There has been a lot of recent news regarding Netflix and their new business model, particularly centered around the company’s release of original content like ‘House of Cards’ and the much awaited new season of ‘Arrested Development.’
Despite all of the buzz, Netflix’s stock fell 5 percent yesterday after the new season of Arrested Development garnered mediocre critical reviews, while the company also dealt with a backlash from removing specific children’s programming from their library.
So just how vested is Netflix on their new original content push? Is producing their own shows simply a phase or does this truly represent the future of Netflix? One indicator beyond the news and official statement is a peek at the Netflix robots.txt file.
A robots.txt file is utilized to instruct search engines robots (primarily Google) what to crawl and what to not include in their index. For example, if your website had a specific page that was under construction, you might consider ‘disallowing’ it via the robots.txt until it was finished.
A look at the Netflix robots.txt is very interesting: Netflix is preventing all non-original content from being indexed. The robots.txt file instructs web crawlers to only index pages for original series like Arrested Development, House of Cards, Lillyhammer, and Hemlock Grove, while blocking all other content.
For example, if you Google ‘New Girl Season 1’ the Netflix specific page cannot be found. If you search for ‘Netflix New Girl Season 1’ the link will pop up, however it will include a meta description reading: “A description for this result is not available because of this site’s robots.txt – learn more.” Hardly a positive message to push a potential customer to click the link.
Overall, this SEO strategy doesn’t seem to make much sense. Netflix still makes the majority of their revenue via their subscription service. They could very well gain new subscription customers who are Googling shows or episodes that they want to watch. The customer ends up on the corresponding Netflix link, and starts their free month to see the show – simple. How many new customers are they losing to companies like Hulu or Amazon who are doing everything they can to be found?
Although seemingly a minor adjustment to their site, the robots.txt file is entirely rewiring how people find Netflix content online via search, which is a major statement about the company’s intentions.