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What is the .htaccess file used for? What does it affect?

8 minutes of reading
What is the .htaccess file used for? What does it affect?
Category SEO

The .htaccess file is a robust and effective website file used to control a website’s high-level configuration. Servers that operate Apache, a web server software, changes can be made to a website’s configuration through the .htaccess file eliminating the need to modify server configuration files. The .htaccess file is short for hypertext access and is a distributed server configuration file. In other words, the .htaccess file only configures the server in the directory where the .htaccess file is present. This file enables one to set server configurations for a particular directory. It can be our website’s root directory or an images/downloads directory. Apart from the Apache web server, the .htaccess file can also be used on a few other web servers such as LiteSpeed.


How to add redirects to .htaccess?

The .htaccess file is highly superior in the context of the configuration file. There may be some issues in the display of content even if there is just a minute syntax error, for instance, a missing space. It is important to ensure that you have configured your FTP client to display hidden files because the .htaccess is known to be a hidden system file. This can be done through the program’s preferences/options.

A permanent 301 redirect helps in informing search engines that a new link has replaced an old one. This can help redirect traffic from an existing webpage. The .htaccess file can be used to set up the 301 redirect htaccess directly or one can also use the cPanel interface.

Steps to add redirects to .htaccess

  1. Sign in to your cPanel.
  2. Go to the ‘Files’ section and select ‘File Manager.
  3. Go to the top right of the ‘File Manager’, click on ‘Settings’, and select ‘Show Hidden Files.
  4. Click the ‘Document Root for:’ option, go to the drop-down and select your domain.
  5. Select the .htaccess file, right-click on it, and select ‘Edit’.
  6. If you are unable to find the .htaccess file even after following the steps mentioned above, go to the top-left and click on ‘New File’. The directory should be set to /public_html/ or your site’s document root.
  7. Once this is done, a dialog box encoded with a text editor may pop up. You can select edit to proceed.

If you want to redirect individual files, you can use Redirect 301 /oldfile.htm /newfile.htm

If you want to redirect a specific file to another domain, you can use Redirect 301 /oldfile.htm https://example.net/newfile.htm

Where to find the . htaccess file on your server?

If you want to locate a .htaccess file using the .htaccess domain redirect on your server, these are some simple steps you can follow.

Steps to find the .htaccess file on your server:

For hPanel:

  1. If you are using hPanel, you can sign in to your WordPress dashboard. Find the ‘File Manager’ using the search feature.
  2. The .htaccess file is visible in the public_html directory by default. Hence, you can gain immediate access to the file and the content. Right-click on it and select either ‘Open’ or ‘Edit’.

For cPanel:

  1. Go to the ‘File Manager’ and access > public_html.
  2. Click on ‘Settings’ if you are unable to find the file. Select the ‘Show Hidden Files’ option and viewing will be enabled.
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What should be in a htaccess file?

To enable your website to deliver maximum performance, understanding the .htaccess file structure is of utmost importance. WordPress depends on several core files for effective functioning, one of which is the .htaccess file. Its default function is associated with your website’s permalinks but if you customize it, you can use it to perform several other functions such as leveling your website’s security or redirecting your traffic to another webpage. The .htaccess file is mainly related to server configurations. Therefore, it dominantly comprises code accompanied by related instructions.

Why do SEO agencies need access to this file?

Given the significant role of the .htaccess file in server configurations, it is essential for SEO agencies to understand what it can do for the enhancement of their website performance strategies. Search engine optimization is dominantly about enabling your website to produce better results for its ranking on the search results page. The online industry is highly competitive given the humongous plethora of sites in existence and this makes it essential for all website owners to adopt the best strategies for their website. Through the implementation of the .htaccess file, you can have superior control over the functioning of your website and its interaction with the web. Hence, you can customize it to control your website and also to maximize the performance of SEO.

The .htaccess file is prominently used by Apache-powered web servers to configure each directory. To access the file, you only need to search for it in the root directory or through FTP.

Role of .htaccess file in SEO agencies

  1. The .htaccess files have commands called directives which enables you to have better control over configuration. The configuration file also incorporates the use of derivatives. You can use short derivatives to control crawling, protect and secure files using passwords, enable or ban an IP address, and more.
  2. When you configure the file of the main servers, it can result directly in enhanced SEO performance. This is because search engine spiders will be able to discover the site more and faster. This will also accelerate the functioning of your website.
  3. When you replace the standard files with your files, you can facilitate the production of cleaner URLs. This can help resolve issues such as missing 404 status codes and foster the production of better and improved 301 redirects. As a consequence, the htaccess redirects boost the website’s cache.
  4. When you produce cleaner URLs and have a website that can be crawled faster by search engine crawlers, it can boost your search engine ranking and eventually drive more traffic to your website which is good for your website’s overall performance.

Tips to create .htaccess SEO-friendly URLs

If you are keen to draw more traffic to your site, it is mandatory to create URLs that are clear and concise so that they can be SEO-friendly. Keep in mind that these URLs should also include keywords because search engines use them as factors in their ranking metrics. Keeping the URLs to the point by making them short is also highly necessary so that it can be easy for users to remember them and also help them comprehend where they are being directed.

You can override the existing URLs based on file-by-file by tidying up and improving the URLs’ appearance and their functioning because extensions can help identify and handle URLs.

Significance of the .htaccess file

The htaccess file can be used to perform several functions and some of these are as follows.

Return User-friendly Custom Error Pages

Many web server software tends to return a bland and insignificant-looking error page to your traffic when you leave it at default settings. To avoid losing this traffic, it is essential to return a user-friendly and presentable error page for which, in your .htaccess file, you must implement custom error document handling.

Manage Redirects

The .htaccess file can be used to create redirects. These redirects can be used to move your content easily and inform web crawlers about the location of the previously indexed content. The main function of 301 redirect htaccess is to help you enable search engines to find the pages you have moved because if they cannot find the same, they will leave with the assumption that content does not exist anymore.

Improve Website Security

Most websites dominantly depend on external tools for improving their website’s security. The basics of securing your website start with the use of the .htaccess file. The .htpasswd file involves encryption that is responsible for securing your website’s privacy.

Protect Hotlink

When the images you are hosting are linked by other websites, it leads to the occurrence of hotlinking. This can be problematic and undesirable because these websites are utilizing your territory as well as your bandwidth. You can use the .htaccess file to prevent image hotlinking because it can inform Apache to block links that do not belong to the website’s domain name but are accessing the files.

Set Server Time Zone

If you have noticed that there is something wrong with the time on your server, you can use the .htaccess file to enforce a time zone to the server. It is highly easy and only makes use of a single line code. You can also select from an extensive list of available time zones and go through the supported time zones list to find the closest match.

Bottom Line

To enable your website to administer optimum performance, working with the files of your website directly is extremely essential. Implementing the .htaccess file is relatively simple and you can incorporate its use to perform a wide variety of functions. The functions and tasks that the .htaccess file can perform are limitless. It can help you with a wide variety of things such as building search engine optimization-friendly URLs, caching, redirection, resolving image leeching, returning user-friendly error pages, and more. If you utilize this configuration file properly, it can be a game-changer for your website. Taking the tips and things that have been mentioned in this guide will surely help you to use the .htaccess file to your best advantage.

The online industry currently boasts of fierce competition and in the coming years, this competition will only increase. Setting up your .htaccess file is recommended as it can provide you with long-term benefits and help you in the long run. Therefore, make sure you adopt its implementation sooner so that you can stay ahead regardless of the advancements in the near future.

iCEA Group

As a leading international digital marketing agency established in 2007, we have consistently set the standards for traffic acquisition and conversion. We proudly host Poland's largest technical department, staffed with highly skilled SEO, SEM, and UX specialists with years of experience. Our offer knows no borders! As evidenced by our successful campaigns in not only the Polish market but also in India and the United States. Driven by our dedication and expertise, we empower our clients to achieve online success.

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