Is index.html required?

by TT4M.C   Last Updated May 14, 2019 17:04 PM

I understand that a web server looks for a default page file to serve such as (source):

  • index.html
  • index.htm
  • default.html (Windows servers)

However, I am wondering if this is necessary and what happens if there is no such file name?

My first guess is that the server would display a complete listing of the site's project directory.

Is this true?

If yes, then:

  • Is there any other outcome except a display of the site's full directory?
  • Is there a possible way to avoid this without naming a default page file name?
  • Does this result in a loss of SEO ranking?

If no, then:

  • What are the possible outcomes?
  • Does this result in a loss of SEO ranking?


Answers 3


An basic file for your website like the index.html is not needed but is better to have something like that, else it would display an 404 error because the wasn't found.

If you would like to disable that the website display your files in that directory you must create an .htaccess File. And also the Google Bots can't find your website for SEO because the index.html is missing.

Daniel O.
Daniel O.
November 07, 2015 08:09 AM

I am wondering if [it] is necessary [to have these files?]

No, it isn't strictly necessary to have any particular files on a web server, including any "default" index pages (the ones you listed).

[W]hat happens if there is no such file name[?]

The server will generally do one of five things:

  • dump a directory list of the files that are available (assuming a default index page does not exist or isn't configured).

  • block access to the requested resource directory (if specified in the server settings - usually via a 403 Forbidden status code).

  • serve a alternate index page (if specified in the server settings).

  • return a 404 status code ("Not Found") (unlikely, but possible).

  • redirect a user to a valid resource (if specified in the server settings)

My first guess is that the server would display a complete listing of the site's project directory.

This is the default on a number of web servers, assuming that a directory/default index page combination is requested, and the default index page does not exist.

Is there any other outcome except a display of the site's full directory?

Yes, see above.

Is there a possible way to avoid this without naming a default page file name?

Yes, configure your server to do one of the things listed above (other than dump a directory listing).

Does [not having a default index page result] in a loss of SEO ranking?

Maybe.

  • If you are blocking access to the directory via the server (with a 403 Forbidden) or the server returns a 404, search engines can't crawl your content. Google will definitely not direct people to pages with blocked content (403) or items it thinks don't exist (404).

  • Redirection or serving another file might cause a crawler to index something unrelated to that directory (though this may not be true depending on what you redirect to). This may affect SEO.

  • Dumping a directory may or may not help SEO depending on what is dumped and how Google might rank that content.

I am not sure if Google or any other search engine has a direct penalty for a lack of default index pages, but I can imagine they might interpret it in a manner that might negatively impact SEO.

Anaksunaman
Anaksunaman
November 07, 2015 08:35 AM

what about creating a 301 redirect in the htaccess from index.html to the url you want to rank the most in Google? If I'm a photographer in Alabama, ie, should it be best for me to be indexed with www.bobphotos.com/alabama-photographer.html instead of www.bobphotos.com/index.html What do you think?

Tony
Tony
May 14, 2019 16:47 PM

Related Questions


Updated September 03, 2017 21:04 PM

Updated March 05, 2018 08:04 AM

Updated May 24, 2018 08:04 AM

Updated March 01, 2016 06:01 AM