How to Handle Large .htaccess Files

How to Handle Large .htaccess Files

Posted by Paul Smith | May 3, 2016

Recently, some questions have been raised regarding the course of action to be taken regarding older 301 redirects. This was in particular, a concern in the event of the redirect file beginning to become lengthy and somehow complex. The question arises whether after some time such could be deleted or if one ought to maintain those huge files despite the potential of slowing down the server for visitors?

Possible Lines of Action

Google’s Gary Illyes recommends that after a new page has been indexed, it ought to be removed. This however is from a purely technical point of view when it’s possible to remove a 301. Sites are not required to maintain 301 redirects indefinitely for Google to figure out that the old pages need to be matched with a particular new entry.

Nevertheless, that is not all what it takes as it certainly goes well beyond matching old and new pages.When the new page has already been indexed, it would be safe to get rid of the old one, but make sure that none gets actual links/visitors. In case any does, it would be advisable to keep 301s active.

It is important from a perspective of best practices to clarify that:

1. A number of such pages will still be retaining inbound links from a variety of diverse sources.
2. Industry best practice would be to maintain such redirects for indefinite periods, although that may not be practical at all times, as sometimes the site may move.
3. Therefore, it would be fine to remove the redirects once the signals have been passed over.

Depending on the server size, it could be slowed down by a super lengthy .htaccess file. However, it must be pointed out that the size of the file isn’t the only contributing factor into this equation. This is because the performance and size of the server itself could also play a role. If, for example, the subdirectories of the server are in fact being heavily used elsewhere, you could end up placing more strain on the server.

Final Verdict

The bottom line is that in case you got a 301 redirect, after Google crawls and matches up the old page to the new one, you could proceed to remove it. However, the best option would be to let it remain indefinitely, particularly when new page visitors or linking signals need to be redirected. In that case, you will not be concerned about the possibility of landing new visitors to a 404 page or losing your older ranking signals.

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Paul is a founding partner of Search Creative Limited and is also 'Google AdWords Qualified Individual' and also ‘GAIQ’. Paul has more than 9 years’ experience within the field of digital marketing after graduating from Liverpool John Moores University with a BSc. (hons) degree in eBusiness Communications.

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