.htaccess and robots.txt, – what is the difference?

Both .htaccess and robots.txt files are important for your website and each has its own importance, let’s see how .htaccess and robots.txt files differ from each other and how they are used.

What is a .htaccess file?

.htaccess file (distributed configuration files) is a server configuration file for apache server software. It has no name, .htaccess is a file extension, not a name and that is why there is a dot before we write htaccess.

It allows you to have server software configuration per-directory basis instead of apache’s main configuration file. This means you could have multiple .htaccess files in your website.

.htaccess files are not available publicly to view by any website or web server, as they hold server configuration code.

When .htaccess is used?

.htaccess files are used for multiple purposes, such as,

  • URL Rewrites
  • Cache-control
  • Redirections of single or multiple pages
  • To have password-protected directories (Authorization and authentication)
  • To disable access to single or multiple pages
  • To force HTTPS over HTTP
  • To Block/Allow users based on the IP addresses

Here is how the .htaccess file looks like for the Laravel framework, the default server configuration.

<IfModule mod_rewrite.c>
    <IfModule mod_negotiation.c>
        Options -MultiViews -Indexes

    RewriteEngine On

    # Handle Authorization Header
    RewriteCond %{HTTP:Authorization} .
    RewriteRule .* - [E=HTTP_AUTHORIZATION:%{HTTP:Authorization}]

    # Redirect Trailing Slashes If Not A Folder...
    RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-d
    RewriteCond %{REQUEST_URI} (.+)/$
    RewriteRule ^ %1 [L,R=301]

    # Send Requests To Front Controller...
    RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-d
    RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-f
    RewriteRule ^ index.php [L]

Misconfiguration or Mishandling of .htaccess files

If .htaccess is not handled or configured correctly, it could have consequences, such as,

  • Can create an Infinite redirection loop.
  • Can make website unbrowsable.
  • Can make your website show different pages than expected.
  • Can show a 404 not found page incorrectly.

What is a robots.txt file?

robots.txt file is a plain text file that holds instructions for search engines, instructing them what to access on your website to crawl and what not to access from your website.

There will be only one robots.txt file per website and this file would be available publicly to view as the search engines access robots.txt file before crawling your website.

Having instructions in the robots.txt file does not guarantee that it will block or allow any kind of access for the search engines, it would be totally up to the search engine or crawler to obey the instructions written inside the robots.txt file.

When robots.txt is used?

  • To allow/disallow crawling of single or multiple pages of the website.

Here is how the default robots.txt looks like for the Laravel framework.

User-agent: *

Misconfiguration or Mishandling of the robots.txt file

It can affect your website SEO (Search engine optimization) if not handled well. For example, if you have disallowed the pages that you want to be indexed by search engines like google, it won’t index them.

Differences between .htaccess and robots.txt – Key takeaways

  • .htaccess file is for apache server software for configuration, while the robots.txt file is for search engines and crawlers.
  • .htaccess file is always obeyed by the server software to apply the configuration, while a search engine will or will not obey the instructions written in the robots.txt file.
  • .htaccess file code won’t be publicly available to view while robots.txt instructions will be publicly available to view.
  • You could have multiple .htaccess files (one per directory) in your website, while there will be only one robots.txt file.
  • Your website could have issues such as incorrect redirections, incorrect URL structure, cache issues, and so on by misconfiguring the .htaccess, while misconfiguring robots.txt can harm your website’s SEO.
  • .htaccess is just an extension and not a file name, while robots.txt is a file named “robots” with a .txt extension.

Are you having issues related to .htaccess or robots.txt files on your website? contact us and we will fix them for you!

About Parth

I'm the founder & CEO of DigitalSitara. A software development company with customers in mind. I have been developing all different kinds of software for the past 7 years. I love programming, music, and food.

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