Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Webmaster Level: Intermediate
That is the question we hear often. Onward to the answers! Historically, it's common for URLs with a trailing slash to indicate a directory, and those without a trailing slash to denote a file:
http://example.com/foo/ (with trailing slash, conventionally a directory) http://example.com/foo (without trailing slash, conventionally a file)
But they certainly don't have to. Google treats each URL above separately (and equally) regardless of whether it's a file or a directory, or it contains a trailing slash or it doesn't contain a trailing slash.
Different content on slash and non-slash URLs is okay for Google, but often is less ideal for users
From a technical, search engine standpoint, it's certainly permissible for these two URL versions
to contain different content. Your users, however, may find this configuration horribly
confusing—just imagine if
www.google.com/webmasters/ produced two separate experiences.
For this reason, trailing slash and non-trailing slash URLs often serve the same content. The most common case is when a site is configured with a directory structure:
Your site's configuration and your options
You can do a quick check on your site to see if either of the URLs matching this patterm redirects to the other:
(with trailing slash)
(no trailing slash)
If only one version can be returned (that is, the other redirects to it), that's great! This
behavior is beneficial because it reduces
duplicate content. In the
particular case of redirects to trailing slash URLs, our search results will likely show the
version of the URL with the
200response code (most often the trailing slash URL)—regardless of whether the redirect was a
If both slash and non-trailing-slash versions contain the same content and each returns
200, you can:
- Consider changing this behavior (more info below) to reduce duplicate content and improve crawl efficiency.
- Leave it as-is. Many sites have duplicate content. Our indexing process often handles this case for webmasters and users. While it's not totally optimal behavior, it's perfectly legitimate and a-okay. :)
Rest assured that for your root URL specifically,
http://example.comis equivalent to
http://example.com/and can't be redirected even if you're Chuck Norris.
Steps for serving only one URL version
What if your site serves duplicate content on these two URLs:
Meaning that both URLs return
200 (neither has a redirect or contains
rel="canonical" link tag
), and you want to change the situation?
Choose one URL as the preferred version. If your site has a directory structure, it's more
conventional to use a trailing slash with your directory URLs (for example,
example.com/directory), but you can choose whichever you like.
- Be consistent with the preferred version. Use it in your internal links. If you have a sitemap, include the preferred version (and don't include the duplicate URL).
301redirect from the duplicate to the preferred version. If that's not possible, the
rel="canonical"link tag is a strong option.
rel="canonical"works similarly to a
301for Google's indexing purposes, and other major search engines as well.
301configuration through Fetch as Googlebot in Webmaster Tools. Make sure your URLs,
http://example.com/foo, are behaving as expected. The preferred version should return a
200status code. The duplicate URL should
301redirect to the preferred URL.
in Webmaster Tools, and, if possible, your webserver logs as a quick check that the
301redirects are implemented.
- Profit! (just kidding) But you can bask in the sunshine of your efficient server configuration, warmed by the knowledge that your site is better optimized.