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WP Engine Ending Support for .htaccess

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WP Engine Ending Support for .htaccess

WordPress managed hosting provider WP Engine announced that it is ending support for .htaccess directives. WP Engine has started End-of-Life (EOL) processes for winding down the use of .htaccess on their servers and have set a date of October 2022 for full removal of support.

The use of .htaccess as a tool for managing websites is so deeply ingrained that the idea of no longer supporting .htaccess may sound like a deal breaker.  Some may rightly think that if customers can’t have a custom .htaccess then the web hosting service might not be suitable for how modern sites are created.

But a closer look at what WP Engine is doing shows that the decision makes sense and more surprisingly, this may in the future be a common feature of high performance web hosting.

Why WP Engine Deprecating .htaccess Support

The reasons WP Engine gave for leaving .htaccess behind were about achieving performance gains from removing .htaccess from the site-level and also being able to take advantage performance gains from newer technologies.

The announcement stated:

“WP Engine will be deprecating the .htaccess file in order to increase website performance and match industry trends.

If your site is using custom .htaccess directives outside of the default WordPress rules, we have put together a list of recommended alternatives.”

WP Engine estimates that this change will not affect most websites that it currently hosts because most sites are only using the default version of .htaccess that WordPress generates.

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“By our analysis, most WP Engine websites will not require any extra changes to the .htaccess as they are using a default WordPress version of this file.
Default WordPress rewrites will be handled by WP Engine automatically at the server level.”

.htaccess and Site Performance

.htaccess is a way to control certain aspects of a website, like redirecting a request for one URL to another URL, redirecting requests for insecure HTTP URLs to secure HTTPs and for blocking the IP addresses of malicious hackers and scrapers, among many other uses.

.htaccess is a file that is used on servers that run the Apache open source server software (as well as, for example, Nginx servers that run as a reverse proxy for Apache).

The use of .htaccess files is a longstanding and established practice for managing websites.

However, something that may not be commonly considered or discussed is that the use of .htaccess files is not an efficient way of managing activities like blocking IP addresses or redirecting URLs.

When .htaccess files become very large they can have a negative impact on SEO and conversion-related metrics such as the Time to First Byte (TTFB), a metric that measures how long it takes for a server to begin downloading web page resources.

According to a test by  StrategiQ that quantified the impact of .htaccess on performance, they discovered that .htaccess files can have an impact on both server performance and scalability.

What they discovered was that a large .htaccess file had a measurable and significant impact on CPU usage. Testing also revealed that an .htaccess file with as little as 1,000 lines could have a “significant” impact on server memory usage.

They noted that the extra strain was not enough to bring down the website because the server still had enough resources to handle the strain.

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“It’s worth noting though that during our tests, we didn’t see any huge impact on overall page load time on anything but the 50,000 line file. This is probably because, even though significant resource was being used in handling the requests, we still weren’t hitting peak capacity.”

Yet one can imagine that a server with multiple websites with large .htaccess files could cause an impact on the server.

Secondly, what may come as a surprise to many, is that according to the official Apache Software Foundation (the developers of the Apache server software that runs .htaccess), the only time .htaccess files should ever be used is when access to the server configuration file is restricted, such as one might find on budget shared servers.

The Apache Software Foundation documentation advises:

“There is, for example, a common misconception that user authentication should always be done in .htaccess files, and, in more recent years, another misconception that mod_rewrite directives must go in .htaccess files.

This is simply not the case.

You can put user authentication configurations in the main server configuration, and this is, in fact, the preferred way to do things. Likewise, mod_rewrite directives work better, in many respects, in the main server configuration.”

What WP Engine is proposing is actually a best-practice according to the Apache documentation and in the short and long run it will benefit their user base by creating an environment that may make their websites perform faster, which helps sales, advertising clicks and has a small SEO benefit.

Will WP Engine Users Be Inconvenienced?

WP Engine offers ways to get around using .htaccess files by the use of what they call Web Rules. Web Rules allows users to manage IP-based allow/deny rules and for setting header responses.

Redirects can be applied three ways within the WP Engine managed hosting platform:

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  1. Bulk imported into WP Engine’s Nginx configuration
  2. Bulk imported into a WordPress plugin called Redirection
  3. Bulk imported into the Yoast SEO Plugin redirect manager

I use the Redirection WordPress plugin on some of my websites and have found it to be an easy way to manage redirects and headers.

The plugin also has a convenient log file that shows you visits that result in 404 responses which can alert you to inbound links that are misspelled (which can be fixed by creating a redirect for the misspelled URL to the correct URL).

WP Engine End-of-Life (EOL) Process For .htaccess

While at first it may seem like a radical idea to end support for .htaccess, considering how the Apache Software Foundation itself recommends not using .htaccess at the website level, the approach that WP Engine is taking makes a lot of sense.

There are clear benefits for their users and for website visitors as well.

Will other web hosts follow their lead?

Citations

Read the WP Engine Announcement

.htaccess Deprecation and Alternatives

Read The Apache Software Foundation’s Advice on .htaccess

When (not) to use .htaccess files

WP Engine Web Rules

Redirects on WP Engine

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Step-By-Step Guide To Earning Your Google Ads Certification

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Step-By-Step Guide To Earning Your Google Ads Certification

In a world where many people offer services like SEO and Google Ads management, it is important to stand out and be as educated as possible.

Seasoned veterans and new professionals alike can both benefit from Google Ads Certification.

As an industry standard with content tied directly to the Google Ads platform, it is the most trusted credential and source for training in the industry.

What Is Google Ads Certification?

Google Ads certification is a process by which Google recognizes marketers as experts in online advertising.

After passing Ads certification exams, individuals get a personalized certificate and – if affiliated with a company – can contribute to the company’s Google Partner credentials.

Like many Google products, properties, and initiatives, the program has evolved over the years.

The certification program was standalone and had a cost attached to taking exams.

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That changed with the creation of the Google Partners program and has further evolved with the migration to the Google Academy for Ads in 2018 and, more recently, a rebrand to Skillshop.

Individual certification still works the same way it has for the past several years with training content and exams.

Over the years, the certification has become a minimum or expected requirement for entry-level search marketing roles for agencies and corporations.

Even when I hire someone who will go through our training program, I know that they are willing to invest time and see the importance of taking the step of getting certified is crucial.

Having that base level of subject matter exposure from Google is much more specific than what a school textbook can provide on how Google Ads works.

On top of that, there’s value in being able to affiliate with an individual who is already certified with my agency’s Google Partner account.

This step-by-step guide provides a walkthrough of how to get Ads certified, as it can be a confusing process when doing it for the first time or when coming back only annually or occasionally for recertification.

Step 1: Get Started In Skillshop

Navigate to the Google Ads Certification platform within Skillshop.

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In the top right corner, click “Log In.”

Now, we’re at a critical step right away. We want to ensure that the account you get certified through is the specific one you want to be certified.

If you work for an agency or a company, you’re likely to be required to use your work email address.

Regardless of agency, corporate, or whatever status, you likely want to link your certification to the address you manage Google Ads to keep things simple and clean.

If you haven’t managed Google Ads yet and don’t have an account, you can easily create a new account here to get started.

If you’re a returning user, be careful to find your Skillshop profile and ensure your Google account is still properly linked, so you don’t accidentally take exams in a new account versus recertifying your current account.

The account management piece can be confusing and frustrating as there are separate profiles yet linked accounts between this system and Google’s accounts and Ad management systems.

If you’re interested in your certification counting toward a Google Partners badge, be sure to use your company email address that you use for managing ads for your Google Partner company to link things properly.

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If you’re interested, I encourage you to learn more about the Google Partners program details, requirements, and logistics for getting set up.

Step 2: Select Your Exam

If needed, navigate back through Skillshop to the Google Ads Certifications again to arrive at the page with the list of exam topics.

Screenshot from skillshop.exceedlms.com, July 2022

Here you can find the specific certification you want to start with and click on it.

Within the specific certification, read the overview info.

When you’re ready to dive in, click the Get Started button.

Step 3: Prepare For Exams

Google provides both basic educational info and more extensive training content.

The specific Google Ads certifications include:

  • Search.
  • Display.
  • Measurement.
  • Video.
  • Shopping Ads.
  • Apps.
  • Ads Creative.

If you’re brand new to Ads and the certification exams, I recommend starting with the Google Ads Search Certification first.

Search ads are typically the most common type of ads a company will run.

But if you are more focused on something like just shopping, then start there.

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Google Ads Search CertificationScreenshot from skillshop.exceedlms.com, July 2022

Training content is tied to each of these specific certifications.

When you click on any of them, you’ll be presented with options to get started, including a quick knowledge assessment and other resources.

You’ll need to plan on investing at least a few hours to go through the training content specialization.

If you’ve been managing Ads campaigns or have deeper exposure, it’s still a good idea to go through the modules – even if you do it faster.

The sample questions are quite helpful; they are written in the same format as they appear on the actual exams.

Unless you have previously been certified and/or have a moderate level of Ads experience, don’t skip the training content!

Step 4: Pass The Assessment

To become certified, you are required to pass the assessment in any of the respective certification specialties.

Your certification will then be awarded for that specific product focus area.

You can stop with one specialization or continue by going through additional specializations until you have mastered and achieved all of those relevant to your desired credentials.

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If you’re an overachiever or love standardized tests, there’s nothing that says you can’t take them all.

Note that if you fail to pass an exam, there’s a waiting period before you can retry. That’s the only real penalty for not passing.

When you have passed one or more assessments, I recommend downloading the digital certificate(s) and saving those, so you have proof of your certification.

Additionally, you can create a public profile page that showcases your mastery.

You can turn the public profile on (if you haven’t already) by clicking in the top right corner of the page and then on “My Account.” You’ll find a toggle switch for “Public” to turn on if you choose by following the prompts.

Conclusion

Google Ads Certification provides a base-level credential for new professionals managing ads.

It also provides an ongoing opportunity for industry veterans to maintain their status and show longevity by keeping certified and staying on top of the platform and best practices changes over time.

Whether seeking your first job in the industry out of school or leveraging the certification for a Google Partners designation, I recommend the program for learning and maintaining education and standard credentials.

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There are other excellent training and education programs available from third parties.

However, the Google Ads Certification still holds weight in the industry and is a common expectation for paid search practitioners to have.

More Resources:


Featured Image: Krakenimages.com/Shutterstock

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