Relative vs. Absolute URLs: Does It Matter For Your SEO?

Using Canonicals on a Website
How Canonicals Can Make (Or Break) Your Rankings and SEO
April 7, 2023
Using an SEO Tool
The Ultimate List of 15 SEO Tools for Content Optimization
April 21, 2023
Show all
Deciding Between Relative and Absolute URLs

Deciding Between Relative and Absolute URLs

We all know that internal links are an important part of SEO. They help search engines find, index, and understand all of your site’s pages and can also send page authority and improve user experience.

Once you dig deeper into improving your SEO to ensure that your site is ranking as high as possible, you’re faced with a seemingly complicated question: does it matter for your SEO whether you use relative or absolute URLs in your internal links?

The debate surrounding absolute and relative URLs has been raging for some time, with strong proponents on both sides. On the one hand, relative URLs can make testing and coding a lot easier. On the other, absolute URLs can help avoid duplicate content issues and ensure that search engines know precisely where a resource is located.

Let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons of both absolute and relative URLs before checking out what an expert at Google has to say about the issue.

What Is an Absolute URL?

An absolute URL contains all of the information that is essential for locating a resource– including the following:

  • The protocol (HTTPS)
  • The domain name
  • The domain extension
  • Subdomain information
  • Path
  • Query String
  • URL fragment
  • Port information

As you might imagine, this means that absolute URLs are quite a bit longer than relative URLs and contain a lot more information.

Using an Absolute URL

The format of an absolute URL is: scheme://server/path/resource.

The scheme makes it clear how the resource is going to be accessed, the server expresses the computer name where the resource can be found, and the path communicates the sequence of directories that will lead to the target. In some cases, the target is the final directory in “path,” but in others, a resource is also included.

If “resource” is included in the absolute URL, then it will be the target. In most cases, this is the file name. It can either be a structured document or a simple file.

Here is an example of an absolute URL:

<a href =>

What Is a Relative URL?

Relative URLs, on the other hand, are able to locate a resource from the starting point of an absolute URL. The full web address isn’t used. Instead, only the location following the domain is found in a relative URL.

Relative URLs usually only contain the path but will sometimes also contain the resource. However, they won’t include the scheme or the server.

Using a Relative URL

When using relative URLs, the assumption is that the server is already aware of the location of the page. Google can make an educated guess about the domain. This can, in some cases, send users to the wrong pages due to search engine errors.

Using the example above, a relative URL would look like:

<a href = “/abc.html”>

The Pros and Cons of Using Relative URLs

There are a number of reasons that a site owner might choose to use relative URLs rather than absolute URLs when internally linking to their own site. On the other hand, there are also some potential drawbacks that you’ll want to be aware of.

Benefits of Relative URLs

Benefits of Relative URLs

There are three primary benefits of using relative URLs rather than absolute URLs– increasing the download speed, quick transition time, and simplified coding.

  • Increasing the loading speed: Pages are able to load faster when URLs are short. Though the amount of time a relative URL cuts off from your page loading time is small, every little bit counts. That being said, you certainly won’t want to rely solely on relative URLs to deal with slow-loading pages.
  • Quick transition time: If you are moving your site, it can be a real pain to transfer all your absolute URLs so that your internal links continue working seamlessly. However, you won’t have to deal with this issue if you use relative URLs– they will start working immediately on the new domain without requiring that you recode each of them individually. Similarly, it can make the process of transitioning from staging to production much faster and less tedious.
  • Simplified coding: One of the major benefits of relative URLs is that it makes life easier for web developers. When a resource has hundreds of pages, writing a complete path for each page can be incredibly time-consuming (not to mention tedious). Instead, they can simply indicate a point on the site map to clearly communicate the specific server that a page belongs to.

Is it time to ensure your page speed isn’t being held back by bulky JavaScript files below the fold? If so, make sure you take a look at our guide to using JS to delay loading assets until user interaction.

Drawbacks of Relative URLs

Drawbacks of Relative URLs

Before you choose to use relative URLs for your internal links, you’ll also want to consider the negative side of this approach so you can weigh it out against the benefits.

  • Duplicate pages: One of the primary issues discussed when it comes to relative URLs is the potential for duplicate pages. There are four potential iterations of each relative URL when you consider the different potential combinations of https or http and www– which means that Google can see the page as four different sites if you don’t define any URLs as canonical.
  • Link deterioration: Some people believe that the use of relative URLs leads to an increased number of 404 errors on a site. That being said, this has been refuted by the SEO expert John Mueller, who said that Google’s bots can read relative URLs correctly when they are configured properly.
  • Security issues: Finally, another issue that can crop up with relative URLs is that a hacker could potentially redirect all of your links to a new domain. This means that your site and your content could potentially be stolen by scraper programs.

Are there pages on your site that don’t have any internal links anywhere on your website? If so, these orphaned pages can negatively impact your SEO. Check out our guide to orphaned pages to learn more.

The Pros and Cons of Using Absolute URLs

Considering the drawbacks of relative URLs, are absolute URLs better for internal links? Let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages of using the complete absolute URL when linking to your own site, on your site.

Benefits of Absolute URLs

Is it worth it to use absolute URLs?

Benefits of Absolute URLs

Here are some of the points in favor of using this complete address when internally linking:

  • Avoids the duplicate content issue: As mentioned above, there is a potential for duplicate content issues to crop up when using relative URLs. This isn’t the case with absolute URLs, as search engines will only have one resource indexed for each page.
  • The link always points to the correct URL: When you use an absolute URL, Google and other search engines don’t have to make any assumptions. They know exactly which address to go to, which helps to avoid confusion on the end of the search engines.
  • Site crawling is simplified for Google: Absolute links make it possible for crawlers to read your site much more quickly in most cases, as they’re not as likely to encounter issues. This means they will return to your site more often– when crawlers run into issues trying to read your content, they’ll likely leave the site.
  • Avoids security issues above: You don’t have to worry about scraper programs stealing your site and your content in the same way you do with relative URLs, as absolute URLs make the prospect of theft tedious and difficult. In order to steal your site and content, thousands of links would have to be recoded so that they could be copied and directed toward a new domain.
  • Potentially improves site performance: If you’re concerned about relative URLs returning an increased number of 404 pages, using absolute URLs can help avoid this outcome. Site performance is a key part of the user experience, and absolute URLs can help ensure that your site works as you intend when visitors arrive.

Drawbacks of Absolute URLs

Drawbacks of Absolute URLs

Finally, let’s look at some potential downsides to using absolute URLs instead of relative URLs.

  • More complex coding: Absolute URLs can make coding more time-consuming or complex for large websites. Developers are able to work much more efficiently when dealing with relative URLs.
  • Not as suitable for testing: Testing your site can be a real pain when you’re using absolute links. This is because you’ll have to manually recode every one of your links to copy your site onto a staging server, which will be an incredibly time-consuming process.

Is it time for you to expand your business by attracting customers that live in geographic regions or speak different languages? If so, make sure you check out our recent post on how to target languages and regions using hreflang tags.

Are Relative or Absolute URLs Better for SEO?

One ongoing debate in the world of SEO is whether it’s better to use relative or absolute URLs when you are linking to pages internally on your site.

In order to answer this question, it makes sense to go straight to the source– Google.

According to Google’s John Mueller, choosing between absolute and relative URLs shouldn’t make a difference in SEO– for the most part.

In response to a question about whether it’s better to use absolute or relative URLs when internally linking, Mueller presented two potential scenarios where your choice between these two links shouldn’t make much of a difference.

Following SEO Best Practices

The first scenario involves having a site structure that is absolutely perfect and pristine. This means that all canonical tags have been correctly implemented, and a single uniform domain exists.

In this case, Mueller says that there is no difference in terms of SEO whether you choose absolute or relative URLs. He suggests that site owners simply “use whatever makes sense” and choose the option that is easier for them.

He mentions that a site with a perfect structure might benefit from using relative URLs as it makes it “easier to test things locally.”

The second scenario is a site with an imperfect structure, which, in all likelihood, could be said about most websites on the internet. In these cases, absolute URLs might be the better choice, according to Mueller.

However, you can still give Google a helping hand when it comes to finding your site, even if you can’t use absolute URLs, by using the rel=”canonical” tag. So, essentially, either absolute or relative links can be used even with an imperfect site structure, so long as you use the canonical tag correctly.

In terms of using URLs to fight against scrapers, Mueller doesn’t really think that using absolute URLs is a fool-proof solution. He says that “most scrapers know how to deal with URLS,” so it might not be worth the trouble if you choose absolute only for this reason.

That being said, Mueller says that site owners with an imperfect structure should probably use absolute links if possible.

Is It Time for You to Take Your SEO to the Next Level?

At first glance, managing the SEO for your own website doesn’t seem like too big of a deal. Once you get deeper into the weeds, you start facing more complicated questions, like whether you should use relative or absolute URLs. Ultimately, you can save both time and money when you hire an experienced agency to take care of all of your digital marketing and SEO needs, all while ensuring that your site climbs in the rankings and receives more traffic.

A Digital Marketing Agency

Blue Pig Media is a full-service digital marketing agency that can help you increase your position on Google, your social media audience, your company’s bottom line, and much more. Whether you want to redesign your website, launch a PPC campaign, or anything in between, we’re the team for the job.

If you’re ready to ensure your site receives the rankings and traffic it deserves, contact us today to get started, and if you have questions, be sure to let us know! We’ll gladly help you out however we can!

David Curtis
David Curtis
David Curtis is the founder and CEO of Blue Pig Media. With twenty years of successful execution in sales, marketing and operations, for both clients and vendors, he has a bottom line ROI driven mentality rooted in metrics driven performance across highly competitive global corporate initiatives.

Comments are closed.