Htaccess 301 redirect tutorial

October 11, 2007

by Brian V. Bonini of gfx-Design

New domain name?

Need to change a file name?

Hierarchy of your servers directory structure change?

Meta http-equiv=”refresh”… is highly frowned on by search engines and is commonly used by spammers. As such, THIS SHOULD BE AVOIDED.

A 301 Redirect as it is commonly referred to will allow you to make these changes without compromising your hard earned SEO results.

Using the Apache web server, fortunately this is a simply task.

There are a few different places you can set various ‘Redirect’ directives such as your servers main configuration file (typically httpd.conf) or within a ‘Virtual Host’ container inside one of your server configuration files. The final method and the one we will be discussing here is using your servers directory Auth file (AKA: .htaccess).

The first thing you do is create a file named .htaccess.

There are a couple different way to approach this but in its most simple form you can just issue a ‘Redirect’ request in your .htaccess file like so:

Redirect /foo

In this example if the client requests, it will be told to access instead.

Now this is not quite complete yet, since we need to specifically send a 301 status code. Without the status argument “Redirect” will send a temporary redirect status (302). So we simply take the above example and change it to:

Redirect 301 /foo


Redirect permanent /foo

And there is also a specific ‘RedirectPermanent’ directive as well so you could just as easily say:

RedirectPermanent /foo

So far so good? Excellent. So now you ask what if I want to change ALL my .htm files to .html. Introducing ‘RedirectMatch’ which makes use of standard regular expression syntax.

RedirectMatch (.*)\.htm$$1.html

Going into an in depth explanation of regular expression if beyond the scope of this tutorial but a quick Google search for “Perl compatible regular expression syntax” should set you on your way.

What the above example does is match any character ‘.’ any number of times ‘*’, i.e., that is it will match everything. (.*) the parenthesis group the result into a variable which we will use with a back-reference ($1) later in the directive. Next, ‘\’ simply escapes the following ‘.’. Since ‘.’ has special meaning in regular expression syntax we need to escape it if we want to use it in the literal sense, ‘\’ provides the escape sequence. Next is the ‘.htm’ which we know is a static part of the search string we’re looking for followed by ‘$’ which simply marks the end of the pattern in a regular expression (regex). So the above example takes any file with an .htm extension and redirects the client to the same file at the location specified, i.e.,$1.html

But wait, what’s that ‘$1′? Well remember we said we were going to store a variable for use in a back reference later, well here it is. The ‘$1′ simply says that whatever was in (.*) is now represented by $1

So, the client request for example foobar.htm, the above directive matches this and redirects the client to because ‘foobar’ is stored in ‘$1′. Just as with ‘Redirect’, ‘RedirectMatch’ takes a status argument so to issue a 301 (permanent) redirect we do this:

RedirectMatch 301 (.*)\.htm$$1.html

Another method we can use is via mod_rewrite. This requires that the mod_rewrite module is active on your webserver. It usually is and is done by the system administrators when they installed the webserver. mod_rewrite is a very powerful URL re-writing engine and we will only by scratching a hair on its head here.

Again, in your .htaccess file

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

The above example will re-map your old domain to a new one and issue a 301 status code (permanent redirect). So a request for will go to

If you simply want to redirect all requests regardless of the page requested to the new domain you could use:

RewriteRule /.* [R=301,L]

In this case no matter what file or directory is requested they will all go to i.e., will go to

The [R=301,L] means redirect the client and send a 301 status code (R=301) and make this the last rule (L).

Whichever method you decide on, once completed upload the resulting file to your webservers document root and you should be on your way.



4 Comments for “Htaccess 301 redirect tutorial”

  1. tum Says:

    please a question who nobody knows:
    you know if is possible escape ? at the pattern

    redirect 301 /?page=1

    not works

    redirect 301 /\?page=1

    not works

    redirect 301 /\\?page=1

    not works

    redirect 301 /[?]page=1

    not works

    Any idea?

  2. claude Says:

    Hi there,

    Since many are asking that question I wrote a small article about that.

    Hope that will be usefull. Nice reading ;)

  3. Nathan Bruley Says:

    Hi! I’m trying to redirect one Word document file to another using a 301 redirect. I have tried several things but don’t know much about it… Can you tell me what is wrong with the following code? Thanks so much!


    ErrorDocument 404

    Options +Indexes —-[my web host had this in there already, should I remove it?]

    Options +FollowSymLinks
    RewriteEngine On
    RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^tesorodigital\.com/archivos/856%20%20%20Demas.doc$ [NC]
    RewriteRule ^$1 [R=301,L]

    ************ option 2:

    ErrorDocument 404

    Options +Indexes
    Redirect 301 /archivos/856%20%20%20Demas.doc

  4. Nathan Bruley Says:

    Here’s the answer to my question.
    Redirect 301 \”/archivos/856 Demas.doc\”

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