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SEO tricks: .htaccess file configuration and SEO positioning

7 minutes of reading
SEO tricks: .htaccess file configuration and SEO positioning
Category SEO

Search Engine Optimization is an essential tool for any website looking to increase its visibility online. In order to maximize your potential, you must ensure that your website is properly configured. One powerful way to optimize your SEO is to take advantage of .htaccess file configuration. By properly configuring your file, you can improve your website’s overall ranking and boost your chances of getting more organic traffic. Let’s find out more!


What is the .htaccess file?

Let’s start with the essence of SEO strategy. It is a process of optimizing a website so that it can be found more easily by search engines and users. Through proper implementation of on-page and off-page elements, businesses can increase their visibility on the web and generate more leads and sales.

One important part of optimizing a website for search engines is the .htaccess file. This file is a configuration file used on Apache-based web servers to control access to the web server’s directory structure. It is a powerful tool which can be used to customize a website’s behavior, such as setting up redirects, password protection, URL rewrites and more.

In the context of optimization and positioning, it enables you to adjust certain aspects of how search engines interact with your site. The .htaccess file can be located in the root directory of your website and can contain directives that apply to all subdirectories within that root directory.

What possibilities does the file offer us?

  • The .htaccess file can be used to customize your website and manage user access, as well as providing access to powerful features such as file compression, cache control, redirects, dedicated error pages, and HTTPS protocol for selected subpages.
  • By utilizing the file, you can customize how your web pages are served and viewed, helping your website to run faster and better.
  • It also helps protect your content from malicious attacks, as it can be used to restrict access to certain areas of your website.
  • Additionally, it can be used to improve user experience by creating customized error pages for when visitors arrive at broken links or mistyped URLs.

How to create or edit a .htaccess file?

Creating or editing a .htaccess file is not a difficult task, but it requires careful attention. If you’re unfamiliar with coding, it can be intimidating at first, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll be able to edit your file with ease.

When creating a new file, you’ll need to make sure the file name is exactly .htaccess, with no additional characters such as “.txt” appended to it. You can use any text editor like Notepad or TextEdit, but remember to save it as plain text. Once you have a backup of your file, you can begin editing it.

Depending on what changes you’d like to make, you’ll need to insert the appropriate commands into the .htaccess file. When you’re finished editing the file, make sure to save it before exiting the text editor. Once you’ve saved it, you can upload it back to your server and see the changes take effect.

Tip: Before making any changes to your .htaccess file, make sure to back up your existing version. This way, if anything goes wrong, you’ll be able to restore the original version without any issues.

A file useful in planning an SEO strategy

Time to get down to business.

File compression

Compression is a great way to reduce the size of the files sent from your server to the web browser of the user. By compressing these files, it will significantly decrease the amount of data that needs to be transmitted from your server to the user’s computer, resulting in faster loading times for your visitors. This will help you rank higher in search engine result pages.

To enable file compression on your website, you will need to modify your .htaccess file. Tools such as GTMetrix or PageSpeed Insights can help you measure the amount of compression used on your pages. The exact settings needed to enable compression may vary depending on your server, so it is important to consult your hosting provider for assistance if you are unsure about the configuration settings.

Cache control

Caching helps speed up loading times and reduce server resources by serving the same content to multiple visitors. The process involves adding the appropriate directives to your .htaccess file. You can set a specific cache expiration time by adding “ExpiresByType” directive, as well as instruct browsers to not cache certain pages with “no-cache” directive. Additionally, you can leverage the “ETag” directive to verify the freshness of files stored in the browser cache before reusing them.

Redirect from www to non-www

It is important to make sure that the search engine and the visitors find the correct version of your website. You can use the .htaccess file to redirect from www to non-www or vice versa by adding the following code:

RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^www\.(.*) [NC]

RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://%1/$1 [R=301,L]

It’s important to note that this code needs to be added to the .htaccess file on both versions of your website – www and non-www. Once you have added this code to the .htaccess file, make sure to save it and test it by entering both URLs in your browser.

Dedicated error pages

When any of the content on your website doesn’t exist or is moved, a custom error page should appear instead of the default “page not found” message. This way, you will offer a better experience to your users and you can redirect them to other pages or content that may be interesting to them.

With the .htaccess file you can easily create error pages for 404 errors. To do this, you need to add the following code: ErrorDocument 404 /404.html. You can also set custom error pages for other HTTP error codes such as 401 (unauthorized) and 403 (forbidden). The same process applies, with slight differences in the code:

ErrorDocument 401 /401.html

ErrorDocument 403 /403.html

This way, if any of these errors occur, they will redirect to their corresponding error page instead of displaying an annoying default message.

HTTPS protocol for selected subpages of the website

With the use of the .htaccess file, you can make sure that only certain pages on your website are served over a secure HTTPS connection. This is especially useful for pages where sensitive data is exchanged, such as logins, checkout pages, and contact forms. To ensure that only the relevant pages on your website are served over HTTPS, you need to edit the .htaccess file and add the following code:

RewriteCond %{HTTPS} off

RewriteRule ^(login checkout contact)$ https://%{HTTP_HOST}%{REQUEST_URI} [L,R=301]

This code redirects requests for the login, checkout, and contact pages to the secure HTTPS version of the page. You can modify this code to include any other pages you want to be served over a secure connection.

Last thoughts

Using the .htaccess file for SEO purposes is an effective way to improve your website’s ranking in search engines. By properly configuring the file, you can optimize your website’s performance and user experience, while also improving your ranking position. However, remember that if you do not feel proficient in this – it is better to ask for help from a specialist.

Aleksandra Pietrzak
Curator at the National Museum in Poznań, graduate of Art History at the Jagiellonian University and Contemporary Art at the Pedagogical University of Krakow, curator of exhibitions and author of scientific and popular texts. A lover of contemporary art, literature and travel.
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