Trailing Slash SEO – Why It Matters?

The humble trailing slash is a topic that dominated many IM forums in recent days. What is a trailing slash anyway and what impact it has on your content? Well first let’s understand that Trailing Slash is a forward slash usually placed at the end of a URL. It is used to mark a directory and if any URL is not terminated by using a trailing slash then the same points towards a file.

A trailing slash has a very important aspect when it comes to search engine optimization (SEO) especially in the realms of duplicate content. In a URL the importance of a trailing slash has not much to look in for but when it comes to SEO its importance cannot be ignored.

According to Google, individual content should be accessible only through a single URL but when with a number of trailing slashes are used in a single URL the result is duplicity of content. Other than creating duplicate content this multiplicity can affect a website in various other ways causing confusion for Google. Any kind of multiple indexing which confuses search engine crawlers is bad for SEO.

Several URLs being indexed together, any incoming traffic is divided and placed in different placements with the SERPs. Hence making it difficult for different domain variants to establish themselves in search engine rankings. There will be flooding of URLs in the search engine index but none of them will rank well cause the search engine has to choose between them.

Trailing Slash WordPress

Hence choosing between either to have or not to have a trailing slash is very crucial preventing any kind of duplicate content from entering the index.

There are two main things to keep in mind when dealing with the trailing slash,

  1. A trailing slash on root domain or host name has no meaning. Eg: is similar to both are same and ok.

  1. But when placed anywhere else will either indicate duplicate or unique content. Ex,com/directory will never be same as

Thanks to the clarification from John Mueller of Google on the same. Explaining that a slash after a hostname or domain is irrelevant using it or not is up to you when referring to any URL but when used other than as mentioned above it becomes a significant part of any URL and can change the URL if it’s not present where it should be.

He explained that it’s not how Google handles them but how the servers treat them. Providing a little chart to explain in detail John Mueller has given very clear and neat instructions regarding trailing slash.

He explains that:

Any trailing slash for a hostname has no significance hence

  • = (B) & (C) = (D)

But when protocols & hostnames are different it matters

  • Cannot be (C) & (C) cannot be (E)

Anywhere between a path or a file does matter hence

(F) will is not (G)

He explained that, “this is not SEO-specific, but just how websites work”.

Incorrectly used trailing slash can lead search engines to ignore the appropriate indication when using canonical tags. A canonical tag or a canonical link indicates to a search engine that a master of the page exists. Hence a URL specified in the canonical tag should contain a trailing slash if one is used.

When modifying a URL to ensure that the content of your website does not appear multiple times in the index do use 301 redirect or try to redirect between domains. This way you re-bundle any incoming traffic and direct it towards the target page only. Hence any URL duplicated using trailing slashes loses its means.

Duplicate content these days is a big issue and different versions of same content on your website create big SEO issues. If you wish to prevent unwanted duplicate content from entering the index, please choose wisely. Whether to use a trailing slash or not.