Linking Issues: Why a Trailing Slash in the URL Does Matter

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I’ve often had debates with my web developers about this issue: "Why these links have a trailing slash "/" at the end and those don’t?", I asked. "It doesn’t matter, it works either way", was the answer.

Well, to begin with, if you get such a reply from a web developer, start looking for another one because this answer is profoundly incorrect, to say at least. When it comes to an URL, every single character matters, I like it how Sebastien put it in his totally cool post on stealing the trailing slash from the URL:

Think of URLs as phone numbers. When you call 555-0100 you reach the switchboard, 555-0101 is the fax, and 555-0109 is the phone extension of somebody. When you steal the last digit, dialing 555-010, you get nowhere… Well, the last digit of a phone number and the trailing slash of a directory link aren’t much different. If somebody hands out an URL (with trailing slash), then use it as is, or don’t use it at all. Don’t “prettify” it, because any change destroys its serviceability.

But this post is not actually about the web development (I am not an expert there, just citing), this is about link building. When you build links, make sure to use the URL version used by the site you are promoting: either with or without the trailing slash. Make sure to define which one is being used and stick to it.

Why is that important? Well, the best answer is that you need to stay on the safe side, because there are different ways servers handle the issue:

  • Sometimes, it doesn’t matter for SEO: many web servers will just re-direct using 301 status code to the default version;
  • Some web servers may return a 404 page for the non-trailing-slash address = wasted link juice and efforts;
  • Some web servers may return 302 redirect to the correct version = wasted link juice and efforts;
  • Some web servers may return 200 response for both the versions = wasted link juice and efforts as well as potential duplicate content problems.

Here’s just one recent example (which actually prompted me to write the post). W3C.org link checking tool found a link on seosmarty.com blog linking to my SEJ post without "/" at the end; here’s the actual report:

Missing trailing slash

Ann Smarty

Ann Smarty

Brand amd Community Manager at Internet Marketing Ninjas
Ann Smarty is the blogger and community manager at Internet Marketing Ninjas. Ann's expertise in blogging and tools serve as a base for her writing,... Read Full Bio
Ann Smarty
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