What Is a .htaccess File?

Aaron Haynes
Nov 29
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Does the .htaccess file have an impact on the SEO of your website?

One of the most powerful tools in the technical SEO toolkit is the .htaccess file. Although it has a huge influence, its reach is nearly entirely in the technical SEO area.

The ordinary user is frequently unaware of its existence. A well-written .htacces file, on the other hand, will make your site more crawlable, indexable, deconflict ranking signals, enhance page load speed, and do a lot more.

In this article, we’ll look at what a .htaccess file is, why a .htaccess file is important, if the .htaccess has an impact on SEO, and how safe is a .htaccess?

Let’s get started.

What Is a .htaccess File?

The .htaccess (acronym for ‘hypertext access’) file is a powerful website hidden file that is used to configure extra functionality for websites hosted on Apache Web Server. It has control over the directory in which it “lives” as well as all of the subdirectories beneath that directory.

Even though the file is hidden, the most frequent location for the .htaccess file is in your website’s public_html folder.

You may have seen a file called .htaccess when browsing the file management of your cPanel or hosting account. This file regulates numerous Apache Web Server configuration settings.

Among the features of .htaccess file include the ability to have password protection in directories and folders, ban or allow users based on specific IP addresses, rewrite URLs, stopping directory listings, enable hotlinking protection, automatically redirect users to another page or directory, change your website’s time zone or alter the default index page, create and use custom error pages, and change the way files are stored.

If you’ve ever installed a Content Management System (CMS) like Joomla, Drupal, or WordPress, you’ve probably come across the .htaccess file. You may not have needed to change it at all, but it was one of the files you uploaded to the webserver.

.htaccess files, in general, utilize the same syntax as the major configuration files. The AllowOverride directive governs what you may put in these files. This directive categorizes which directives will be respected if they are present in a .htaccess file.

If a directive is allowed in a .htaccess file, the documentation for that directive will include an Override section that specifies what value in AllowOverride must be set in order for that directive to be allowed.

A .htaccess file allows you to adjust the specifics of your website without having to change the server config files.

Here’s an example of how .htaccess file is presented:-

AuthName “Member’s Area Name”

AuthUserFile /path/to/password/file/.htpasswd

AuthType Basic

require valid-user

ErrorDocument 404 /error_pages/404.html

AddHandler server-parsed .html

Why Is a .htaccess File Important?

.htaccess is a server configuration file that you may use to control different settings on your website. You can increase your site’s performance, boost security, and enhance its usability by using .htaccess. When URL redirection is involved, it plays a vital part in protecting your site’s SEO ranks. As a result, Google updates its ranking algorithm 9 times each day.

The .htaccess file is very important when making per-directory configuration modifications. When you place a .htaccess file containing one or more directives in a specific directory, the directives are applied to that directory and all subdirectories inside it. Any text editor may be used to create and modify the .htaccess file, which is then uploaded to your site through File Transfer Protocol FTP.

Another common use of .htaccess files is to allow Server Side Includes for a certain directory.

In summary, the .htaccess file is important because:

  • It examines all requests.
  • Without restarting the server, the modification takes effect immediately.
  • Manage user access effectively depending on their preferences.
  • Configures the directory level.
  • It’s a genuine boon for SEOs.

.htaccess File FAQ

Does .htaccess affect SEO?

Configuring the files on the primary server will directly result in better SEO since you will be seen by more search engine spiders and your website will perform better. By changing the standard files to your own, you will increase your website’s cache. When working with .htaccess files, every web developer should be familiar with a variety of helpful codes.

Here are additional ways .htaccess files help SEO:

  • Crawlers from search engines will be able to see how your .htaccess file manages website functioning. If done correctly, it will increase the trustworthiness of your website.
  • With .htaccess, you can create clean URLs that search engines adore.
  • A good .htaccess for SEO also implies that it resolves 404 HTTPS errors and manages 301 redirects correctly.
  • It may also be used to restrict people from search engine spy solutions based on their IP address or domain.

All of these advantages are considerable and, as a result, cannot be overlooked.

To attract more visitors from search engines, you must have clear and concise SEO-friendly URLs that incorporate keywords, since Matt Cutts confirms that keywords in your URL are utilized as a ranking factor. Not to mention that URLs should be as brief and to the point as possible in order for internet users to remember them and comprehend where a link will take them.

As extensions are used to identify and manage URLs, you may improve the appearance and functionality of your URLs by overriding the current URLs on a file-by-file basis.

Using http://site.com/index.php?topic=article as an example, use the following .htaccess code:

RewriteEngine is enabled.

Rewrite Rule a[a-zA-Z0-9]+ (a[a-zA-Z0-9]+)

http://index.php?topic=$1

As a result, the old URL will be changed to http://site.com/rules/article.

What does the .htaccess file do?

If you have a website that has a variety of needs on a regular basis, consider .htaccess to be a godsend.

You may utilize popular Apache modules, such as mod_rewrite., with a.htaccess file.

The .htaccess file may be used in a variety of ways. Here are some of the most popular examples:

  • Create redirections for certain URLs.
  • Load customized server error pages, such as 404 pages.
  • Make your website utilize HTTPS instead of HTTP.
  • Protect certain folders on your server using a password.
  • Hotlinking should be avoided.

Using .htaccess files to manage your server is a powerful tool, but it can be complicated. Before you begin editing .htaccess files, make sure you are comfortable making modifications to your server.

Its purpose is to generate SEO-friendly redirects. It does not generate redirect chains and is capable of handling the most frequent duplicate content and server-side URL canonicalization concerns.

Is .htaccess necessary?

A standard website does not require the .htaccess file. That file simply allows you to alter how your website operates, such as preventing users from viewing it or moving an old dead link to a new page.

Some software, such as WordPress, requires configuration in the .htaccess file (or httpd.conf). However, if you are not running web server software that requires specific modifications, you are not required to utilize that file.

Everything you can accomplish with a.htaccess file, you can do better using the server’s main configuration file!

If you have root access to your server, you can make modifications to the Apache httpd.conf file. This is far superior to utilizing the .htaccess file.

The .htaccess file should not be used since it slows down every request. This performance hit is only exacerbated when your server is heavily loaded. Because the .htaccess file alters a directory’s server configuration, it effectively compels the server to reconfigure when serving from that directory.

That takes some time!

To use it, the server must run the .htaccess file. This implies that the server will require additional RAM, CPU power, and processing time to run a.htaccess file. This means that each request made via a.htaccess file will use more resources and time.

You might not think this is a big deal. This problem is exacerbated when .htaccess files are stacked in directories and sub-directories.

Where is the .htaccess file?

Because .htaccess is a directory-level configuration, it may be found in nearly any folder in your web directory. If you have a single web directory with numerous subdirectories (website), the .htaccess file can be located in both the root directory and each subfolder.

If you’re a WordPress user, the Yoast Plugin Option is the easiest way to get to the .htaccess file.

Caution: Because .htaccess should not be used by inexperienced users, It’s recommended to test it out on the demo site. In addition, if you are locked out of the WordPress Admin, you must be well-versed in utilizing Filezilla to gain access to the root folder.

You must establish a direct link to your website using File Transfer Protocol (FTP). You’ll need an FTP client, such as FileZilla, and your web host’s FTP credentials.

If you have a WordPress website, there are a few plugins that allow you to alter the .htaccess file. Because the majority of WordPress users use Yoast as their default SEO plugin, here’s how you can change the .htaccess file in the Yoast Dashboard within WordPress.

Step 1: Log in to your WordPress Admin Dashboard.

Step 2: Open Yoast Settings

Step 3: Open Tools

Step 4: Choose “File Editor” from the list of tools.

Step 5: Save the .htaccess file after editing it.

Tip: If you don’t see your .htaccess file in your  public_html folder, check the box next to “Show Hidden Files.”

In most of WordPress websites, .htaccess comes with this default configuration:

# BEGIN WordPress

RewriteEngine On rewritecond

RewriteBase /

RewriteRule ^index.php$ – [L]

RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-f

RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-d

RewriteRule . /index.php [L]

# END WordPress

How safe is .htaccess?

.htaccess files are widely used for SEO and webmaster purposes and are considered a must-have for a variety of reasons (redirecting, rewriting URLs, controlling access, etc).
As a result,.htaccess is reliable, and you should feel comfortable using it.

You may use .htaccess rules to redirect insecure traffic if you want to ensure that every website visitor is utilizing a secure (SSL) connection. This will redirect the address http://mysite.com to https://mysite.com. Of course, this will only work if your domain has an SSL setup.

Summary

Hopefully, this article has given you a better understanding of a .htaccess file.

Almost all Apache servers come with a pre-configured configuration file. However, because this applies to the entire site, setting directory level settings is difficult.

That’s where .htaccess comes in handy. To override the Apache configuration settings, you may use the .htaccess file to establish directory and subdirectory level configuration.

In addition, basic configuration codes can be used to configure authentication. This is especially handy if you have shared hosting with other websites.

You may wish to fine-tune the way visitors interact with your site as a site owner or administrator. The .htaccess file has several capabilities, including the ability to password-protect directories, prevent image hotlinking, block malicious bots and rogue IPs, and much more.

At Loganix, we are here to take care of all the technical elements of your SEO-related services.

Written by Aaron Haynes on November 29, 2021

CEO and partner at Loganix, I believe in taking what you do best and sharing it with the world in the most transparent and powerful way possible. If I am not running the business, I am neck deep in client SEO.

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