Does each category and folder of your site have a “home” page? This might not be a problem for all of you but if you are a DIY website owner you might have forgotten to do this.
Folders Without an Index Page
If you create a folder (say an image folder or one with your shopping cart files in it) that does not have an index page (the default page when someone accesses the folder directly e.g. http://www.yourdomainname.com/images/) they can see all a list of all the files and sub folders in that folder.
They also have easy access to all those files by clicking the link in the list.
How Do You Stop Directory Listings?
There are 2 ways you can stop direct access to folder contents when you don’t want people to see the list of files in a folder:
Create a home page for the folder.
Each server has a hierarchy of what the name of the default page name and the extension that should be used. You will have to check your web hosting information to find out which suits your web hosting package. For this example we are going to use index.htm.
For folders where you don’t want anyone snooping an empty index.htm file will work. When they access the folder they will see a blank page. You could put a message on the page “No Snooping” if you wish.
Use your .htaccess file.
If you have access to the .htaccess file for your site you can put an instruction in it to stop people (and search engines) accessing the folders without an index page.
Options All -Indexes
The visitor will get a 403 Access Denied error page. To be more helpful for those who did this accidently create a custom error page for the 403 error.
Helping Legitimate Snoops
A legitimate snoop would be someone that accessed your site via a link somewhere with a url like this: http://www.yourdomainname.com/foldername/web-page-name.htm and wants to know what else you have available in that category. They could erase the web-page-name.htm part out of the web address in the browser address bar to get to the main category/folder you filed this page in. Without a home page for the folder:
- They are going to get a list of files just like our example above.
- You might loose the sale because there is not a home page listing the items in that category.
Just like solving the images folder problem above you should create a home page for the folder.
This time though, create a page with information on it. This is good for the visitors and the search engines. You take advantage of providing information (or at least redirecting the legitimate snooper) to the rest of your information or products in this category, avoiding a lost opportunity to promote what else you have to offer.
Be a Snoop Yourself
Play snoop yourself. See if you forgot to add an index (home) page for each of the folders on your site.
Have you seen any creative index pages for folders where someone shouldn’t have been snooping?
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