Technical SEO


Shahid Maqbool

By Shahid Maqbool
On Jul 7, 2023


What is .htaccess?

The .htaccess (Hypertext Access) file is a directory-level configuration file supported by several web servers, particularly the Apache Web Server.

It is used to manage the server's settings without needing to modify the server's global configuration files.

This file is placed in a specific directory on the server, and it then applies various rules to that directory and its subdirectories. It allows the configuration of website elements without altering server core files.

Functions of a .htaccess file can include redirecting URLs, rewriting URLs, restricting access to certain parts of the website, and managing cache control.

It is a powerful tool, but it needs to be used with caution because incorrect configurations can lead to issues like server errors and accessibility problems.

The format of .htaccess

The .htaccess file is a plain text file that uses a specific syntax to give instructions to the server. The syntax of .htaccess is directive-based, meaning it consists of directives, each of which applies a particular server setting or behaviour.

Here is a very basic example of what the contents of a .htaccess file might look like:

# Turn on rewrite engine

RewriteEngine On

# Redirect from old page to new page

Redirect 301 /oldpage.html /newpage.html

In this example:

The # character is used to start a comment. Anything after this character on the same line is ignored by the server.

The RewriteEngine On directive turns on the Apache mod_rewrite module, which allows for URL manipulation.

The Redirect 301 /oldpage.html /newpage.html directive tells the server to issue a 301 (permanent) redirect from oldpage.html to newpage.html.

A more complex .htaccess file might include additional directives for tasks such as password protection, error document handling, and more.

What is .htaccess used for?

A .htaccess file is used for multiple purposes:

URL Rewriting

One of the most common uses of .htaccess is for URL rewriting, often in conjunction with mod_rewrite - a module that allows for rewriting URLs. This is heavily used in creating SEO-friendly URLs or to create clean URLs.


.htaccess can handle website redirects. For instance, if a page's location has changed, .htaccess can automatically redirect the user from the old location to the new one.

Make use of our .htaccess code generator tool for effortless setup of redirects. 

Password Protection

You can use .htaccess to protect directories on the server with a password. This means when a user attempts to access that directory via the browser, they are prompted for a username and password.

To simplify the process, you can use our .htaccess code generator tool to easily implement password protection for your files.

Custom Error Pages

.htaccess can be used to specify custom error pages for different server errors. For example, you can set a specific page to display when a 404 error (page not found) occurs.

To easily create custom error pages for your website, you can utilize our .htaccess code generator tool for seamless integration.

Deny/Allow certain IP Addresses

If you want to restrict or grant access to certain parts of your website based on IP address, .htaccess can be used to manage this.

Here you can simplify the process of restricting or granting access to specific IP addresses using our Deny/Allow IP Addresses feature and effortlessly generate the code for it.

Disable Directory Browsing

By default, when there is no index file in a directory, the server will display a list of all files in that directory. With .htaccess, directory browsing can be turned off.

File Caching

You can use .htaccess to control caching of your site content in users' browsers, which can speed up the loading of your site for returning visitors.

Don’t know how to do this? Use our Cache Assets feature in the .htaccess generator tool. Add the required details and easily create code for your website.

Where is the .htaccess file located?

The .htaccess file is typically found in the root directory of your website - often named public_html. It can also be placed in any other directory to specifically affect that directory and its subdirectories.

If you are having trouble finding it, remember the .htaccess file is a hidden file, identifiable by the "." at the beginning of its name.

This means you might need to adjust the settings of your file manager or FTP client to show hidden files.

For instance, if you are using an FTP client like FileZilla, navigate to the "Server" menu and select the "Force showing hidden files" option.

Similarly, in cPanel's File Manager, click on the "Settings" button at the top right, check the box for "Show Hidden Files", and hit "Save".

Following these steps, your .htaccess file should become visible if it exists in the directory you are currently viewing.

If you still can't locate it, it is possible that one has not been created for your site yet. In that case, you can create a new one using a text editor and upload it to the necessary directory.

However, exercise caution while creating or editing the .htaccess file, as mistakes can lead to website errors.

How to create a .htaccess file?

Creating a .htaccess file is fairly straightforward. Here is how you can do it:

Open a text editor

Use any text editor, like Notepad on Windows or TextEdit on MacOS. If you are using TextEdit, make sure it is in plain text mode. You can switch to this mode by clicking "Format" in the top menu and then "Make Plain Text".

Enter your directives

The .htaccess file works by you specifying certain directives or commands that the server will follow. You write these out in text form.

For example, to enable a 301 redirect from an old page to a new one, you would write Redirect 301 /oldpage.html /newpage.html.

Save the file

When you are done writing out your directives, save the file. Make sure to name it .htaccess — the name should start with a dot and follow by "htaccess", with no file extension at the end.

Upload the file

Once you have saved the file, upload it to your server. It should go in the root directory of your website, or in the directory of the specific site section you want to affect.

Caution: Remember, the .htaccess file is very powerful, and a small mistake can potentially take your site offline. Always make sure to back up your existing .htaccess file before making changes, and test thoroughly after the changes have been made.

Make sure that your web server supports .htaccess-style directives - not all do. This method is specific to Apache servers, and servers using the NGINX architecture won't support this method.

How .htaccess is helpful in SEO?

The .htaccess file can significantly impact the SEO of your website in several ways:

URL Redirection

.htaccess can be used to set up 301 redirects, which are necessary when a page URL changes. Instead of landing on a 404 error page, visitors or search engine bots are automatically redirected to the new page.

This is crucial for SEO as it ensures the continuity of any link equity the original page had accumulated.

In other words, any "credit" the old page had earned in terms of its search ranking is transferred to the new page.

Here is an example of how to set this up:

Redirect 301 /old-page.html /new-page.html

In this example, if someone tries to access, they will be automatically redirected to

If you want to avoid mishandling of code, you can generate it by using our 301 Redirect File or Directory feature in the .htaccess code generator.

URL Rewriting

You can use .htaccess to create clean and easy-to-read URLs. This not only makes your website easier to navigate for users but also makes your URLs more appealing to search engines, which can enhance your site's SEO.

You can use the mod_rewrite module in the .htaccess file to transform dynamic URLs into cleaner, static URLs. Here is an example:

RewriteEngine On

RewriteRule ^product/([0-9]+)/?$ product.php?id=$1 [NC,L]

In this example, a URL like will be rewritten to appear as

The ^product/([0-9]+)/?$ pattern matches any URL that starts with "product/" followed by one or more numbers.

The ( ) create a group, and $1 refers to the contents of that group. [NC,L] makes the rule case-insensitive and signals that no other rules should be processed if this one is applied.


To avoid duplicate content issues, you can enforce a preferred domain (with or without 'www') using .htaccess.

For example, to redirect all URLs to, you can use:

RewriteEngine On

RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^yourwebsite\.com [NC]

RewriteRule ^(.*)$$1 [L,R=301]

This verifies whether the accessed host is "", and if it is, it modifies the URL to attach "www." at the beginning.

We have ensured convenience for our users by providing an easy way to generate code for redirecting from www to non-www and non-www to www in our .htaccess code generator. With our tool, you can effortlessly generate the necessary code to prevent any mishandling.

Preventing Hotlinking

Hotlinking refers to the practice where other websites embed your content, such as images, videos, or other types of files, on their own site by linking directly to the file URL on your server.

This means they're effectively using your server resources to display the content, which can slow down your site and impact its performance, including its SEO.

You can prevent hotlinking by using .htaccess as follows:

RewriteEngine on 

RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^$

RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !^http(s)?://(www\.)? [NC]

RewriteRule \.(jpg|jpeg|png|gif|pdf|mp3|mp4)$ - [NC,F,L]

This code block will prevent any website that is not "" from using files stored on your server.

In this example, the file types specified are images (jpg, jpeg, png, gif), PDF documents (pdf), and audio and video files (mp3, mp4). You can modify this list as needed to include other file types that are relevant to your site.

There is another quick and easy way to generate code for this purpose. You can access our Prevent Hotlinking tool, enter the required details and easily create code for your website. 

Setting up a Custom 404 Page

Having a user-friendly 404 error page can help keep users on your site even if they encounter a broken link. You can set this up in your .htaccess file:

ErrorDocument 404 /404.html

In this example, when a visitor tries to access a non-existing page, they will be redirected to 404.html which is your custom 404 error page.

Ensure that this page provides useful information and navigation options to keep the users engaged.


If you want to ensure that all traffic to your website uses HTTPS, you can do this by adding some rules to your .htaccess file, or alternatively use our tool HTTP vs HTTPS URL Redirects for this purpose.

The code snippet would look something like this:

RewriteEngine On

RewriteCond %{HTTPS} off

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

This set of rules forces your website to use HTTPS instead of HTTP, which is beneficial in many ways, including improved website security and potentially better search engine ranking.

Force URL to www

To force your website to always use "www" in the URL, you can add the following rules to your .htaccess file:

RewriteEngine On

RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^ [NC]

RewriteRule ^(.*)$$1 [L,R=301]

Replace "" with your actual domain name.

This set of rules will ensure that users always access your website with "www" in the URL, which can be beneficial for SEO by avoiding duplicate content issues between the www and non-www versions of your site.

Alternatively, you may use our tool to redirect non-www URLs to www.

Compressing Files with Gzip

Compressing your site's files can reduce their size, resulting in faster load times and a better user experience, which is good for SEO.

You can enable Gzip compression with this code:

<IfModule mod_deflate.c>

    AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/html

    AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/css

    AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/javascript

    AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/xml

    AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/plain

    AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE image/x-icon

    AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE image/svg+xml

    AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/rss+xml

    AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/javascript

    AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/x-javascript

    AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/xml

    AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/xhtml+xml

    AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/x-font

    AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/x-font-truetype

    AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/x-font-ttf

    AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/x-font-otf

    AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/x-font-opentype

    AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/

    AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE font/ttf

    AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE font/otf

    AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE font/opentype


This snippet checks if the mod_deflate module is enabled - a module that handles compression in Apache servers - and, if so, it applies compression to the file types listed.

Pros and cons of .htaccess

.htaccess has the following pros and cons:


  • Interprets all incoming requests, offering versatile management.

  • Changes take effect immediately, eliminating the need for server restarts.

  • Enables user access control based on individual preferences.

  • Allows the setting of directory-level configurations for more granular control.

  • Acts as a beneficial tool for search engine optimization, aiding in URL rewriting and redirect management.


  • Can introduce potential security vulnerabilities if not managed correctly.

  • Operates slower than server-level configurations as it must be read every time a page is loaded. This could negatively impact website performance, especially for high-traffic sites.

  • Due to potential security and performance issues, it might not be the preferred method for server configuration.

Common errors you may get after updating the .htaccess file

Editing or updating the .htaccess file can sometimes lead to errors if not done correctly.

Here are some common error messages that may arise after an update:

  • 500 Internal Server Error: This is a generic server error and often occurs when there's a problem with the .htaccess file itself, such as incorrect syntax or unsupported directives.

  • 403 Forbidden Error: This error might show up if permissions are incorrectly set via the .htaccess file, or if the file is instructing the server to deny access to a particular resource.

  • 404 Not Found Error: If rewrite rules in the .htaccess file are misconfigured, it might lead to broken links, causing a 404 error.

  • 406 Not Acceptable Error: This error may occur if mod_security (an application firewall) rules in the .htaccess file are improperly configured.

  • "Additionally, a 500 Internal Server Error error was encountered while trying to use an ErrorDocument…": This error can show up when the server is instructed to display a custom error page that doesn't exist or is unreachable.

When dealing with these errors, here are some troubleshooting steps to consider:

  • Check for Syntax Errors: The most common reason for .htaccess errors is incorrect syntax. Ensure that all directives are written correctly and that you have closed all brackets. For instance, each RewriteCond directive should be followed by a RewriteRule.

  • Examine Permissions: Make sure that the file permissions for .htaccess are set correctly. Typically, .htaccess should have 644 permissions - read and write permissions for the user, and read permissions for the group and others.

  • Disable Directives: Try commenting out sections of your .htaccess file to isolate the problem. You can do this by adding a # at the beginning of each line, which will make the server ignore that directive. Start from the bottom and work your way up, commenting out one section at a time and then checking your website.

  • Check with Hosting Provider: Some hosting providers do not allow certain directives in .htaccess files. If you are unable to resolve the problem yourself, reach out to your hosting provider's support team for assistance. They may be able to spot issues that you missed or explain if certain directives are not allowed on their servers.

  • Use Online Tools: There are online tools that can help you validate the syntax of your .htaccess file. If you suspect a syntax issue, copying and pasting your content into one of these validators could help identify the problem.

Remember, always keep a backup of your .htaccess file before making any changes. This way, if anything goes wrong, you can easily revert back to the previous state.

Also, make small changes one at a time and check your site after each change, so if something does break, you will know exactly what caused it.


The .htaccess file controls server behaviour and various website features. It is crucial for tasks like URL redirection, canonicalization, security, and more, impacting overall website management and SEO.

This hidden file usually resides in the root directory of your website and requires careful editing to avoid website malfunctions. So it is recommended to always back up the .htaccess file before making any changes.

For a seamless experience in generating .htaccess code for various configurations, make use of our .htaccess code generator tool.

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