For a website to rank high on search results, it is essential to have great content and be optimised for search queries. Having one without the other would get you nowhere. That’s why you should always balance the two and maintain high standards regarding each. In this article, we will discuss the issue of trailing slashes which have to do with SEO and your website’s optimisation. So, let’s find out how problematic a tiny slash could sometimes be!
What is a trailing slash?
Simply put, a trailing slash is a forward slash (/) added to the end of a URL. You can see an example below this paragraph. On the surface, it looks quite unimportant, and many don’t even notice it. But, in effect, trailing slashes considerably impact SEO and have serious consequences. If you check several pages of 10 randomly-chosen websites, you will come across several cases where there are two exact same pages, one with a trailing slash and one without it. Now that you know what a trailing slash is, let’s look at its impact on your website’s SEO.
How does a trailing slash affect a website’s URL?
A URL is considered a unique page in the eyes of the search engines, whether it has a trailing slash or not. Now, if the same page has two URLs, one with and the other without a trailing slash, you might run into duplicate content issues. As a result, those pages will not be indexed by search engines, and not many users visit them. A more important issue has to do with your website’s link juice. In a nutshell, link juice stands for the value and credibility a page receives from search engines. A defining factor here is the number of backlinks your page has received from authority websites. The more backlinks a page gets from such websites, the more value search engines give to that page. It is more than possible that some people link to the page with a trailing slash and others link to the one without a trailing slash. As a result, the value search engines give to your website will be divided between those two identical pages, meaning that your content gets only a portion of what it truly deserves.
How does a trailing slash affect user experience?
User experience has always been a defining factor in a website’s ranking. The better the user experience, the longer they stay on your website. Similarly, the longer users stay on your website, the higher your website will rank. For a time, the content of your pages may remain the same, but we all know that little by little, the content of every page on a website changes. Your viewers might leave comments or ask questions and you, consequently, respond to those comments and questions. Also, it is possible that, after some time, you decide to add another section to the content or remove one.
Now imagine what happens if you apply some changes to one page and leave the other one intact. The end result is that, after a while, you will have the same URL with two essentially different content. It might solve, to some extent, the duplicate content issue, but it presents a new problem. Imagine what happens if hundreds of such pages are on your website and, more importantly, how negatively it affects user experience. While one user viewing a page with a trailing slash might find your content highly appealing, another one viewing the same page without a trailing slash may find it outdated and boring.
How does a trailing slash affect crawl efficiency?
For a page to be indexed, search engines must crawl it first. Meanwhile, it is essential to know that search engines do not crawl all pages on your website every day. The number of pages search engines crawl on your website is determined by the size and quality of your website. This might not be a big deal for websites with just a hundred pages. With large websites, however, this is quite another story. When there are hundreds of pages with duplicate content and search engines not crawling many of those pages, you will end up having a considerable number of unindexed pages.
How important are trailing slashed for Google?
Google does not directly penalise websites with duplicate content if the content has been taken from another page on the same website. However, for the reasons explained above, you’d better fix such pages to better optimise your website for search engines. To justify this, even more, we can study Google’s stance on the trailing slash convention. There is no denying that a well-optimised website gets a higher ranking than a poorly-optimised one, even if the latter has richer content. So, why not stay on the safe side of the road and avoid the unwanted?
How to fix a trailing slash issue?
Two practical solutions have been suggested to fix the trailing slash URLs. Each of these solutions has its own merits and requires applying certain changes to your web pages. You might have to go for one or both techniques depending on your preference and how your website reacts to such changes. Let’s see how you can fix the trailing slash URLs.
Redirecting URLs is one way of resolving a URL to a different one which helps search engines realise that an existing page has a new location. A 301 redirect is the right way to fix duplicate content issues. All you need to do is create a new notepad file and copy the line below into it:
Redirect 301 / http://www.example.com/
Instead of www.example.com/, enter the URL to which you wish to forward your domain name. Then, save the file as .htaccess. Then, you can upload the file into your web space. By doing so, people clicking on each URL will all go to the same page. (the one you have selected).
Use canonical tags
When crawling a website, search engines try to identify the primary focus of its pages and index them. A page’s canonical URL is the one that search engines recognise as the most representative URL. By defining canonical tags, you will tell search engines to ignore the duplicate pages on your website and index only the primary ones. The tag rel= “canonical” will help website crawlers differentiate the original version of the page from the duplicate one. Although there are commonly five ways to implement canonical tags on your web pages, here we explain the primary one: the rel= “canonical” linktag.
First, you should mark the duplicate pages with a rel= “canonical” link tag. To do so, add <
link> along with the attribute rel= “canonical” to the section titled head on all duplicate pages directing to the canonical pages. The example below helps understand this better.
<link rel=”canonical” href=” https://www.team-x.com.au//orphan-pages/
If there is another page with the same URL but no slashes at the end, search engines will not index that page as they have been told to prioritise the one with a trailing slash.
Ensuring that your website is well-optimised for search engines is your lifetime responsibility. As far as SEO is concerned, there might be many ways you’re damaging your website without realising it. One such way is to have trailing slash URLs on your website without optimising them for search engines first. We hope this article helped you solve trialling slash issues on your website and prevent further problems. Feel free to contact us if you need additional help with your website.