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.
An absolute URL contains all of the information that is essential for locating a resource– including the following:
As you might imagine, this means that absolute URLs are quite a bit longer than relative URLs and contain a lot more information.
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 = http://www.website.com/abc.html>
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.
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”>
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.
There are three primary benefits of using relative URLs rather than absolute URLs– increasing the download speed, quick transition time, and simplified coding.
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.
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.
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.
Is it worth it to use absolute URLs?
Here are some of the points in favor of using this complete address when internally linking:
Finally, let’s look at some potential downsides to using absolute URLs instead of relative URLs.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!