Should URLs in links use index.html?

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When it comes to the best URL structures and formats, the most common question I get is in regards to the best way to reference directory index pages in links.

Everyone asks, which is better…

A. http://www.mysite.com/locations/
B. http://www.mysite.com/locations
C. http://www.mysite.com/locations/index.html

The answer is: “Just be consistent,” says Google’s Adam Lasnik in his post about how to avoid duplicate content. There you have it, straight from Google.

Why consistency is important: Search engines see different versions of a URL as separate pages, which means you end up splitting out your link popularity and creating duplicate content. Don’t worry about penalization if you have each version in links to your page. You won’t be penalized; however, since it’s splitting up your link popularity, it’s not helping you out.

It’s OK if it’s different for each page of your site. Ideally, for ease of maintenance, site-wide consistency is ideal. However, you may have different programmers working on different sections of a website, each doing it differently. Your site may be set up so that links to Page A do not have index.html, but links to Page B does. If this is the case, don’t worry about it. Just be consistent in how you link to each individual page, meaning don’t use index.html in any links to Page A, but do use index.html whenever linking to Page B.

If you have different link popularity for each version: Consider a 301 redirect to the version with index.html, that way you consolidate all of your link popularity and remove any duplicate content.

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Jessica Bowman is the Director of SEO for Business.com and an independent consultant. Her background includes managing nine websites, in four languages across North America and Europe, in the competitive travel industry. Most known for being an in-house search marketer, Jessica relishes in the human side of SEO – the art of getting things done within an organization, a challenge for most search marketers.

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