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Trailing slashes: The little detail that could make a big difference in your SEO

Trailing slashes: The little detail that could make a big difference in your SEO

For some time now, the use of trailing slashes in URLs has been controversial when it comes to SEO optimization. However, there are those who say that they benefit your website’s ability to rank better in search engines, while others dismiss the impact they have. To shed light on this matter and make sure that you’re choosing what’s best for your company, read our guide to trailing slash and how it can help you achieve success online today.

Search engine optimization is the process of affecting the visibility of a website or a web page in a search engine’s unpaid results – often referred to as natural, organic, or earned results. One way to optimize a site involves having content that matches keywords that are likely to be used in online searches. To accomplish this, pages on the site are optimized with keywords or phrases, meta tags, and other on-page text elements to help search engines categorize them correctly.

URL address

Uniform Resource Locator is a specific addressing format on the Internet. Most often the URL is called www. Having a specific address, the user can see, read and download the data that is placed at that address. Thanks to addresses, customers find specific pages. The URL is often part of the entire site hierarchy that takes visitors to their placements.

The mystery of trailing slash

Trailing slash is a concept that relates directly to the construction of URLs. You don’t have to be a careful observer to see that some internet addresses have a slash at the end of the web, while others do not.

At the time, this URL element indicated whether the page was interpreted as a directory or a file. If there was a slash at the end of the url, it was a directory. Over the years, the difference between these variants has become so blurred that even Google’s algorithms do not take it into account when displaying pages in the search engine. However, this division can still be considered contractually binding.

What is the role of trailing slash in the URL?

The appearance of a slash at the end of the URL may suggest to users that the server is looking for the default file automatically, the URL points to the directory, in case of problems with finding the default file by the server, a 403 error will occur, the domain itself points to the directory. However, if it is missing, the URL leads to the file, and if the server has problems finding the default file, a 404 error will occur.

Trailing slash and Google’s guidelines. Does trailing slash affect the SEO of the website?

Google’s search engine guidelines state, the trailing slash doesn’t make any difference to Google. This means there are no known advantages or disadvantages if you include a trailing slash in your URL. It’s not an SEO issue, it’s just how websites work.

Resolve duplication of pages

The best solution for trailing slash is to prevent the site from having a twin that it has to compete with. The solution to the problem may be setting the appropriate redirects on the website. If you decide to use slash, check if the address that does not have it is directed to the appropriate page via 301 redirect.

Addresses that differ only by a slash

If the URLs differ only by a slash, they are read as two separate addresses. You have to keep this in mind, because if both are filled with the same content, Google will detect duplication, which will probably negatively affect the position of the website.

Addresses with different protocol and/or host

The trailing slash has a major impact on whether your URL will show up in search results or not. If you are using a protocol other than HTTP, like https://, the trailing slash will be required, as well as if you are running your site off of a different host than the root domain.

Slash at the end of the file

A trailing slash to the end of a directory name on your website can help signal search engines that the directory is part of a larger hierarchy. For instance, if you’re running a business out of mybusiness/products, but all your products are housed in one folder called products, adding a trailing slash to the end of the URL will tell Google that you have several levels deep within this folder and should be indexed accordingly.

How to remove a trailing slash?

Trailing slash can be removed by modifying the Apache configuration file, ie .htaccess. However, if we do not have access to the website files or we use a CMS or subscription e-commerce platform (SaaS), we will be able to change it also from the administration panel and configuration.

How to place a trailing slash on your own site?

As with deletion, the primary way to add trailing slash to page addresses is to edit .htaccess. Similarly, if we do not want to or cannot edit the file, the appropriate options should also be available in the configuration of the system servicing the website.

Last thoughts

Trailing slash may seem like an insignificant detail that does not affect the quality of our website. And although Google does not treat it as a ranking factor, neglecting it may affect the ranking of your site. Trailing slash has been shown to be a useful tool in the SEO optimization process, especially when two pages are very similar to each other. It’s important to note that this doesn’t work with all search engines, but if your site isn’t currently using a trailing slash at the end of your URLs, you might want to try adding one.

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Aleksandra Pietrzak
Curator at the National Museum in Poznań, graduate of Art History at the Jagiellonian University and Contemporary Art at the Pedagogical University of Krakow, curator of exhibitions and author of scientific and popular texts. A lover of contemporary art, literature and travel.
Category: SEO
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