How to make readable, SEO friendly URLs in PHP?

For the purposes of readability or SEO you will want to prettify URLs of your web application to make them more descriptive. URL of a web application:

http://example.com/blog.php?id=21

In above example blog.php is the front controller or the main entry PHP file which processes current request and id=21 is the query string which defines ID of the blog post to show.

More user and SEO friendly URL would definitely be something like this:

http://example.com/blog/2015/11/20/awesome-blog-post

How to achieve this?

We want our front controller (index.php) to handle all requests that come to a particular directory, except those that should go to an existing asset file such as an image, CSS or JavaScript files. Also most PHP frameworks usually use this single entry point approach for all URLs. First let’s configure web server a bit.

Apache

If you’re using Apache 2.2.16 or greater you can use FallbackResource directive:

In .htaccess add this:

FallbackResource index.php

If you are using Apache version prior to 2.2.16 or you will be doing a little more complex stuff. For example, if you need to use RewriteBase, or maybe have different rewrite conditions, you will have to use mod_rewrite rules. But in most cases, only the FallbackResource will suffice and you can get also a bit better performance.

If you still want to enable mod\_rewrite and add some special rewrite rules in .htaccess file, check the example below:

<IfModule mod_rewrite.c>
    Options -MultiViews

    RewriteEngine On
    #RewriteBase /var/www/project/public
    RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-f
    RewriteRule ^ index.php [QSA,L]
</IfModule>

On Linux machines you can activate mod_rewrite with a2enmod in command line:

$ sudo a2enmod rewrite

Nginx

Here is an Nginx web server example for doing same requests handling as above. In your Nginx site configuration file /etc/nginx/sites-available/default enable PHP and requests handling. Here is minimum configuration to achieve this:

server {
    server_name domain.tld www.domain.tld;
    root /var/www/project/public;

    location / {
        # try to serve file directly, fallback to app.php
        try_files $uri /index.php$is_args$args;
    }

    location ~ ^/index\.php(/|$) {
        fastcgi_pass unix:/var/run/php5-fpm.sock;
        fastcgi_split_path_info ^(.+\.php)(/.*)$;
        include fastcgi_params;
        fastcgi_param SCRIPT_FILENAME $document_root$fastcgi_script_name;
        # Prevents URIs that include the front controller. This will 404:
        # http://domain.tld/index.php/some-path
        # Remove the internal directive to allow URIs like this
        internal;
    }

    error_log /var/log/nginx/project_error.log;
    access_log /var/log/nginx/project_access.log;
}

How to process request in PHP?

Now that we have web server set, we must process incoming request and do the magic to show correct blog post. In this step the usual way of creating web applications is to use a pattern such as MVC, MVP, MOVE or some other. Below is a very simple way to parse URL with PHP. At the end we will list some PHP libraries you should check out if you’re not planning to reinvent the wheels here.

$uri = parse_url($_SERVER['REQUEST_URI'], PHP_URL_PATH);

Resources

Some other resoures to check out here.

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Content of this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0) license. Code snippets in examples are published under the CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0). Thanks to all the contributors.