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Enabling Search Engine Friendly (SEF) URLs on Apache

Search engine friendly (SEF), human-readable or clean URLs are URLs that make sense to both humans and search engines because they explain the path to the particular page they point to. Since version 1.5, Joomla! is capable of creating and parsing URLs in any format, including SEF URLs. This does not depend on URL rewriting executed by the web server, so it works even if Joomla! runs a server other than Apache with the mod_rewrite module. The SEF URLs follow a certain fixed pattern, but the user can define a short descriptive text (alias) for each segment of the URL.

Internally, the local part of a SEF URL (the part after the domain name) is called a route. Creating and processing SEF URLs is therefore referred to as routing, and the relevant code is called a router.

This article addresses SEF URLs under the popular, open-source Apache webserver. SEF URL implementation is possible under Microsoft's IIS webserver as well, please see Enabling Search Engine Friendly (SEF) URLs on IIS.

Since Joomla! Joomla 1.6, basic SEF urls are enabled by default. In prior versions you need to use the Global Configuration to enable them. The instructions below still apply if you want to use Apache's mod_rewrite/URL rewriting.

Verify .htaccess is Enabled

Check that your Apache config file allows .htaccess overrides. You must make sure overrides are enabled or the .htaccess file in your Joomla! root directory will be ignored or cause an error. In the section of your virtual host configuration file or in the main (httpd.conf) configuration file you must have something similar to the example below enabling overrides:

  AllowOverride All

  AllowOverride All Options=[an option],[an option],...

There are other ways to test if .htaccess is enabled if you do not have access to your site's configuration files. Please refer to the .htaccess tutorial found on The Apache Software Foundation website for additional information.

Step by Step

These are step-by-step instructions. Please follow them in the order they are presented here. If a step fails, do not continue until you have solved the problem.

  1. Rename the file "htaccess.txt" in your Joomla!'s base folder to ".htaccess".

  2. This step may not be necessary. Open .htaccess in a text editor. Uncomment RewriteBase / (remove the first character, #). If Joomla is installed in its own folder, the enter the Joomla folder name after the forward slash. e.g. RewriteBase /yourjoomlafolder.

  3. Log on to your Back-end and open the Global Configuration.

  4. Enable the Use Apache mod_rewrite/URL rewriting option and Save. This option uses the Apache mod_rewrite function to eliminate the "index.php" portion of the URL.

    Check if your site works correctly. Your URLs should now look like:­news/1­-latest-­news/1-­welcome-­to­-joomla

    If this option causes errors, please see How to check if mod rewrite is enabled on your server.

    • If it is not enabled and you have access to the file apache/conf/httpd.conf, open that file and check if the line LoadModule rewrite_module modules/ is uncommented. If necessary, uncomment the line and restart the Apache web server.
    • If mod_rewrite cannot be enabled, leave this option off. It does not matter if you leave the .htaccess file renamed.
  5. If you think this necessary, enable Add suffix to URLs and Save. This option adds .html to the end of URLs. There are different opinions on whether this is necessary or even useful. Search engines do not seem to care if your URLs end in .html or not.

  6. Open the Plugin Manager and enable the System - SEF plugin. This plugin adds SEF support to links in your Joomla articles. It operates directly on the HTML and does not require a special tag.