawk or some portion thereof.


robots.txt prevents pages from being specifically unindexable

You read that right.

Make the page crawlable and unindexable

To make sure a page does not appear in Google search results, make sure it is crawlable by robots.txt, and explicitly unindexable.

It’s common practice to use robots.txt in an effort to keep pages out of search engine indexes. However, to ensure a page does not get indexed, it must be crawlable.

Google (and Bing) will exclude a page from the index if instructed to by the page. This can be an X-Robots-Tag HTTP header, or a noindex meta tag in the HTML.

But Googlebot can’t read those instructions if robots.txt forbids them from reading the page. So Google takes the benefit of the doubt and places the page into the index (if they like).

Here’s how Google explains it:

After the robots.txt file (or the absence of one) has given permission to crawl a page, by default pages are treated as crawlable, indexable, archivable, and their content is approved for use in snippets that show up in the search results, unless permission is specifically denied in a robots meta tag or X-Robots-Tag.

Google’s half-fixes

You can use Google Webmaster Tools to temporarily remove a page from the Google index. But there’s no set time on how long the removal is good for. It's not really a solution.

Google also has an experimental no-index feature in robots.txt that is designed to allow web masters to pages to be both un-crawlable and un-indexable. As Google makes no guarantee about its functionality, use at your own risk.

Also, be aware other search engines don’t support no-index directives inside robots.txt. Bing webmaster documentation states:

To remove a URL from their own site from the Bing index…Bingbot needs to be able to access the URL, so you should not block the URL from being re-crawled through robots.txt.

What is robots.txt for, then?

robots.txt is intended as a solution for ensuring search engine bots don’t inflict unwanted spidering traffic on websites — that traffic might incur fees from the web host, or (if your website is fragile) might cause performance or stability issues.

These are (ostensably) separate concerns from not wanting your pages to be findable by users searching on Google.

About the gibberish associated with your page in the SERPs

The incorrect content in the search results associate with your page may come from the anchor text of pages linked to your site. Since the page is uncrawlable this second-hand information can be the best available information Google has about your page’s content.

It would seem that some of content getting associated with your site is from shadier areas of the web. These places might be linking to your site for any number of reasons, most of which involve attempts to associate themselves with your good reputation.

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